New Attacks on Christians Spark Riots in Battered Orissa, India
first published: Aug. 30, 2008 – Gospel for Asia
Two new deaths were reported this weekend as violence against Christians in India’s Orissa state refuses to die down despite police intervention.
The violence, now entering its second week, began when anti-Christian extremist Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati was murdered by suspected Maoist rebels Aug. 23. His followers in the anti-Christian World Hindu Council (VHP) blamed Christians for his murder and went on a rampage across several districts of Orissa. During the first week of violence, at least a dozen members of GFA-related churches were murdered and 20 churches and hundreds of home belonging to GFA missionaries and pastors were burned.
Two people were killed by police gunfire as rioting broke out Saturday in the Koraput District. Several people were also seriously injured in the conflict, which began when someone wrote an obscene comment about Christians on the wall of a secular college in the area. Gospel for Asia correspondents fear this confrontation will ignite a fresh wave of violence in the state.
In the Baragarh district, fighting broke out Saturday between anti-Christian extremists and the police, who had just rescued six families being held by the extremists. The families were locked in a house and told that they would be burned alive unless they denounced Christ and turned back to Hinduism. The police found out about the hostage situation, rescued the people and took them into protective custody.
When police tried to return the families to their village, many of their neighbors, incited by the extremists, became violent, saying the families would not be allowed to return to their homes unless they turned away from Christianity.
Many Christians in Orissa are facing similar ultimatums according to GFA’s Orissa leader. “Only the Christians who agree to be ‘reconverted’ to Hinduism are spared. Those who agree to become Hindu are then asked to join in destroying the church buildings and the houses of Christians,” he said.
Thousands of families were left homeless by the merciless arson attacks during the first week of the rampage. Today thousands more are facing the loss of their homes, and pastors are being left without churches, as landlords, under threat from the swami’s followers, evict all Christians.
About 10,000 people are in government relief camps, but thousands more remain in hiding, fearing for their lives.
One GFA missionary was found near death, hiding in a cave. A young man carried him to a hospital, where the missionary is receiving medical treatment. But he was separated from his family and has no idea where they are.
Orissa’s state leader asks Christians around the world to continue earnestly lifting up the situation in Orissa before the Lord.