Violence Continues in India

by | Oct 10, 2008 | Charisma Archive

At least 60 people have died in the unabated,
anti-Christian violence that broke out in August.
 
Violence Continues in India
[10.10.08]  The violence against Christians in India is headed into its eighth week
despite the deployment of thousands of national and state law enforcement
troops. According to local sources representing the All India Christian Council
(AICC), countless rural-based police officers have ignored India's Supreme Court
mandate to register all complaints and are turning away Christians attempting to
report cases of violence perpetrated by Hindu extremists.

 
“The death tolls are climbing, but less than 100 are confirmed,” pastor and
AICC Regional Secretary Madhu Chandra said. “Perhaps this is why the Orissa
attacks haven't gained international attention [regarding] the worst violation
of the freedom of religion in any democracy in recent history. … This is clearly
terrorism and ethnic cleansing, but few Indian leaders are admitting it.”
 
At least 60 people have died since the violence broke out in Orissa state
on Aug. 24, a day after Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, Kandhamal district
leader of the militant nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), was gunned
down with four of his comrades. Saraswati is believed to have instigated the
violence last December that reportedly destroyed 105 churches and 730 Christian
homes.
 
Maoist rebels took responsibility for the assassinations, and the AICC
immediately published a letter denouncing the murders. But Hindu radicals still
blamed Christians for the attack and used the killing to incite violence against
them. The violence has continued unabated since then, with hundreds of churches
destroyed and thousands of Christians’ homes burned.
 
“The Hindu militants are afraid because many thousands of ordinary Hindus
are accepting the Lord as their savior,” wrote an Orissa pastor who asked to
remain anonymous for fear of reprisal in an update to his ministry’s overseers.
“Christianity in India is [growing] … and this alarms the Hindu militants who
think that one day India will become a Christian nation.”
 
The pastor said the central government has done little to stop the
violence. Dead bodies dot the roadside, he said, and many Christians have fled
to the forest. “They have nothing now,” he said. “Everything has been burned
down by the wicked people. Hundreds of Christian villages have been
deserted.”
 
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that in Orissa’s
Kandhamal district, militants gang-raped a nun, stripped the priest naked and
beat him brutally. They then attempted to make him a human torch, but their
matches, dampened by the rain, did not light. Police arrived in time to save the
two.
 
In Tiangia village, also in Orissa, four men attempting to defend their
church against attackers were killed, and one of them reportedly was cut into
pieces, local media reported. As the terrorists burned houses of Christians, a
paralyzed man, unable to escape, was burned to death.
 
At a Catholic-run orphanage, a mob locked the priest and a 20-year-old
female nurse in separate rooms and set the building on fire. The priest
survived, but the young woman burned to death. Ten of the orphans fled to the
jungle, while 12 suffered burns.
 
The violence remains most severe in Orissa, but the attacks have spread to
several other states, including Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
and Jharkhand. Observers say the attacks stem from the recent rise of Hindu
nationalist movements, including the militant Bajrang Dal and VHP, which want to
see India maintain a Hindu identity. Archbishop of Delhi Vincent Concessao has
called for the Bajrang Dal and the VHP to be banned, saying the extremist groups
wanted to eliminate Christians from Orissa, Tribune News Service reported.
 
Although many of the early attacks were against prominent Catholic
ministries, Christians of all denominational backgrounds have been affected, as
well as Hindus who refuse to join in the attacks, Compass Direct News reported.
The EFI listed more than 30 affected ministries, including the Assemblies of
God, Believers Church (Gospel for Asia), the Indian Pentecostal Church and the
Orissa Missionary Movement.
 
“Outside the metropolitan areas of Bangalore and Mangalore, innocent
Christians live in fear since coordinated attacks on churches on Sept. 14,” said
John Dayal, AICC secretary general. “Police are ordering village churches not to
hold Sunday worship services and even requiring them to submit ‘licenses’ to
hold prayers.”
 
According to Compass Direct, more than 300 people had been arrested in the
last month. Christian leaders attributed the arrest of 46 people within two days
last week to the new state Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj, who
succeeded Gopal Chandra Nanda after he retired on Sept. 30.

The AICC reported that 315 villages have been damaged, 4,640 Christian
houses burned, 149 churches destroyed and 53,000 Christians left homeless as a
result of the violence.

Christian organizations and human rights have staged protests and organized
prayer efforts, calling for an end to the violence. In late September, five U.S.
representatives, led by Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, introduced a
resolution condemning the violence in India and calling on the Indian government
to stop the attacks and address its root causes.
 
Bridget S. Kustin, communications specialist for the U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom, said Christians should urge their congressional
representatives to support the resolution, which was referred to the Committee
on Foreign Affairs, and call for a similar measure to be introduced in the
Senate.

“India is invested in its international image, so pressure coming from
abroad will have an impact,” Kustin said. “[Christians] can make sure there is
continual international pressure.”
 
In the meantime, Christians are urged to pray for believers in India. “We
covet your earnest prayers for the state of Orissa,” the Orissa pastor said.
“Please stand with the bleeding church in Orissa, India.” —John M.
Lindner
 

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