Situation in Orissa “under control, but still tense”

GRANTHAM, Pa. (Sept. 2, 2008)—Recent reports from Pastor B.S., a BIC church leader in India, indicate that although the condition of Orissa is now “under control,” with the violence lessening as it moves out into Bolangir in western Orissa, the situation remains tense.

The homes of two BIC church planters have been looted or destroyed, with one losing his entire house and belongings to a fire set by militants. This is in addition to attacks on numerous Baptists churches in the area and at least forty five instances of violence, including the burning alive of at least five persons and over three hundred homes in Kandhamal.

At the same time, threats on the BIC church and the SPICE hostel in Udala continue to be made. All personnel and students in the compound have been moved, while police and a team of church planters stay to patrol the area. Police have also offered their protection to the Bhalakasuni church and the compassion project there.

The BIC Church offices in Cattack remain on the target list. Despite the fact that Maoist militants have claimed responsibility for the gruesome murder of Swami Laxanananda Saraspati, the man behind the war against Christians, Hindu leaders maintain that Christians were responsible.

Late last week, the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) denounced the violence in Orissa and appealed “to one and all to maintain communal harmony and peace.” Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao, president of NUCF, then issued this call to the Christian community in Orissa: “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 or rallies be conducted with black flags’ demonstration in a truly prayerful spirit.”

The NUCF also declared Sunday, September 7, as a day of prayer and fasting.