Indian State Gov't Obstructs Rebuilding of Orissa Church

The government of India's Orissa state says it will not give permission for the Christian community in Batticola to rebuild a destroyed church because they do not hold the deed of ownership to the land.

A tribal priest had bought the land under his name but did not transfer the ownership to another party before he died.

"The Catholic community in Batticola is a very small minority, which emerged around 1975. At that time, a tribal priest, Fr. Joseph Pradhan, bought a tract of land in his own name and built a church on it," explained a unidentified priest who was pastor in Batticola for a few years.

"All of this is legal, and the church of Batticola has the same status as other non-Christian religious buildings, all of them used for the needs of the inhabitants of the village, the land for which is bought by individuals and then transferred to the community," he told AsiaNews.

Earlier this week, Orissa officials had ordered Hindus to stop building a temple on top of the destroyed Batticola church. However, local Christians say the order does not make them happy because authorities have also blocked them from rebuilding their church, which was burned to the ground by Hindu extremist in August during an outbreak of anti-Christian violence.

Since August, at least 60 Christians have been killed, 18,000 wounded, 181 churches razed or destroyed, 4,500 Christian homes burned, and more than 50,000 Christians displaced. More than 30,000 of those displaced were staying in refugee camps or hiding in the jungle, according to media reports.

Despite protests and the months that have passed since the initial attacks, the anti-Christian campaign is still taking place in Orissa, albeit at a lesser intensity. Christians in the remote eastern state still say they are being threatened to convert to Hinduism to avoid getting beaten up or having their homes destroyed.

The Christian community in Batticola, meanwhile, has filed a complaint to bring their case before the court in hopes of gaining permission to rebuild the church.