Christian leaders from Odisha visit WCC offices
Church leaders from Odisha, India with WCC and LWF staff at the Ecumenical Centre. © Fr Ajaya Kumar Singh
16 March 2012
A group of Christian leaders from Odisha (formerly Orissa), India visited the World Council of Churches (WCC) offices, sharing their experiences on working for religious freedom and lobbying for justice on behalf of religious minorities during the current session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The group was comprised of church leaders and civil society representatives. They met staff of the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) on 8 March at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.
In their meeting, the group recalled the violence perpetrated against Christians by Hindu extremists in Odisha in 2008. The majority of the victims were Dalits. The violence resulted in the killing of around 38 eight people and displacements of more than 50,000 people, while hundreds of churches were burnt down.
“We wish to see greater political will from the government to protect religious minorities in India,” said Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of the Catholic Diocese of Berhampur, a member of the group and head of the Social Communications desk of the Orissa Catholic Bishops Council.
“There are many initiatives from the churches and interfaith networks who seek to address the crisis of freedom of religion, belief and conscience in India. Their efforts will be successful only with cooperation and support from the state actors,” said Nayak.
The groups made recommendations at the UN Human Rights Council regarding the laws dealing with religious freedom in the Indian constitution, addressing concerns of the civil society to prevent violence against Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities in the country.
The WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and the LWF general secretary Rev. Martin Junge appreciated the efforts of the churches in the region, not only in striving for justice for the victims but also in healing divisions in the community. They assured their solidarity to the churches in India for their efforts to emancipate socially disempowered sections.
In the meeting, the WCC programme executive for Just and Inclusive Communities, Rev. Dr Deenabandhu Manchala recalled the initiatives of the WCC, particularly through its statements from meetings of the Executive Committee (2009) expressing solidarity with the victims in Odisha.
He also mentioned the WCC Living Letters team, who travelled to Odisha, Kandhamal in 2009 to express solidarity with the churches and people.
Christians begin to rebuild their lives in Orissa (WCC press release of 7 October, 2009)