People urged to join call for justice for persecuted Christians in India

· Concern that authorities are failing to prevent violenceand unwilling to protect Christians.

People killed for their faith in Orissa and victims stillsuffering at the hands of religious extremists were remembered inprayer at the Synod of the Church of North India (CNI), in Punjab.Churches are not being permitted to contribute to the reliefeffort, but people are being urged to pray and join in the call forjustice.

The 350 Synod members were visibly moved as they listened to twoChristians from Orissa tell of their experiences in one of the 311villages that have suffered violent attacks from religiousextremists.

One victim told how his congregation had been attacked during aservice and people were forced to flee into the forest. He had beenattacked with an axe and left for dead among the trees. To this dayhe wonders how or why God saved his life. Although he has had tosell almost all he owned to pay for the medical treatment, he said;'I praise God for his mercy. My faith is now stronger thanbefore.'

Concern was expressed at the way the police and authorities arefailing to intervene to prevent violence, unwilling to protectChristians and their homes, and being partial in their upholding oflaw and order.

Christine Elliott, Methodist Secretary for External Relationshipshas written to the Indian Prime Minister, asking him to assure theBritish Methodist Church that the religious rights of all Indianswill be protected and that the police and the courts will do allthey can to guarantee the personal safety of individuals, familiesand communities.

The CNI General Secretary, Revd Enos Das Pradhan, expressedgratitude for statements of support from Partner Churches -including the British Methodist Church - and noted that the PrimeMinister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had been forced to acknowledge thecommunal violence against individuals because of their faith as 'anational shame'.

'The immediate need is for emergency relief for those who arehomeless or hiding in the forests and to bring an end to violenceand threats', said Revd Das Pradhan, adding, 'Religious tolerancehas been the basic tenet and hallmark of India's ancientcivilization and history. We condemn all religious violence.'

After discussion with CNI Synod Officers, Partnership Coordinatorwith responsibility for India Steve Pearce said; 'Although noChurch is allowed to be part of the current relief effort, I knowBritish Methodists will be keen to help the affected Christiancommunities rebuild their lives and we will launch an appeal whenthe time is right. Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to pray forpeace and to add their voice to the call for justice by writing tothe Prime Minister of India and the High Commissioner inLondon.'