Persecutions in the State of Orissa of India

 

The State of Orissa is situated on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It possesses abundant natural resources, and is supported by industrial growth and recent tourism development.

 

On August 22, an extremist Hindu leader, Swami Laxamanananda Saraswat and four bodyguards were assassinated by unknown gunmen. This event sparked wide-spread anti-Christian persecutions. Swami’s death was believed to be related to conflicts with Maoists, but rumours placed blames on Christians. Within a few weeks of anti-Christian riots, more than 600 churches were destroyed, 4000 Christians escaped their homes, at least 36 people were killed, and more than 25 missionary organizations were affected. Christian-run schools, clinics, orphanages, and service centres have unavoidably been destroyed. Some Christians were beaten by groups, brutalized, burnt alive; a pregnant woman was also cut into pieces with her young son. Because of the numerous rioters, local police failed to intervene during these events. According to reports from Gospel for Asia (GFA), Hindu extremists forced their way into Christian villages, ransacked and torched their places, forcing Christians to leave their homes and into the forests. They also threatened the missionaries and ordered them to swear they would never return.

 

At first, western media did not highly publicize this event, and so the news could only be spread through local missionary organizations. Later on, the American government pressured India, causing the Indian prime minister to denounce such activities, calling this “a national shame”, and ordering the local government to put an end to this. The Hindus in the State of Orissa has had a long drawn hatred toward Christians. In January of 1999, an Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive. Last December, Hindus burned 90 church buildings, 600 houses, and killed 10 Christians. This current event is believed to be the most serious persecution against Christians in India since 1947.

 

Why do the Hindus in the State of Orissa hate Christians so much? This is because of the love of the church and the missionary organizations toward the state; they have opened schools, orphanages, medical centres, and performed charity work to the Hindu women, the children, the poor, and the outcast by providing education and services free of charge. This provoked the Hindus’ jealousy, with this ministry appearing to threaten the Hindus’ traditional religion and damaging their social values and the cast system, resulting in their hatred towards Christians. Some extreme Hindu sects have endeavoured to persecute missionaries and marginalize Christians. However, the more the persecution, the higher the Christian conversion rate became. Even the attackers admitted that in the State of Orissa where Christians faced the worse persecution, believers have grown from 2% to 28%. One GFA Christian leader said that when the Christians are being more persecuted, more people will draw close to Christ. Another regional leader in GFA, Simon John, spoke on behalf of the persecuted Christians saying, “Christians will stand together in this nation, in love and to lift up the people, even if persecution or death comes. We will not stop doing good for the people.”

 

Dear brothers and sisters, the writer urges us to pray for these persecuted Christians daily this week. Pray that God will help them, and to not lose faith in these times of persecution, but to stand firm in the Lord and become good witnesses for Him. The following websites can be visited for more information:

 

http://www.gfa.org/orissa-update

http://www.persecution.com/topStory_indiaOrissaState.html

http://www.jesuslives.co.za/2008/09/14/world-ignores-persecution-of-christians-in-indias-orissa-state/

 

By: Daniel To