Christmas strike call panics Orissa Christians *Christians pray for Aasia Bibi

December 20, 2011 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-lead, Orissa, Persecution

Christmas strike call panics Orissa ChristiansOrissa, December 19, 2011: Christians in Orissa have asked authorities for protection after a tribal outfit called for a general strike during Christmas season in Kandhamal district.

The Kui Samaj Seva Samity (Kui social service society) yesterday called for the shut down during December 24-27 to protest what it said was government neglecting the district while allocating welfare funds.

The strike call “has caused panic among Christians who are planning to celebrate Christmas after four years,” Bipra Charan Nayak, convener of the Survivors’ Associations of Communal Violence, told ucanews.com today.

He recalled that the same tribal outfit had called for a similar strike in December 2007 that led to killing of five Christians in the Christmas week. Hundreds of houses were also torched.

The district saw anti-Christian violence again in August 2008 that killed more than 90 people and rendered some 50,000 people homeless.

“We appeal to the concerned authorities to take note of the latest bandh (strike) call and act swiftly and sternly,” the Catholic lay leader added.

Nayak said Christians in Kandhamal have not celebrated Christmas openly after the 2007 violence.

Fr. Santosh Digal, public relations officer of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese that covers Kandhamal, sees “evil and malicious designs” in the strike call and urged the government to dissuade the tribal outfit from carrying out their plan.

The priest alleged that the tribal group has the backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (national volunteers’ corps), an umbrella organization for Hindu nationalists.

“How come the Kui Samaj calls for bandh only during Christmas time?” Father Digal asked. He said the archdiocese has alerted the district police officials and plans to seek the state High Court’s intervention.

Sr. Justine Senapati, a human right activist working among the Kandhamal survivors, says preventing Christians from celebrating Christmas amounts to violation of their fundamental right to practice their religion.

Christians in Kandhamal are already a “deeply wounded” community and the strike call has added to their woes, she added.

– ajay kumar singh

Christians pray for Aasia Bibi

 

Christians pray for Aasia BibiLahore, December 19, 2011: More than 1,000 people gathered in Lahore on Friday to pray for the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

“Many organizations still want to see her dead; our staff also needs your prayers as even we are facing threats,” said Sohail Johnson, chief coordinator of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) at St John’s Catholic Church.

The SLMP provides financial and legal aid to Christian prisoners. It is presently funding 25 families, including Bibi’s, and supporting the education of 97 children.

Aasia Bibi sparked an international outcry last year after being found guilty of blasphemy. In March Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated after he criticized the blasphemy laws. Pope Benedict XVI has also pleaded for Bibi to be released.

Last week Bibi’s family visited her in Sheikhupura Jail.

“Take care of yourselves and keep praying, she told us,” said Bibi’s daughter Isham Ashiq, 12.

The family remains in fear of their lives and continues to remain in hiding. “I do not know where we shall spend our Christmas,” he said.

– ucan

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