Pastor Attacked, Churches Burned in Wake of Swami's Murder in Orissa, India

Monday, August 25, 2008

CARROLLTON, TX (ANS) -- At least one Gospel for Asia missionary has been attacked, churches and homes have been destroyed and Christians are fleeing for their lives in India’s Orissa state in the wake of the murder of a leading anti-Christian activist leader.

A GFA correspondent has reported that as night fell Sunday (August 24) on Orissa, “the roads are being blocked by felling trees, and attacks on Christians have started.”

Last Christmas, during similar attacks, the anti-Christian militants also blocked off roads into the area of their attacks to hinder the arrival of government forces.

Saturday night (August 23), Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, a top leader of the VHP (World Hindu Council), was killed in an attack by 20 men, suspected of being Maoist rebels. The Maoists had earlier warned the swami to leave the area. The attack, which included gunfire and a hand grenade, also killed four other people. It took place during a religious celebration.

While Maoist rebels are the major suspects, Hindu radicals are using the death as an excuse to increase their attacks on Christians in Orissa. The swami was an outspoken critic of tribals and lower caste Indians becoming Christians, and last December, a similar attack on him incited severe repercussions that resulted in numerous Christian deaths and dozens of burned churches and caused hundreds of believers to flee for their lives into the jungles.

The swami’s ultimate goal was to have India declared a “Hindu nation,” and to halt the growth of both Christianity and Islam on the subcontinent.

The GFA correspondent reported that in the wake of his death, “several church buildings are destroyed, Christian houses are torched and Christians under attack.”

One GFA missionary, Jeebaratna Lima, was attacked while en route to conduct Sunday services. “He was attacked by a mob and they were almost setting him on fire but the fire did not catch,” reported the correspondent. “By God’s grace, the police rescued him and have taken custody of him. We are trying to get him released.”

Local government authorities have posted some police personnel at the local GFA Bible College, and advised the Christians “not to venture out.”

“We thank God that the government officials are protecting our campus and our people,” said GFA President K.P. Yohannan, “That is a true blessing.”

A late report noted that a mob destroyed one church by hurling bombs “and are on rampage to destroy several Christian houses. The condition may be same with other churches all over Orissa.”