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Anti-conversion law sparked violence in Orissa, archbishop charges

Catholic World News - August 24, 2010

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack Bhubaneswar— whose archdiocese includes the troubled Kandhamal region that saw orchestrated mob violence against Christians two years ago—has issued a scathing denunciation of the law that restricts religious conversions in the eastern state of Orissa. Archbishop Cheenath made an unprecedented appearance to address a “people’s tribunal” in New Delhi. The event was organized by a coalition of 50 human-rights groups seeking to investigate the root causes of violence in Orissa. Speaking before the “jury” of retired jurists and other prominent citizens, the archbishop said that Orissa’s law against conversions was a root cause. “One can choose his university and the subject, choose this partner in life. But to choose one's God, he has to take prior permission from the government, despite India being a 'democratic secular republic," he complained.

In the orchestrated violence that went on unabated for weeks beginning in late August 2008, more than 90 Christians were killed, over 5,000 Christian houses and 300 churches and Christian institutions were looted, and more than 50,000 Christian families were driven from their homes.

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