Orissa Christians are 'heroes', say bishops

A conference of Indian Catholic bishops has described Christians persecuted for their faith in the country as "heroes of faith and patriotism. .

The weeklong conference, which gathered 120 bishops, held moments of prayer for the Christian communities of India, especially those in Orissa and Karnataka.

Anti-Christian violence broke out in the state of Orissa last August resulting in the deaths of over 60 Christians.

The Pope and the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples sent messages of support to the bishops' conference.

The conference also issued a report by John Dayal, the president of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights. The report stated that the Orissa situation has still not been resolved as thousands of Christians displaced by the violence are unable to return home.

The report says that the state government of Orissa "is still not able to ensure the safety and security of thousands of Christians who cannot still return to their village homes".

Attacks against Christians are still going on in the state. A woman’s son was reportedly tortured last week because she refused to convert to Hinduism and a Baptist lay preacher was also found murdered in the jungle.

The conference encouraged India’s bishops to become “masters of the Word”, and issued a statement expressing their desire that every Catholic would "own a Bible, handle [it] with reverence and read it regularly".

They said they hoped that all believers would “understand the message of the Bible and all sacred texts, which speak of love, justice and peace", and would reject "biblical fundamentalism".

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