1 October 2008


Oct 2nd, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence has been designated by the UN as the International Day of Non-violence

Hopefully the day may have some special resonance in India which has been wracked recently by communal violence.

In a letter to the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council a plea was made for action to address the pattern of communal violence and impunity that has developed in India over recent years.

The call was issued by Franciscans International on behalf of the victims of recent violence in the state of Orissa. Currently an estimated 23,000 people mainly Tribals and Dalits of Christian faith are living in overcrowded relief camps and many others are in hiding. Their 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.

Concern was expressed at the outbreak of violence and the lack of protection given by the police who reacted slowly and insufficiently, despite the fact that it was foreseeable.

The violence has also been condemned by Human Rights Watch but has generally been ignored by much of the world.

As Father Raymond de Souza lamented in a recent article for Canada's National Post, anti-Christian violence 'cannot be checked if it is not even noticed'.

The Human Rights Council at least provides a forum where abuses of human rights can be brought into the open.

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