Orissa Violence Continues to Escalate Against Christians

Friday, August 29, 2008

Christian Group Calls for Day of Prayer and Fasting

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. / ORISSA, INDIA (ANS) -- A Christian human rights organization has been monitoring the situation in Orissa, India and receiving status reports from those affected by what it calls "this massive outpouring of hate."

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org , received the following first-hand report from a believer in hiding in Kandhamal District, Orissa, India which contradicts the claims of the Indian government that the situation is under control.

Yesterday, ICC spoke with a Christian taking shelter in the middle of an area where Hindus are on a rampage against Christians. When ICC asked him how he was doing, he responded, "By God's grace I am still alive, but I do not know what will happen tonight."

ICC says that according to this eyewitness account, the last three days of violence have resulted in the deaths of 18 Christians that he knew of alone, including pastors, nuns, and Catholic priests. In addition, he said that Hindu radicals have demolished at least 75 churches and hundreds of houses belonging to Christians.

The ICC report says: "While the Indian government maintains that the situation is under control, our eyewitness says it is anything but. The main towns have received additional police protection, but in the rural areas there is nothing to stop Hindu mobs from looting, killing, raping, and destroying. In addition, the police have had their hands tied. The local government has prohibited them from firing on any mobs."

ICC spoke with this source at about 9:30pm local time (in India). At that moment, everything was quiet, but he said that the Hindus usually attack between 11pm and 4am. He said their only defense against another rampage is divine assistance.

Samuel Wallace, ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, said, "It looks like the only defense these Christians have is God himself, because the Indian government has proved itself unable to stop the violence."

National Organization of Indian Christians Denounces Violence in Orissa

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the National United Christian Forum (NUCF), a joint initiative of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) to promote national level united action to address the critical concerns confronting the Christian community in the country, has denounced the communal violence that has erupted over the gruesome murder of a VHP leader -- Swami (a Hindu fundamentalist) and four others in Kandhamal district allegedly by Maoist groups (Terror groups).

In a statement released to the media, the group says: "While condemning the dastardly act of murder we appeal to one and all to maintain communal harmony and peace."

The statement goes on to say: "The Christians were not at all involved in the incident. Nevertheless, there have been already over 45 instances of violence, including the burning alive of at least five persons and over 300 in Rupagaon, Kandhamal."

Appealing to the Christian community, Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao, NUCF President, said, “As a mark of our solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters and as a protest against all acts of communal violence and atrocities on the Christian community and other innocent people we request all our Christian schools, colleges and other educational institutions to be closed on Friday, August 29, 2008, and we wish that everywhere peaceful marches/rallies be conducted with black flags’ demonstration in a truly prayerful spirit.”

The group is also declaring Sunday, September 7, 2008 as a Day of Prayer and Fasting.

"We hope that all our dioceses, our churches, parish communities and all church institutions/organizations will hold prayer services and memorial gatherings on this day, highlighting the need for our solidarity with all the victims and pray for all our Missionaries in India, who are facing most trying and difficult times for the sake of the Gospel.

"We appeal to the Central and State governments to take strong measures to curb violence caused by any group in the country and urge all political, social and religious organizations to desist from spreading communal hated which has already taken a heavy toll in our country."

In a report obtained by ANS from Evangelical Fellowship of India News Service, the group details the list of Christian victims in the violent aftermath of the Hindu Swami's killing.

The list is published in full below.

1) NUN BURNED ALIVE: A nun was burne to death on Monday, Aug.25 after an orphanage was torched in at Phutpali in Bargarh district in Orissa during a bandh called by Hindu nationalist parties. Twenty children, who were at the orphanage, managed to escape but a priest suffered serious burn injuries in the attack.

2) RASANANDA PRADHAN TORCHED ALIVE: Another person, Rasananda Pradhan, was burned to death when his house was set ablaze at Rupa village in Kandhamal district.

3) INFLAMMATORY SPEECHES TARGET CHRISTIANS: During the bandh inflammatory speeches spreading hatred against the Christian workers and the community were given by the VHP leaders. To gain the mass support,the activists have also carried the body of Swamiji throughout the town.

4) CHURCHES BURNED ALL ACROSS ORISSA STATE: Churches were attacked in Khurda, Bargarh, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Koraput, Boudh, Mayurbhanj, Jagatsinghpur and Kandhamal districts as also in the state capital, police sources said, adding 40 houses were set ablaze in Phulbani town.

5) BUSES AND VEHICLES TORCHED: Mr. Mishra Digal was beaten up, while the motorcycles of Mr. R. K. Digal and Jitendra were burnt. Several buses at Gee Udaigiri in Baliguda were burnt.

6) PULBANI CHURCH RANSACKED: The Church at Phulbani, and several other churches at Phiringia were attacked and ransacked. Pastor D. Tatson's house was vandalized and his property burnt.

7) KAKRIGUMA CHURCHES VANDALIZED: Churches in Kakriguma have been targeted by the mob that reportedly damaged the Assembly Of God Church and the Philadelphia Church.

8) WORLD VISION STAFF FLED FOR SAFETY: World Vision India office ransacked and the Staff has also fled to jungle for protection.

9) CHRISTIANS TAKE SHELTER IN FOREST FOR PROTECTION: A police camp at Barakhama was also attacked by the Hindu fundamentalists. With several houses being burned down and people being made homeless, many Christians, particularly from Nua Sahi, Munda Sahi and Suna Tonga have fled into forests for their lives.

10) NUN RAPED: A young Catholic Nun of the Cuttack Bhubaneswar diocese working Jan Vikas Kendra, the Social Service Centre at Nuagaon in Kandhamal was reportedly gang-raped on August 24, 2008 by groups of Hindutva extremists before the building itself was destroyed.

11) SENIOR PRIEST AND NUN INJURED: Fr Thomas, director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Kanjimendi, less than a kilometer away from the Social Service Centre, and another Nun were injured when the centre was attacked. They were taken to the police station in a disheveled state as the armed mob bayed for their blood. The Pastoral centre was then set afire.

12) BALLIGUDA CHURCH BUILDINGS DESTROYED AGAIN: On August 24, 2008 evening lynch mobs at the block headquarters of Balliguda, in the very heart of Kandhamal district, which had seen much violence between December 24-26, 2007, attacked and destroyed a Presbytery, convent and hostel damaging the properties.

13) CHRISTIAN BOYS' HEADS TONSURED: The mobs in Balliguda caught hold of two boys of the Catholic hostel and tonsured their heads.

14) PHULBANI CHURCH DAMAGED: On August 25, 2008 mourning followers of the late Lakshmanananda Saraswati damaged the Catholic Church in Phulbani, the district headquarter town.

15) MOTHER TERESA BROTHERS ASHRAM ATTACKED: Mobs attacked the Mother Teresa Brothers' residence and hospital in Srasanada, destroyed once before and rebuilt two months ago, and beat up the patients.

16) BHUBANESWAR BISHOP'S HOUSE ATTACKED: On the morning of August 25, 2008, violent mobs made several attempts to enter the compounds of Catholic Church and Archbishop's house in the heart of the Capital of the State of Orissa. They could not enter because of the police presence. They threw stones at the guesthouse of Archbishop's House, damaging windows.

17) DUBURI PARISH: Another group of fundamentalists entered presbytery in Duburi parish, managed by the SVDs and destroyed and damaged property. Two priests of the parish are missing.

18) Mr. Jamaj Pariccha, Director of Gramya Pragati, is attacked and his property damaged, vehicle looted and burned.

19) A Baptist Church in Akamra Jila in Bhubaneswar is also damaged.

20) Christian institutions like St. Arnold's School (Kalinga Bihar) and NISWASS report some damage.

21) BOUDH DISTRICT [Adjoining Kandhamal]: Fundamentalists enter the Catholic parish church and destroy property. People are fleeing to safer places. But nothing seems safe.

22) MUNIGUDA: Muniguda Catholic Fathers and Nuns' residence have been damaged.

23) SAMBALPUR: HM Sister's residence (Ainthapalli) has suffered damage.

24) PADANPUR: One priest is attacked and admitted to a hospital. Hostel boys and those in charge have moved away from the place.

25) MADHUPUR: Madhupur Catholic Church currently under attack.

26) SMALL CHURCHES: Attempted violence on small churches in various districts, including Padampur, Sambalpur near GM College, Talsera, Dangsoroda, Narayanipatara, Muniguda, Tummiibandh, Tangrapada, Phulbani, Balliguda, Kalingia, Chakapad, Srasanranda.

27) VILLAGE CHRISTIAN HOUSES ATTACKED: Houses attacked on forest hamlets of Balliguda, Kanjamandi Nuaguam (K.Nuaguam), Tiangia (G.Udayagiri), Padangiri, Tikabali.

28) KALAHANDI DISTRICT: Houses burned even though the district is more than 300 kilometers from the place where Swami Lakshmanananda was killed.

29) PASTORS' HOUSE BURNED: Pastor Sikandar Singh of the Pentecostal Mission beaten up and his house burned in Bhawanipatna.

30) KHARIHAR: 3 Christian shops were looted and burned. Pastor Alok Das and Pastor I M Senapati beaten up.

31) AAMPANI: Pastor David Diamond Pahar, Pastor Pravin Ship, Pastor Pradhan and Pastor Barik beaten up and chased away with their families.

32) NAKTIKANI: Mob surrounds village to attack Christians.

[This list was compiled with assistance from the Archbishop's House, Bhubaneswar, John Dayal, Light Foundation, and EFI News reporters and other sources].

Christian Leaders Meet with Government Official

EFI News says it is reported the government has sent forces into the region.

A delegation of Christian leaders under the leadership of Archbishop Vincent Concessao, the President of National United Christian Forum of CBCI, NCCI and EFI, also met the Home Minister Shri Shiv Raj Patil and submitted a memorandum.

EFI News says the Home Minister assured the delegation all necessary steps have been taken to maintain peace and harmony and protect the innocent. He also expressed his helplessness by stating that police protection cannot be given in all villages.

EFI requests prayers at this time so that peace and harmony may prevail.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Further information on the ICC portion of this report may be obtained by visiting the ICC website: www.persecution.org. Media may also contact Samuel Wallace, Regional Manager for South Asia, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441, samuel.wallace@persecution.org .

ICC is calling on all concerned Christians to urgently pray for the Christians taking shelter from the attacks of Hindu mobs and to contact Indian politicians at the following addresses in Orissa to stop the violence.

Shri Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister
General Adminis tration,
Home Affairs Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road,
P.O.-Bhubaneswar, District-
Khurda Pin-751001 (Orissa)
Office: 91-674-2531100; 91-674-2531500
Res: 91-674-2590299; 91-674-2591099;
Fax: 91-674-2535100; 91-674-2590833

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi,
India-110 011
Phone: 91-11-23012312;
Fax: 91-11-23019545; 91-11-23016857