India (MNN) — The slaying of
another Christian in India's Orissa state has rekindled persecution fears. Because this has not been an isolated
incident, church leaders have raised their eyebrows on the government's security
guarantees of safety for believers.
Earlier this year, India's
Supreme Court ordered the state government of Orissa to protect the tens of
thousands of Christians being targeted by Hindu extremists.
Tensions remained high even as
the situation seemed to be resolving. With the newest discovery, there are fears that the region could
body of 40-year-old Hrudayananda Nayak was found in a jungle near his home
village of Rudangia, in Kandhamal district last Thursday.
Once the worst of the violence in the region appeared
to have settled down, Nayak left the relief camp where he had taken refuge and
returned to his home village. Within 24
hours, he was dead.
One church leader noted that Nayak
was the fourth Christian to be abducted and killed after violence ebbed down by
the end of October.
Audio Scripture Ministries says they've heard an alarming rumor. "The rumor–and it
hasn't been really substantiated at this point–was that every 23rd of the
month, or around that time, one
Christian would be killed to commemorate the anniversary of this extremist who
got gunned down."
The violence that broke out in
August of last year was sparked after Hindu fundamentalists accused Christians of
slaying a local Hindu leader on Aug. 23, 2008, for which the Maoists had
repeatedly claimed responsibility.
Earlier this month the state
government had announced the shutdown of relief camps in Kandhamal district. The National Council of Churches in India says
victims are reluctant to return to their villages, due to increasing threats
demanding "re-conversion to Hinduism."
Whether or not Nayak's murder was
connected to the rumor remains to be seen. Sundararajan says with the
violence last fall and early this year, they've been in close contact with
their team in Orissa.
Sundararajan says they've found
that "there has been tremendous growth in these areas where there have
been terrible incidents of persecution."
That's all that they need to move
forward, despite the safety concerns.
Sundararajan says there's a lot at stake. "Next week, we're actually going into Orissa to do probably one of the biggest Scripture
distributions that we have ever done. It's among the tribals–the people who
have been undergoing the brunt of the persecution, the people who have been in
the relief camps." Pray for safety and
wisdom for their teams during the distributions.