First conviction handed down in 2008 Orissa violence

GRANTHAM, Pa. (July 8, 2009)—In the first conviction since sectarian violence tore through India’s Orissa state last August, a 58-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in jail.

A Kandhamal district court found Chakradhar Mallick, a Hindu fundamentalist, guilty of setting fire to the house of a local Christian couple, authorities said. He was accused of leading and inciting a Hindu group to burn homes and attack Christians.

Mob violence erupted in Orissa after Hindu fundamentalist leader, Laxmananda Saraswati, was murdered. Followers blamed the assassination on Christians, even though Maoist rebels had publicly claimed responsibility for the murder.

More than 30,000 Christians from Orissa—including many members of the Brethren in Christ Church in India —were displaced by the violence.

In 2008, BIC officials in India reported that Hindu fundamentalists chanted, “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions!” while burning churches, trashing private property, and attacking Christian leaders.

Seven BIC churches were destroyed in the violence. The Nuagaon Grace Girls Hostel, a residence facility for Indian schoolchildren funded by Brethren in Christ World Missions’ (BICWM) Scholarship Program for International Children’s Education (SPICE), was also razed, causing 120 students and staff members to flee into the nearby forest for safety.

The hostel’s $20,000 rebuilding project recently entered its second phase of reconstruction.

A new wave of violence against Christians broke in June 2009, when fundamentalists damaged three BIC churches and displaced more than 20 BIC families.

B.R., BICWM regional administrator for South Asia, released a statement in June, saying, "This has become a serious issue in Orissa. The people are really suffering because they have neither food nor any shelter. We need your prayers.”

Read more :