The popular film "Slumdog
Millionaire" may be the public face of
The depressing details of it all have been previously described by this writer: 70,000 homeless Christians, more than 5,000 homes destroyed, 3,000 people missing and/or hiding in the nearby jungles for the past five months, 87 people burned or hacked to death and the infrastructure of the Catholic Church destroyed.
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, 75, of Cuttack/Bhubaneswar and the spiritual head of five Catholic dioceses in Orissa, says 50 percent of Orissa's 1 million Christians are Roman Catholics. French missionaries planted Catholicism there about 130 years ago.
Hundreds of their schools, churches and other institutions have been destroyed. Displaced people sitting in refugee camps are afraid to return to their villages.
"They believe they will be attacked again and again," he said Tuesday, just after his plane landed here. "Those who have gone back have been forced to become Hindus, and the police are not stopping this. They have been mere spectators in this affair."
Orissa has a law forbidding forced conversions but apparently this only applies to people who wish to leave the Hindu religion.
In Kandhmal, there are 64,000
Catholics in 34 parishes, many of them from tribal or untouchable castes; in
"The damage there is colossal," the archbishop said. "Our concern is to get people back to the villages. and to construct houses as early as possible."
As for the unfortunate nun, she has fled to another state. But before she left, she appeared before 100 journalists, wearing a black veil to hide her features.
"They might eliminate her because she is responsible for a few people going to jail," the archbishop said. Even when he visited some of the refugee camps last month, he was not allowed to wander beyond their confines because of death threats toward him.
"I'd like the American government to tell the
Friday afternoon, he appears at
The archbishop does point out that not all Hindus are at fault and that one Indian daily, the Hindu, has become quite supportive.
"But the fanatics," he said, "want to establish a Hindu nation."