India (MNN) — Following the assassination of a popular Hindu leader on August 23, brutal persecution of Christians broke out in Orissa state. Even though the gunmen were identified as Maoists, the violence continues against believers. In spite of trials, there is still encouragement among Christians.
"The preaching of the Gospel never stops," says Ebenezer Samuel, president of Serve India Ministries. "Even in the midst of a situation like this, the brothers and sisters who are serving the Lord in the state of Orissa continue to pray, continue to minister to people [and] continue to witness."
Samuel believes the attacks continue in order to unify Hindus.
"They just used the murder of this Hindu sage as an excuse, but it looks like they've been planning for it and preparing themselves for it; all these attacks have been well-organized," says Samuel. "I have not seen anything like this by any standards. This is the most brutal attack on Christians in recent history."
Serve India Ministries has 20 ministries in 3 districts of India, and all have been affected in some way. Since the persecution started in late August, pastors have been harassed and have gone into hiding; members of the church were forced to flee.
"Our pastors are now involved in helping affected Christians and other full-time pastors and missionaries in the area," Samuel said. "We want to get involved in the rehabilitation work. We are at this time involved in taking the initiatives of that."
Serve India would like to help persecuted Christians in two districts close to the Kandmahal district, the epicenter of the violence.
While offering aid in one village, a missionary had to flee with other believers to a nearby forest when the village was attacked by a mob of extremists. The missionary hid there for 3 days with no food or water, and when he returned, he was able to report that there had been 10,000 other Christians there also taking refuge.
Christians are not allowed to enter refugee camps for ministry because mobs have made the whole area inaccessible. Those who are responsible for the attacks are now going in teams to all villages, clearing debris to hide evidence.
"They're the ones in that area actually preventing the press–as well as others that might want to help the affected people–from entering this area," notes Samuel.
If you'd like to give to Serve India or receive updates on their work in Orissa, visit their Web site by clicking here.