India (MNN) — Violence against Christians in the eastern India state of Orissa is the worst ever to occur, claims a report from the All India Christian Council (AICC). AICC sent four of their leaders to the area on a fact-finding mission and says more than 95 churches were either vandalized or destroyed. 730 homes belonging to Christians were burned down.
Hindu radicals began the violence around Christmas and attacked many villages. Ministry leaders believe some Christians have been killed. The attacks and threats have forced many Christians into the forests with only the clothes on their backs.
That's created a new problem, says Partners International's President John Lewis. "For whatever reason, the local government has restricted Christian NGO's from being able to help. They want all help to be channeled through the government themselves, which as you probably know, is quite sympathetic to to the Hindu movement group." The limited aid that is being sent isn't reaching the people.
Partners International is working with several indigenous groups to help in church planting. Lewis says it's a needy area. "Orissa is one of the most animistic of all the provinces in India, and I think for that reason there's a bit of a challenge between Christian groups and Hindu groups to actually reach and impact these tribal animistic areas."
Lewis believes that's at the heart of the violence. "Because of the success of much of the church planting effort, I think there's been perhaps some jealousy on the part of some Hindu groups. And as a result, some of the more radical ones have been trying to prevent those sorts of conversions from happening."
Awareness may be the key to seeing this issue resolved, says Lewis. "I think the more international news and pressure that can be put on the national Indian government, the better. The trouble is, the local government agencies there in Orissa have pretty much been sympathetic to the cause of the more radical Hindu groups."
Partners International is asking Christians worldwide to pray and give. "We know the situation is dire, and we do need to mobilize brothers and sisters around the world to pray for those who are in those straits. So that's number one. In the meantime, we are going to be looking for some special appeal for some funding that we can channel throughout national ministries that are in the area."