Thursday, October 20, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christian missionaries struggled to provide aid to earthquake victims in northern India Wednesday, October 19, after Christians and an education minister were among those killed in ethnic violence which rocked Assam state and Indian controlled Kashmir, Christian aid workers said.
"Violence is once again escalating in the Indian state of Assam, this time between Karbi and Dimasa tribal groups," said Gospel for Asia (GFA), a group supporting native missionaries. "Three Believers Church members have been killed, and 25 families lost their homes " in the violence , GFA said. It was not immediately clear what, if any, motives were behind the attacks against Christians in the region, whose names were not identified.
In addition "a Gospel for Asia pastor has been arrested and is now waiting to stand trial," the group added. GFA said Pastor Santosh was detained "as police were investigating arson that resulted from tribal hostilities. They saw [him] on his bicycle and suspected him of involvement. GFA leaders are petitioning authorities for his release."
Among dozens of others killed in the violence were Karbi passengers including "eight women [who] were either hacked to death or burned inside" two buses which "were stopped by suspected Dimasa militants," said GFA, which has close contacts with native missionaries in the region.
"Over the years, the state of Assam has been known for bitter fighting between numerous ethnic insurgent groups, resulting in massacres of entire villages, kidnapping and brutality. The region is filled with suffering people who have lost loved ones, homes and all sense of security," GFA said in a statement. "At least 42 refugee camps, with more than 30,000 homeless men, women and children, are located in the area. It is an area in which Gospel for Asia (GFA) native missionaries have established more than 700 churches, and the local Christians have suffered from the attacks," the group added
Elsewhere in northern India, Islamic militants were suspected of killing the education minister in Indian-controlled part of the disputed territory of Kashmir. Ghulam Nabi Lone was reportedly shot at home on Tuesday and died en route to hospital. Two separate militant groups, Al Mansoorian and Islamic Front, separately claimed responsibility for his death, news reports said.
The violence has made it more difficult for missionaries to provide aid in the region devastated by the October 8 earthquake which killed up to 40,000 people in India and Pakistan. However GFA said a relief team, comprised of 15 missionaries and church members, has been working "non-stop in Kashmir, the region of India hardest hit by the October 8 earthquake."
It said the team recently entered a small village where 400 houses were destroyed and 50 people died. "The group is distributing daily food packets, and a doctor and two nurses are on hand to provide medical aid," GFA said.
"The condition of the people is terrible," it quoted a field correspondent. "Many have been emotionally affected by the earthquake. They are crying and weeping for their loved ones, and many come to our tents for refuge. Our presence is a source of comfort."
In addition wet, cold and rainy weather "has made relief work challenging for the team, and some in the group have been forced to stop their efforts due to illness," GFA claimed. "Also, because the area where they work is unsafe, team members must spend the night in a city three hours away. The group leaves early every morning and returns late at night, making for exhausting days."
Thousands in the region, including GFA missionaries, are still "feeling the effects of the 7.6 earthquake," the group added. "While none of the students at the GFA Bible College in Jammu state were seriously hurt, they have slept outside since the quake because the building is no longer safe. Several students have also become sick, and all are feeling the additional stress of studying for upcoming exams."
However missionaries said "their hearts continue to be burdened for the souls of the people" to whom they minister. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau Chief Vishal Arora).
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