Indian Christians Observe Peaceful Christmas

NEW DELHI – There were no reports of violence in Kandhamal district, Orissa state, during Christmas.

Despite severe cold wave conditions, Christians in the riot-hit district peacefully celebrated the birth of Jesus with prayers and midnight services.

Police patrolling was intensified and all vehicles were checked at the entry and exit points.

"No incident of communal tension or violence was reported till now," said inspector-general of police Arun Kumar Sarangi.

In 2007, violence broke out in the tribal district as Christians were preparing for the Christmas celebration. Then in August 2008, Orissa was hit with one of the worst incidents of anti-Christian violence in the country.

In the days leading up to Christmas this year, several civil and religious groups submitted memorandums and written letters to authorities pleading that prayers and Christmas celebrations be made accessible and peaceful.

About a thousand special police forces were reportedly deployed in sensitive areas like G. Udaygiri, Tikabali, Raikia and Baliguda.

Additionally, at least 150 police inspectors were pressed into service to ensure the protection of the vulnerable Christian community and several thousand refugees.

After two years, Christians were able to celebrate a "peaceful Christmas at all places in Kandhamal and other districts," said Archbishop of Orissa Raphael Cheenath.