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Orissa Christian leaders reject US secularism report

PTI  Bhubaneswar, August 14, 2009
First Published: 15:33 IST(14/8/2009) | Last Updated: 08:42 IST(15/8/2009)

Rejecting a report by a US panel on global religious freedom placing India on the 'Watch List' for the Gujarat and Kandhamal riots, Christian leaders, including the Orissa Archbishop, on Friday said India is "truly secular in letter and spirit".

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"India is secular in word as well as practice. There should be no doubt over the secular credentials of India," Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archbishop Rapheal Cheenath told PTI.

"What the US Commission of International Religious Freedom's (USCIRF) said is against our country's Constitution," he said.

 Referring to last year's riots in Kandhamal in which at least 40 people were killed and churches attacked, the Archbishop said the country's secular character "overpowered" a few communal elements and has restored peace.

"One should not forget the basics of a country which thrives on secular character since ages," he said, adding that India believed in respecting all religions.

Expressing similar views, Orissa Minotiry Forum (OMF) President Swarupananda Patra said though minorities have been targets of hate campaigns by a small section, civil society of the majority community has been extremely cordial and supportive of the minority community.
 
Both Cheenath and Patra rejected the US report placing India on the 'watch list' due to "disturbing increase in communal violence" in the country.

Another organisation, Orissa Secular Front, said riots in Gujarat and Kandhamal in 2002 and 2008 respectively were painful but could not be generalised to embarrass the strong secular foundation of India.


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