Church organisations in Meghalaya condemn Kandhmal violence

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Shillong, Aug 28 (UNI) Church organisations in Meghalaya have condemned the killing of an 85-year-old Hindu religious leader and the alleged atrocities being committed on Christians in Orissa, even as the Catholic institutions would remain closed tomorrow in protest against the communal clashes.

At least nine people have reportedly been killed after senior member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his followers were killed by unknown assailants on August 23 night at his ashram in Tumudibandha in Kandhmal district of Orissa.

In a statement issued here today, North East India Christian Council (NEICC) secretary Rev N Sandiwell Phawa urged the Centre and Orissa government to take steps to diffuse the tension through ''confidence building measures''.

He also appealed to all Christians in Meghalaya and the North East to make August 31 a day of special prayer for return of peace and normalcy in Orissa.

The Catholic Association Khasi and Jaintia has endorsed the decision of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) to shut down all educational institutions run by the Catholic Church falling under the Shillong Archdiocese tomorrow to express solidarity with Christians allegedly being attacked by fanatics in Orissa, while condemning such atrocities on minorities.

The association also decided to observe a day of prayer and fasting on September 7 and a peace rally on September 8.

Earlier, the National Christian Council of India (NCCI), Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) had jointly sent messages to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh seeking their intervention on the crisis.

Meanwhile, the United Democratic Party (UDP), leading the ruling Meghalaya Progressive Alliance, also condemned the killings during an attack on an orphanage run by Missionary Christians during the bandh called by the VHP in Orissa in protest against the killing of its leader.

The UDP also condemned the attack on churches in various locations in various parts of Orissa and conveyed its condolences to the bereaved families.

''We urge the Meghalaya government to write to both the Centre and Orissa governments to take a serious note of the developments,'' the UDP added.

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