Published: 13:00 GMT Standard Time - Friday 11 March 2011
New wave of anti-Christian violence in Orissa
Country/Region: India, South and East Asia
Christians have been physically attacked, their homes destroyed and church meetings raided in the latest outbreak of anti-Christian violence in Orissa.
A scene from a Christian village in Orissa ransacked by Hindu extremists in former violence
The attacks by suspected Hindu extremists started on 8 December and have been focused on villages in Malkangiri District; more than ten incidents were recorded in one month by the Malkangiri District Christian Manch (MDCM).
Christian women, some of whom are pregnant, as well as children were among those injured in church raids. The violence has forced many Christians to flee their homes and go into hiding.
Pastor Vijay Purusu, MDCM president, said:
Persecution against the Christians has become a daily occurrence in the area. There is great fear among the people because of the threats they received from the extremists.
The first incident, on 8 December, happened in Katanpali village. About 35 Hindu extremists stormed the house of a church pastor and beat him up.
Another major attack, on 25 December, involved around 200 extremists, who burst into a Christmas Day celebration at a church in Koyi Konda village. They beat worshippers, causing serious injuries, and destroyed furniture. About ten Christian houses as well as their crops were destroyed. Many of those left homeless and in need of immediate aid fled across the border to Andhra Pradesh.
In the latest incident, on 23 February, two Christians were attacked by 60 Hindu assailants in Murliguda; one was beaten unconscious, the other suffered damaged eardrums.
Local church leaders believe the attacks have been sparked by fear and envy among Hindu extremists over church growth; they say the perpetrators have misunderstood the Christians’ social and educational ministries as an allurement intended to convert people from Hinduism.
Delayed police action
Christians in Malkangiri have complained that delayed police action has resulted in more attacks against Christians, and there are fears that the situation could escalate into large-scale violence reminiscent of that in Kandhamal, where at least 50 Christians were brutally killed, in 2008.
Christian leaders met with the district chief and police superintendent last month to press for intervention. “Peace committees” were set up in various villages, but local Christians say they have failed to curb the violence
A further meeting with the district chief on 3 March was met with a more positive response. A Barnabas Aid contact said that the official has “taken strong action to our complaint” and arrested 25 people suspected of being involved in the destruction of the ten houses and the crops.