Global Church Body Head Visits Violence-Stricken India

A delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC), headed by General Secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, is visiting India this week as the country has been witnessing large-scale attacks on minority Christians in recent months.

At the invitation of the Church of North India, Kobia is scheduled to stay in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday and deliver a keynote address at the CNI General Assembly, which is taking place in Pathankot, in the northwestern state of Punjab, Oct. 16-21.

The WCC agenda also includes meetings in Delhi with the leadership of the Methodist Church in India, the Catholic Bishops' Conference and state officials.

Kobia's visit comes as Christian leaders worldwide have condemned the attacks on Christians by hard-line Hindus. Violence erupted after Hindu activists blamed Christians for the slaying of a Hindu leader, who was killed in Orissa on Aug. 23. Although the government and Indian police have said that Maoists killed the Hindu leader, Hindu hardliners have retaliated against Christians, so far killing 61 people, injuring 18,000, destroying 4,500 homes, and burning and razing 181 churches.

Last month, the World Council of Churches executive committee had stated its concern "about the alarming trend of growing communal violence and religious intolerance in India."

"Religious tolerance has been the basic tenet and hallmark of India's ancient civilisation and history," the WCC executive committee recalled in a Sept. 26 statement.

The committee further urged the government of India to meet its constitutional obligations and said the violence is "an assault on the Constitution of India."

"The government should take steps to prevent violence, and harassment against the Christian minorities in Orissa and other parts of the country," the statement said.

Following his visit to India, Kobia and a three-member delegation will head to the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo where ethnic conflicts and civil war between governments dominated by the Singhalese majority and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been taking place.

The neighboring island nation with a population of 19 million has been suffering for more than 25 years, despite the interference of the UNO and the International communities.

An ecumenical "Living Letters" team, which visited Sri Lanka on behalf of the World Council of Churches in August 2007, had called on churches worldwide to "bring Sri Lanka back to the forefront of the international efforts for peace making."

The World Council of Churches is an ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, uniting together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.