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Indian churches say bomb blasts highlight ‘culture of violence’


Churches in India have joined in widespread condemnation of a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur, the capital of the country’s western desert state of Rajasthan, in which 65 people were killed and more than 200 were injured.

Police reported seven successive blasts within a span of 12 minutes in a radius of two kilometres around busy market and tourist areas in Jaipur, a city that each year draws 25 million tourists, including 1.2 million foreigners. It is called India’s "pink city" due to the colour of palaces and forts there. Jaipur has a Hindu majority in its 2.7 million people and it has a sizeable Muslim population.

"The seven serial blasts are again a reminder of a culture of violence," lamented the National Council of Churches in India, which groups 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches. In a statement on 14 May the church grouping expressed "deep condolences to the members of the bereaved families", and it condemned, "this most inhuman terror attack aimed with precision to kill, maim and terrify".

Bishop Collin Christopher Theodore, who heads the Rajasthan diocese of the Church of North India, told Ecumenical News International, "This is a dastardly act and everyone should condemn it." He noted that the blasts seemed to be intended "to create panic and disharmony".

Though no group claimed responsibility for the blasts, reports said cyclists had used SIM cards to detonate the bombs. Indian security authorities said Islamic militant groups supporting an insurgency in the Indian-held part of Muslim-majority Kashmir were suspected to be behind the blasts.

Similar coordinated bomb blasts had killed 30 people in Hyderabad in August 2007. More than 200 people were killed in Mumbai suburban trains in July 2006, and 62 people shopping for the Hindu Diwali festival were killed in crowded New Delhi markets in October 2005.

About 30 000 people, including thousands of civilians, have been killed in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir state since the 1990s due to separatist violence. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir, which has been divided between the two countries since 1949. Islamic militant groups in the Indian-held part have been fighting for cessation from India with the support of similar organizations based in Pakistan.

"Any form of terrorism, any attack on life or on property, has no place in the efforts to build a more humane, just and peaceful society," said the Roman Catholic group "Prashant" based in India’s neighbouring Gujarat state, reacting to the bomb blasts.

Ecumenical News International