India (MNN/GFA) — About 500 anti-Christian radicals attacked
a Gospel for Asia Bible college in the eastern Indian state of Orissa on
Wednesday evening, February 28. Gospel for Asia leaders in the area report the
mob, which was mobilized by a Hindu nationalist group, systematically attacked
the approximately 300 students and staff members present on the campus. Five
students and the women's dorm director were seriously injured. All have been
hospitalized, and one student is in critical condition.
The rest of the student body and staff remain inside the
dormitories. Local and reserve police have arrived on the scene, but have found
it difficult to control the crowd, and the situation remains tense.
The attackers also disconnected the electricity and
ransacked the campus, destroying the roofs of many of the school buildings.
"The magnitude of this attack is unlike anything we've
ever seen," says Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan. "This is
one of the most severe situations we've dealt with, but our students and
leaders are not discouraged."
Instead, they are asking God to bless their enemies.
"Please pray that this will become an opportunity for
us to share the love of Jesus to the people who are persecuting us," one
GFA leader from Orissa requests.
The attackers have been identified as members of the Bajrang
Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu
militant group. The VHP is one of the organizations that falls under the Sangh
Parivar umbrella, a loosely organized association of Hindu militant groups
that promotes a philosophy known as Hindutva, literally translated as
"Hindu-ness." This is the view that "to be Indian is to be Hindu." Groups
adhering to Hindutva claim that Indian citizens who become Christians
are abandoning their national identity, and their goal is to see Hinduism
become the state religion.
The extremists who attacked the college demanded that GFA
close the school and discontinue all work in the state. Gospel for Asia has had
workers in Orissa since 1993, and their ministry has included Compassion
Services relief and reconstruction work following the 1999 cyclone.
Orissa has a history of violence against Christians.
Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burned to
death in the state in 1999. Two other Christians-a pastor and a layperson-were
stabbed to death in February. Police have yet to take any action on these two
recent murders of Christians.
In spite of the Indian constitution's provision for freedom
of religion, the state of Orissa, now governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP
party, has an anti-conversion law aimed specifically at Christians. Citizens
must report to the government if they become Christians and then petition for
permission to be baptized.
The attack on the Orissa Bible college comes just 10 days
after another group of Hindu extremists attacked five Gospel for Asia Bible
college students in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Two of those students were
critically injured in that attack.
"We are asking Christians around the world to pray for
complete restoration of all these injured students and their campus," says
"And let us also pray for these attackers. In all
religions there are extremists, and this case is one example of that," he
remarked. "They, too need to know the love of God in a real and personal