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Memories of Orissa 'still fresh'

Three years after deadly violence, reconciliation is still proving elusive

Mike MacLachlan, London
United Kingdom

August 24, 2011

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Three years after the killing that sparked a wave of anti-Christian violence in Orissa state, the process of reconciliation has a long way to go, said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar yesterday. The violence, in which more than 90 people died and 50,000 were made homeless, was sparked by the killing on August 23, 2008, of a Hindu activist, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Archbishop Barwa said no memorial events were planned and that police were guarding main churches across Kandhamal, the district where the violence was centered. “Over the past three years, a lot has happened towards reconstruction and dialogue,” Archbishop Barwa said in an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “But there are people who are still afraid. There is some progress towards peace and justice but there is still a lot more to be done.” He told the charity: “My message is clear: we need peace and tranquility – no more violence, no killing. The Christian faithful have the right to be in Kandhamal. They are growing in faith.” High-ranking officials were doing their best to aid rebuilding and reconciliation, he said, but lower-ranking ones “disturb us.” Provision of building materials and other supplies for Christian homes and churches was still being blocked locally, he said. He thanked ACN for its help in rebuilding churches damaged or destroyed and for the £26,250 (US$43,400) it provided for counseling and other trauma relief for victims.
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