They (the state government) kept the church and missionaries out from the very beginning," Archbishop Cheenath alleged. "We were not allowed to visit. I visited the place (Kandhamal district) only after four months."
"The reason why they (Christians) are not willing to go back is because they are afraid they will be attacked, because they have found in these four months that no serious steps have been taken to prevent these attacks, to protect their property and to save their lives," the archbishop added.
"And, therefore," he reiterated, "when the government is telling them, 'Please, come back to your place,' they said, 'What is the guarantee that we have?' Secondly, they were forced to become Hindus. This is systematically going on and we have not seen the government taking steps to prevent this."
"We have complained to the government that the people are under tremendous pressure and therefore they are not willing to go back," Archbishop Cheenath said.
In the beginning, he added, all the Christians who fled Kandhamal hid in the jungles. "Then, they were slowly brought into the relief camps -- there were 24,000 refugees in 14 camps. Now the number has reduced to about 9,000 people and seven refugee camps."
Image: Christians, displaced by the communal violence in Kandhamal, seek refuge at makeshift government shelters at Raikia village in Orissa. Photograph: Parth Sanyal/Reuters.
Also see: Indo-Americans protest against Orissa crisis