NEW DELHI – The Bengal Christian Council on Friday condemned the Maoist attack on Mumbai-bound Gyaneswari Express that killed at least 98 people in West Bengal's Midnapore district in India.
"We are very grieved to learn of the tragedy this morning. The attack by the Maoists which resulted in loss of lives must be condemned in the strongest possible terms," said the Rev. A. Mondal, secretary of the BCC.
"As we send our heart felt condolences, we want to pray that God changes the heart of those people indulging in violence," he added.
BCC is a body uniting the Church of North India, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Salvation Army churches in that region.
The crash reportedly resulted from Maoist rebels removing the fasteners securing the tracks, police said, according to CNN. Railway officials, however, initially said a bomb had caused the derailment. About 13 coaches were derailed, injuring at least 200 people.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced monetary assistance to the next of kin of the deceased to the seriously injured.
Rev. Mondal commented, "The government must hold talks with the Maoists to ward off such incidents in the future."
"An amicable settlement through discussion must be brought to the protracted problem. If the government delays, the future will see more ominous situations," he told Christian Today.
This is the second Maoist attack on civilians this month. Naxals had blown up a civilian bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on May 17, killing at least 36 people, including 12 Special Police Officers.
In an appeal for prayer, the Rev. Asir Ebenezer, the officiating general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, observed the urgent need to address the "issues and contexts that give rise to these conflicts."
"In the last few weeks the country has seen a spate of unabated violence and bloodshed," he said. "Strikes by Maoists, purportedly a retaliation to the brute force with which their demands are met, has been in the news. While the leaders of the Maoist outfits and the State battle it out, people bear the brunt of the attacks from both sides."
He called for prayer so that "the State and the Non-State actors will uphold governance with responsibility for affirmation of Life to All" and "reactionary methodologies and activities will be dealt with introspection and in ways other than retaliation through brute force."