Christians homeless since Christmas

By June 13, 2008

India (MNN) — Christians are still homeless in India's Orissa state following violence that erupted 6 months ago during last year's Christmas season.

During those attacks, Hindu nationalists burned 730 houses and 95 churches to the ground.  Four Christians were killed in the violence, according to a Compass Direct News
report. When MNN reported on the situation in December, curfews had been imposed in four Orissa districts to prevent further violence. 

The attacks were not a total surprise simply because of Orissa's past. However, an attack during Christmas was a surprise. "This is just a real hot-bed of persecution against Christians by the Hindu nationalists," said Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors. Christians were not being allowed to celebrate the holiday in their churches and were not being allowed to be in the main streets.

Dykstra said the number of attacks on Christians in India numbered more than 1,000 for the first time in 2007 since the country became independent in 1947.     

Christians who were self-employed were particular targets for attacks during the Christmastime violence. Those people have not been able to rebuild yet, since the government is
not giving much money to do so, in part, because of societal pressures. "They're being ostracized, so then they cannot earn a living in that community. Because of threats against them and their families, some of the children cannot go to school," said Dykstra.

In Compass Direct's report, Dr. John Dayal said he was "deeply disappointed and saddened" by the "lethargic and insensitive, almost inhumane response."

Christians are waiting in relief camps until they can rebuild. "Malaria is running rampant. Many people are sick. So it's just a combination of many things in that state," said Dykstra. With Orissa lying on the Bay of Bengal and so
many people living without homes, the soon-coming monsoon season is even more of a threat than usual. 

Dykstra said, "To many people in the West who are just absorbed by the economic boom of this, obviously, Asian giant of India, which is of course the largest democracy in
the world. But people sometimes close their eyes to the persecution on Christians there, and I think we need to expose that and bring it out into the open."

Dykstra asks for prayer that "the government will increase the amount of money they're giving to some of the refugees and that the government will realize that these people need equal
protection and equal rights, not only, of course, for rebuilding, but also freedom to worship."

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