BIC leader in India killed by Hindu fundamentalists

GRANTHAM, Pa. (Feb. 11, 2009)—A leader of the Brethren in Christ Church in India has been killed by Hindu fundamentalists, the first such incident since 2001.

S.M., a BIC lay leader from the Orissa province of India, was murdered on January 16, 2009. An active participant in many outreach programs, S.M. is remembered as a strong evangelist who shared his faith openly. A father and husband, he was approximately 40 years old.

This attack on a BIC church leader comes in the wake of anti-Christian violence which has swept across the Orissa province ever since the fatal shooting of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxamanananda Saraswati and four of his followers on August 23, 2008. Saraswati had long been accused of persecuting Christians. Although the Indian government has stated that Maoists (Anti-Communal Forces) are suspected in Saraswati’s killing, the VHP has continued to blame the attack on Christians and has targeted them in acts of persecution.

As the Union of Catholic Asian News reports, this summer, violence against Christians of all denominations escalated to heights never before experienced, claiming more than 60 lives and displacing 50,000 residents.

The BIC Church has not been immune to this devastation. In August 2008, several thousand Hindu fundamentalists attacked the Nuagaon Grace Girls Hostel in Orissa, displacing 140 BIC schoolchildren involved in Brethren in Christ World Missions’ Scholarship Program for International Children’s Education (SPICE). Although no children or staff members were harmed, the hostel was completely destroyed and the program now faces the daunting task of rebuilding.

Related stories:
"Destroyed SPICE hostel seeks support to rebuild"
"Leader from BIC Church in India reports on violence in Orissa"