On September 17th, Franciscans International presented the ongoing violence against Christians in India at the United Nations Human Rights Council. We publish the actual text presented at the UNHRC, Geneva. More information at www.franciscansinternational.com
9th Session, Item 4
Communal violence in Orissa, India
16 September 2008
Franciscans International would like to draw the attention of the Human Rights Council to the pattern of communal violence and impunity that has developed in India over the last years.
The most recent example is the current crisis in the state of Orissa. As I speak to you, 23,000 people are living in overcrowded relief camps and many others are in hiding. They are mainly Tribals and Dalits of Christian faith, whose lives are threatened if they do not convert to Hinduism. The ongoing Anti-Christian violence has resulted in the death of at least 35 individuals and the destruction of more than 6,000 houses and over 90 religious buildings.
Franciscans International condemns this outbreak of violence and the lack of protection given by the police who reacted slowly and insufficiently, despite the fact that it was foreseeable.
Another example of communal violence is the conflict that occurred in the state of Gujarat in 2002, after a clash that left as many as 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. Prosecution of those accused of violence was largely insufficient, and no substantive investigation was carried out about the responsibility of the regional government. This must not be repeated again.
Every necessary step should be undertaken in order to protect human rights in Orissa, in particular the right to life and religious freedom. The IDPs also deserve special and adequate protection.
It is essential that human rights violations do not remain unpunished, and that an impartial investigation is carried out. Witnesses and human rights defenders need adequate protection.
We welcome the condemnation of the violence by the Indian government, as well as the Supreme Court’s intervention in asking the Orissa government to protect the people and their properties. It is our hope that the Supreme Court will guarantee the primacy of religious freedom and the principle of non-discrimination regarding the “Anti-Conversion laws”, recently defined by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion as a tool to vilify specific religious groups.
The episodes of violence are also a result of the continuous discrimination faced by lower castes and “outcasts”. Continuous efforts are needed to abolish this pattern of discrimination.
It is our hope, that this Council will encourage the Indian government to take all necessary measures to guarantee all human rights, in particular the right to life, integrity and religious freedom; and to protect the victims of violence; to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, and to prevent such violence from occurring again.
We thank you Mr. President.