Thanks to everyone who took time to attend our Mass at the Manresa Hall Chapel of the Jesuit Residence at St. Joseph's University, concelebrated by our Indian friends S. Tony Raj, SJ and John Guidera, SJ. It was a beautiful night! Since the chapel is small I was worried about attendance but we were able to squeeze everyone in, including four of our retired Jesuits who worked in Jamshedpur for many years.
The news of the Christian persecutions may be off the front page but the people in Orissa still need our help. To get a better understanding of the situation please visit www.orissaconcerns.net/kandhamal/ or read a copy of Fr. Tony's speech below. I'd urge you to keep those people in your prayers, and if able, to support them financially as they seek to rebuild their lives and their villages.
The Jesuit Missions
Maryland Province Jesuits
P.O. Box 64848
Baltimore, MD 21264
John Guidera, SJ and S. Tony Raj, SJ concelebrate.
John Guidera, SJ and George Bur, SJ / Nancy Curtis, Fr. Deeney's sister, speaks to Fr. Guidera.
Theresa Roney and Jen Angelucci / Jim Moore, SJ with the McDades.
“Let there be peace on earth”
Thank you Tom for asking me to share.
First of all thank you very much for the support that we continue to receive from each one of you towards our peace building efforts in Kandhamal, Orissa. Today on the second Anniversary of the large scale unprecedented violence that visited the Christians, we continue to pray for lasting peace, and work towards peace founded on Justice.
The socio-economic and political situation of India today has given rise to marginalization of people through appropriation of land and resources and violence by state, corporate and non-state actors. This large scale violation of human rights has resulted in people’s resistance movements and campaigns for alternatives. Violence based on narrow communal and ethnic politics has increased manifold since 1990.
The anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2007-08, that included murders, rapes, arson, burning, loots, and forcible conversions into Hinduism affected about 60,000 people and forced the Prime Minister to describe it as ‘National Shame’.
The people of Kandhamal and other areas of Orissa bore the brunt of two violent anti-Christian communal attacks within the span of nine months in 2007 and 2008. According to government figures during the last bout of violence from August to December 2008, in Kandhamal district alone more than 600 villages were ransacked, 5600 houses were looted and burnt, 54000 people were left homeless, 38 people were murdered. Human rights groups estimate that over 100 people were killed, including women, disabled persons and children, adivasis and dalits. Three women were gang-raped and many injured. 295 churches, big and small, were destroyed. 13 schools, colleges, and offices of 5 NGOs damaged. About 30,000 people had to live in relief camps for months .Barring a few townships, almost all villages in Kandhamal district were under the control of anti-social elements led by Hindu fundamentalist groups. During this period about 2,000 people belonging to minority communities were forced to convert from Christianity to Hinduism. More than 10,000 children had their education cut short because of displacements, fear and severe disruption.
Today, after two years, the situation has not improved, although the administration time and again claims it is peaceful and has returned to normal. A visit to the affected villages and interaction with any of the survivors will reveal a totally different reality, which has been documented by different human rights’ activists
Some of their findings are:
-- The survivors are under threat not to return to their villages unless they agree to change their religion, withdraw cases against their attackers, stop eating beef and dalits stay within limitations imposed by the upper castes. About 15000 people are still living as refugees outside their villages.
-- Out of 3300 complaints filed by victims in the local police stations only 831 have been registered (as First Information Reports – FIRs). Many cases have not been investigated and the accused not prosecuted. In other cases, shoddy police investigations have already created a crisis in the dispensation of justice.
-- The accused have coerced, threatened, and cajoled the victims and the witnesses. There have been attempts to bribe them, both outside and inside the Fast Track Courts. The real perpetrators, like Mr.Manoj Pradhan (BJP-MLA Member of Legislative Assembly), are moving around scot-free and threatening the witnesses time and again, whereas hardly any steps are taken to protect witnesses or ensure their safety. The victims have expressed their deep distrust of the current justice delivery system.
-- There is no action against Orissa Administration officials who could not protect the lives of hundreds of Christians and who allowed Hindu extremist mobs to move around the district with an organised and armed crowd and to do arson, burning, killings uninterruptedly in the presence of police or those who allowed RSS leaders like Pravin Togadia to enter the area and deliver hate speeches.
-- There are major lacunae in the administration of relief to and rehabilitation of the victims of the mass violence. Improper identification and assessment of the houses as fully or partially damaged has been done, damaged houses have been left out of the lists, while lost or damaged household articles are not mentioned at all. Even the 837 families, who lost their houses during December 2007 violence, are yet to get any housing. The government has promised only Rs 50000 as compensation for fully damaged houses; still the actual disbursement till now has only been Rs 10000. Out of 6500 families which lost their houses 60 percent are yet to have a roof to shelter under. Not a single one of the destroyed NGO schools, hospitals, and offices has been compensated.
-- The administration has not made any visible effort to support a revival of dignified livelihood of the victims, to prevent large-scale migration and pauperisation of victim families, or to bring back dropped out children to school.
-- The long-standing problem of landlessness and land alienation of the dalits and adivasis has been completely ignored. There have been almost no efforts to provide land rights to landless survivors, who are facing difficulties to get a shelter after they lost their houses during violence.
Complaints lodged with police after 2008 3232
Cases Registered (FIRs) 831
No of Case were commuted to the fast track courts 193
No. Cases under trial 95
No. Cases disposed (Filed as Closed) 91
No. Persons Convicted 176
Life imprisonment Sentence 5
Persons Acquitted 653
Persons arrested so far 794
All the above observations could be clubbed into the following four areas. The incident and what followed in response has led to:
• Increasing distrust on Criminal Justice System: Shoddy police investigations, threat to victims and witnesses leading to a gross miscarriage of justice.
• Migration, School-Dropouts and Pauperization: The complacency of the administration has left the people feeling insecure and there are still 20,000 people living in poorer livelihood conditions, who are yet to return to their villages, and many children who have dropped out of schools.
• Inadequate or no Compensation left the Survivors Homeless: The apathy and inefficiency of the government in identification and assessment of damage has led to improper and inadequate or even no compensation for the survivors.
• Landlessness and Land Alienation has Doubled the Suffering: Official negligence of ‘land problems’ has been used to demonize the Dalits and to use it as a scapegoat for communal violence. The long-standing problem of landlessness and land alienation of the Dalits and Adivasis has been seriously neglected. While Adivasi lands are illegally transferred to traders and government employees, the Hindutva forces accuse Dalits as land grabbers and tried to project it as the cause of Kandhamal violence. Also, there have been almost no efforts to provide land rights to landless survivors/victims, who are facing difficulties to get a shelter after they lost their houses during violence.
Hence National Public Tribunal (NPT) was organized (22-24 August). Its Objectives are as follows:
• To study and analyse the long-term and short-term causes and impacts of Kandhamal violence
• To assess the role, conduct and responsibility of various organizations, group of individuals or persons, in influencing, precipitating or escalating the violence
• To assess the role played by the Administration and police before, during and after the pogrom
• To study and analyse the various aspects of the problems faced by survivors and victims of violence
• To recommend both short-term and long-term measures for the necessary reparation, peace building, justice delivery, prevention of communal violence and strengthen secularism
• To bring out the findings to larger society and create pressure on the government to do necessary follow up action
• To use the proceedings, findings and the recommendations of the Jury for any further legal action, if necessary
• To assess the functioning of the Criminal Justice System in the context of Kandhamal violence
• To share the findings in a specially convened Media Conference
The other follow-up actions are:
• Observation of Kandhamal Day: NSF plans to observe coming 25th August as International Kandhamal Day to remember the attacks on the Christian minorities in Orissa by communal forces. civil society activists, political parties will be requested to observe this day throughout the globe. Particularly, NSF will engage with the civil society in Orissa and India to observe the Day through various solidarity actions such as exhibition, public meetings, workshops, street-plays, film-shows etc.
• Exhibition on Kandhamal Violence at Delhi: An Exhibition with articles from the site of the violence and paintings narrating human stories from Kandhamal will be organized at Delhi from August 22-24th, 2010. The objective of the exhibition is to inform the larger society about the situation after violence and to create awareness against communal violence. A curator has been engaged to select and develop the articles for exhibition. Also, two artists have been contracted to visit various violence affected villages to develop paintings for exhibitions. Such exhibitions will held in over 50 different places in India.
For painting click on http://orissaconcerns.net/kandhamal/
• Film on Communal Violence: A Documentary Film will be produced on Kandhamal violence. Apart from recording the current situation, testimonies by various people will be taken up as regards to the background, causes, occurrences, impact of the Kandhamal violence. Relevant footage will be collected from different sources. A senior and experienced film maker will be requested for the purpose.
We Jesuits work with the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar towards peace.
Other than that, We as Jesuits are working for the past two years with 11 affected village communities of Mundigodo Gram Panchayat, Tumudibandha Block, Kandhamal Distict in building peace through livelihood options (agricultural interventions)
Of the 4500 destroyed houses that need to be built, there is commitment for 3402. Out of the 3402, the archdiocese has committed for 2453. Our 100 are within the 2453. Out of these 2453, 1310 houses have been completed by the Archdiocese.
Ongoing Ministries with the survivor-victims:
Relief (Immediate, and interim), Education, Rehabilitation, Vocational Training, Psycho-spiritual & trauma counseling, health ( we Jesuits take care of this sector fully), justice delivery, peace building, Reconciliation.
The vulnerable / focus groups : youth, women and children
RELIEF, REHAB, RECONCILIATION
The gap = Justice Delivery.
Thank you for your continued support. We seek your prayers and support. Lets continue to pray for peace, and work for peace.
S.Tony Raj, SJ
Mae Roney and Theresa Gill / Joh Gill, Joe McDade, Dan Caramanico.
Grandma Gill with Grace / Linda McDade and Jim McLaughlin
Preppers Tim Klarich, George Bur, SJ and Bill Hicks / The lamp breaking Angeluccis.
Russ Strollo and Chris Lester / Rich, Marie, Francine and Russ.
Mike Caramanico and Ed Deeney / Dudley Doright and Violet.
Nancy and Ed (Fr. Deeney's siblings) and Fr. Deeney's nieces together with Fathers Raj and Guidera / 44 and John Gill with Fr. Tony.