Photos document attacks on Christians in Orissa India
Grantham, Pa. Bijoy Roul, South Asia regional director for BIC World Missions, has provided the Brethren in Christ Church in North America with photographs of the destruction caused by Hindu extremists in attacks against Indian Christians in late December. Although the anti-Christian violence has subsided in recent weeks, Brethren in Christ and other Christians in India’s Orissa state continue to experience harassment and pressure to convert to Hinduism. According to the Catholic bishop in the region, “Christians who have witnessed the total destruction of all their belongings are in great mental agony.”
Local believers described how they had been forced to run for their lives as mobs of Hindu fundamentalists rushed towards a church in Barakhama. They also described how attackers set fire to churches and the homes of Christians. An estimated 64 church buildings were destroyed, along with over 400 homes and more than 100 shops, offices, and other buildings.
The speed with which the attacks were carried out, and the way in which the attackers were grouped together in hundreds so that they could simultaneously attack in seven different locations, gives credence to statements from the Christian community that this was a pre-meditated campaign. The Hindu attackers blocked access to Kandhamal by felling trees across the roadways. And in Balliguda, attackers came in trucks and jeeps and were armed with swords, bicycle chains, sticks, crowbars, guns, iron cutters, and acid for burning.
Although the extremists claim they were reacting to efforts by Christian churches to convert people away from Hinduism, Christian leaders say that the real reason for the atrocities is that members of the upper caste are angry that churches are reaching out to “untouchables.” Churches and Christian missionaries and NGOs have been in the forefront of providing education, health care, and job training to these people.
Orissa is remembered as the site of the 1999 slaying of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his young sons, Philip and Timothy, who were burned to death as they slept inside their vehicle following a Bible study class. Orissa is the only Indian state that has a law requiring people to obtain police permission before they change their religion, a move designed to counter missionary work.
“Please keep on praying and the Lord will keep us doing His work,” the BIC supervisor working in the Nuagoan area wrote in a message to North American Christians.
BIC churches in Orissa India request continued prayer
Grantham, Pa. In an early January, Bijoy Roul, South Asia regional director for BIC World Missions, forwarded an urgent prayer request to the North American church on behalf of Brethren in Christ congregations in the Orissa province of India where militant groups have targeted Christians and their churches and institutions. He referred specifically to reports that a militant group was planning another meeting in the region for January 24 and 25.
In a follow-up message received on February 5, Bijoy Roul reported that several hundred armed people surrounded the Nuagoan Brethren in Christ Church and the girls’ hostel on January 26. But instead of breaking into the buildings, the militant group dispersed without causing harm.
Since that time, the situation in the region has improved somewhat, although militant groups continue to harass Christians. Militants are conducting city-wide meetings and publishing articles in the local newspapers that outline their strategies for attacking Christian institutions, churches, and workers in Orissa.
“No one knew why the militant group went back quietly on January 26 instead of attaching the hostel and the church. This is another miracle that has happened because of your sincere prayer. Please keep on praying and the Lord will keep us doing His work,” the BIC supervisor working in the Nuagoan area wrote in a message to North American Christians.
More about the situation in India:
"Attacks on Christians in India spread beyond Orissa" (Christianity Today)
"Protests in Andamans against Orissa persecution" (Indian Catholic)
"Christians still fear attacks in Indian state of Orissa" (Ekklesia)