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Survivors recount terror in Orissa, India

 

Amit Dave/Reuters

Christians attend a prayer meeting against the recent clashes between Hindus and Christians in Orissa, at a church in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 31. Thousands of people, most of them Christians, have sought shelter in makeshift government camps in eastern India.

BHUBANESWAR, India (BP) — A Christian woman told of her husband being cut to pieces before her eyes.

A man described his brother being burned alive in his home after refusing to deny Christ.

These are two of the hundreds of stories emerging from India, where anti-Christian attacks carried out by mobs of extremist Hindus in the eastern state of Orissa have yet to be quelled.

 

Family forced to watch

“On a nightly basis, Hindu mobs stormed into villages and ransacked the homes of professed believers, taking all their possessions,” a Christian worker reported. “After that, they would often beat or kill Christians who refused to deny their faith. In many terrifying cases, family members were forced to watch their loved ones being murdered in the hopes that [the families] would be convinced to return to Hinduism.”

An Indian Christian worker recently visited one of the many camps set up to house Christians who have fled the terror. He recorded video interviews with two believers who were told to deny their faith or watch family members be martyred. See box.

“The believers [in Orissa] desperately want your prayers and asked that we share their stories with believers around the world,” the worker said. “Please share these videos with others in the Christian community. The Indian believers of Orissa desperately need our prayers.”

 

Many victims, others hiding

Indian news services reported Sept. 15, however, that anti-Christian violence was continuing in Orissa and had spread to neighboring Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states.

The anti-Christian violence began after the Aug. 23 assassination of a Hindu swami sparked mob attacks on Christian villages, churches, and homes. The number of victims beaten, hacked, or burned to death since the start of the attacks reportedly has topped 100. Tens of thousands of Christian villagers terrorized by Hindu extremists continue to hide in forests – without adequate food and water – or huddle in camps guarded by police.

Parth Sanyal/Reuters

A Christian woman sits outside her destroyed house Aug. 30 after a mob attack at Barakhama village in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. One night in late August, a Hindu mob swarmed over this hamlet in eastern India. By dawn, Christian homes were smoking heaps of burnt mud and concrete shells. The violence replicated itself in village after village.

Reports of forced “reconversions” of tribal Christians to Hinduism have emerged from several areas of the state.

A Maoist insurgent group active in Orissa has publicly claimed responsibility for murdering the swami and four of his followers, but Hindu extremists continue to blame the killings on Christians. Hindu mobs have attacked and burned hundreds of homes, churches, schools, and orphanages, primarily in tribal districts where many Christians live. Christians, including up to 500,000 Baptists, reportedly comprise about 2.4 percent of Orissa’s population of 36.7 million people.

Some Indian political and religious leaders have called for imposing federal rule and sending troops to Orissa, where the ruling Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government has been unable to stop the violence.

 

Protection, intervention

Christian representatives have met with India’s president, the federal interior minister, Orissa’s chief minister, and other political leaders to ask for protection of Christians in Orissa.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has called on President George W. Bush and U.S. congressional leaders to intervene to bring an end to anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

 

 

Videos of Indian Christians testifying to the violence can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWkWveiRfJQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dern4FYE7OI.