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NZ aid agency helps victims of violence in Orissa

PRESS RELEASE

October 22 2008

NZ aid agency helps victims of violence in Orissa

TEAR Fund is helping to bring relief to victims of the ongoing brutal violence against Christians in the Indian state of Orissa, which has left more than 80,000 people displaced and up to 100 dead.

TEAR Fund has sent $30,000 to provide non-food items such as blankets, hygiene kits and other essential items for about 6000 families living in 14 relief camps set up by the Indian government. The government is providing food.

The violence was sparked by the assassination of Hindu Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanand Saraswati on August 23. He was reportedly killed by Maoist extremists but Hindu fundamentalist groups blamed Christians and mounted attacks on them burning property as well as killing and torturing them.

TEAR Fund executive director Stephen Tollestrup said the situation is heart-rending with many Christians being burnt to death and some being cut to pieces for their beliefs. More than 50,000, many of them children and the frail have fled into the jungle and are likely facing starvation as they fear to return to their villages. The rest have found refuge in relief camps.

According to reports, Christians wanting to return to their homes have been told by the Hindu extremists: “Come back as Hindu or don’t come back at all.”

Those who dare to return to their villages are forcibly converted to Hinduism.

Sometimes the Hindu extremists pour petrol over the Christians and then ask them to convert; if they refuse they are burnt.

TEAR Fund’s long-term partner in India Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR) is working alongside other agencies and the Indian government to provide relief. In the relief phase, EFICOR will provide non-food items (NFI) to 6,000 families. The rehabilitation phase will involve peace and harmony building integrated with a livelihood restoration programme.

While TEAR Fund is not officially launching an appeal the public can y give to this cause by phoning TEAR Fund on 0800 800 777 or email enquiries@tearfund.org.nz

Ends (327 words)

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