September 14, 2009

Catholic leaders say that Christians in the Indian state of Orissa are encouraged by a series of recent convictions related to anti-Christian violence last year. The convictions of six people on September 7 on charges of riot and arson have "strengthened our people's morale," said Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. Rev. Ajay Singh, an advocate for the victims of the violence, said that the verdicts “emboldened” Christians to pursue court action against their attackers. "However, they have lots more challenges to face," he said. In the past witnesses were reluctant to cooperate with the courts following threats to their lives. Catholic leaders report that gunmen comb villages for people named as witnesses in cases related to the anti-Christian violence. The predominantly tribal district of Kandhamal was at the center of four months of violence last year, which left about 90 people dead and 50,000 displaced.

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