By Worthy News Asia Service
BHUBANESWAR, ORISSA (Worthy News)– The Catholic archbishop in India's troubled Orissa state on Friday, November 27, urged churches around the world to pray this Christmas for victims of anti-Christian violence in 2007 and last year in which over 100 people were killed.
"Gracious Father, Lord of all the earth, we praise you for the gift of Jesus Christ, sent into the world to break down the dividing walls of hostility. Have mercy upon those in Orissa who suffer for bearing your name," Archbishop Raphael Cheenath wrote in an open prayer.
"Give them the peace and the justice that they crave, and cause the walls of bitterness and hatred in Orissa to be torn down. Comfort those who have been bereaved, counsel those who have been traumatized, provide for those who have lost everything."
The bloodiest violence erupted mainly last year in Orissa's Kandhamal District following the killing of a Hindu religious leader in August, 2008. Although Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for murdering Swami Laxmanananda, Hindu militants blamed Christians for the attack.
OVER HUNDRED KILLED
Over 100 people were killed and hundreds of churches and thousands of Christian homes destroyed by angry Hindu mobs, displacing tens of thousands of Christians, according to several aid groups and rights investigators.
In his prayer, the bishop also urged Christians around the world to pray that God "will give them the grace to forgive," and have confidence in His "gracious" favour. "Do not let us forget them, our brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace and look forward to his coming again in glory," Archbishop Cheenath wrote.
An official of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide welcomed the letter. "Archbishop Cheenath’s prayer reflects the depth of suffering and uncertainty that is prevalent in Orissa’s Christian community, two years after the first outbreak of widespread anti-Christian violence,” said CSW’s Advocacy Director Tina Lambert.
"As part of our Inclusive India campaign, we call on Christians throughout the world to heed the Archbishop’s call to prayer during Advent and on Christmas Day. We also urge a continued international focus on this issue until the perpetrators and inciters of violence are brought to justice and the victims fully compensated."
This month European diplomats visited the region, amid mounting international pressure on India's central and local authorities to further ease religious tensions in the predominantly Hindu nation. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).