Orissa State has continued to bleed and burn for the past eleven days. Thousands of innocent people have fallen prey to diabolic insanity since we first reported this tragedy on Aug. 28, 2008.
Since independence (1947 Aug 15), this is the first time such a massacre has been let loose on Christians. “It is a national shame”, said Mr Man Mohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India.
Mob violence in India’s Orissa state continues to escalate, with Texas-based Gospel for Asia saying that as more than 20 of its related churches have been destroyed and hundreds of Christian families have been burned out of their homes. At least a dozen members of GFA-related churches have been murdered, but no one knows the overall death toll.
Thousands of Christians (the number could be 50,000) have fled to the thick forests for protection. They are managing without food, water, or shelter in the heavy monsoon. These forests are also home for wild animals like tigers, bears and elephants.
“The Christians in Orissa have fled for their lives into the forests,” GFA President K.P. Yohannan said, “and some have been in hiding for three days without food or water. Several of our pastors are in the forest along with their church people, and one said that he could have escaped, but would rather die with his people than leave them.”
Dr. Yohannan called the situation “unprecedented in his 30 years of ministry in South Asia.”
“I have never seen persecution so bad in my life,” Dr. Yohannan said, “and I have seen a lot of opposition to the Gospel over the years. Yet this past year, we have seen more people place their faith in Jesus Christ in Orissa than in any other Indian state,” Dr. Yohannan noted. “So it is no surprise that opposition is increasing.”
Orissa, the state where Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burned to death by anti-Christian militants in 1999, has a long history of opposition to the Gospel.
The latest reports to come in to GFA’s Carrollton, Texas, office include a long list of specific attacks against pastors, missionaries and their followers– including Christians being hacked to death. One believer’s body was cut into seven pieces.
“They are raping Christian girls–and some gang rapes are taking place,” Dr. Yohannan said. “We are praying that the young women on our Bible college campus will remain safe. There are 250 students there, and 90 of them are girls. A handful of police officers are trying to protect them, and that is a blessing. But we have had people come on campus and attack students in the past, so I am asking for all Christians to pray for their protection.”
The violence originated after the August murder of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, a top leader of the VHP (World Hindu Council) and an outspoken opponent of Christianity. He was killed in an attack by 20 men armed with guns and hand grenades. While the murderers are suspected of being Maoist rebels, the Hindu radicals seized on the killing as an excuse to incite violence against the area’s Christian community.
“What is most disturbing,” Dr. Yohannan said, “is that the radicals have not only incited this violence, but they are also orchestrating it. And the latest reports are that they are bringing in militants from Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and other states to carry out their evil plans.”
Because the swami’s goal was to stop the spread of Christianity, especially among tribal and lower-caste Indians, an attack on him last December incited a similar wave of violence–again targeting Christians.
“Between December 24 and January 15, some 730 Christian homes and more than 100 churches were destroyed,” Dr. Yohannan recalled. “Several dozen Christian women were sexually assaulted and more than 40 shops owned by Christians were looted. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as Untouchables,” he noted. “Basically, what we are facing is genocide–ethnic cleansing–against Christians, and so far, few governments have spoken out against it.”
Dr. Yohannan asks that concerned people in the West call on their government officials–as well as those in India–to intervene in this disaster.*
“But most important is prayer,” Dr. Yohannan emphasized. “Please pray that God will intervene in this situation, that His peace will descend on the people of Orissa, and that His message of love will fill the hearts of all of India’s people.”
Two graphic stories of violence reported by
Dr Joseph Chavady, the President of Canada-based One to One International follow.
* Mrs Kamalini Naik’s husband was asked to become a Hindu otherwise the fanatics threatened to kill his mother. Seeing his mother under their grip, Mr Naik denounced his faith. Then they called his wife who was 7 months pregnant. She strongly stood for her faith in Christ & they immediately cut her and her 18th month old son in pieces in front of her husband and the other Christians.
* A Pastor was asked to become a Hindu, but he refused and declared his faith in Christ. His two hands were chopped off and he was given a second chance to deny his Lord. He refused right away and his two legs were cut off. His body was then thrown into the fire.
Gospel for Asia is an evangelical mission organization based in Carrollton involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.
* Indian government contacts include:
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
Room No. 152
New Delhi 110001
Shri Navin Patnaik
Chief Minister of Orissa
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