As the death toll continues to rise following Sunday's Indian Ocean tsunami, Indian churches and Christian organizations are speeding up their relief efforts.
The 9.0 magnitude quake and its resulting tsunami devastated life along 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) of South India's coast, so far leaving more than 12,000 dead in India and many thousands missing. The overall death toll from the affected countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, the Maldives, and Somalia is now above 114,000far more than earlier feared.
India's Christian community was not spared. "It has been a terrible tragedy since it all happened on Sunday when the church service was on, and it occurred during the Christmas period," Donald H.R. De Souza, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said earlier this week. "In the Kottar area of Tamil Nadu, about 300 Christians who were attending a religious service died."
One of the country's holiest Christian sites, the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health in Velankanni, was hit severely. The shrine, typically busiest during the Christmas season, has reported at least 700 deaths, and that number is expected to rise dramatically.
John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, calls the tsunami "a greater tragedy than many others faced in the past" by the country's Christians. It's especially hard on the Christian community, he said, since "most of the boatmen and fishermen in the coastal areas are Christians."
The areas most affected by the tsunami are in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Anthropologists fear that some of the 72 indigenous tribes living in isolation on the 319 islands in the ...1