India (MNN) — While the violence in Orissa, India seems to be a little more calm, Christians are still afraid. Presently, more than 700 homes of Christians have been destroyed and more than 90 churches vandalized. The death toll is unknown.
President of the All India Christian Council Joseph D'Souza is in the United States. In an interview with Mission Network News, he relays that the Christmas-related violence has stopped, "but not the tensions, not the threats. And security of the Christians is very, very poor. According to reports that reach us, the VHP are going on distributing hate literature."
According to D'Souza, this is a lull before another series of attacks take place. He says it's a long-term, well-planned campaign to persecute Christians.
D'Souza says Hindu nationalists there are 600,000 people in the Khandwal area. He says 100,000 have come to Christ. "What has happened to that community after they have come to Christ there is a clear transformation both socially and spiritually. And it's visible to all. It's a threat [to Hindus] because these are visible symbols that will only end up drawing more people away [to] the Christian faith."
Ministry has been affected by the violence, says D'Souza. "Any evangelism or evangelistic activity will be attacked. So people are just waiting to see what goes on. However, the witness of people in that area has not died down. We have an incredible number of stories of people who have been willing to die rather than recant or go away from their faith."
There are no official government statistics on the number of people who have died, but D'Souza says, "One of the Orissa workers there told me he knew 11 pastors who had been martyred, and many more had disappeared in the forest. Nobody knows where they have gone."
The All India Christian Council and their partners have established an office to provide daily reports about the violence in Orissa and how it affects Christians "because we want to pre-empt any kind of carnage. We want to make sure we know what's going on and inform the media and everybody else if there is again violence erupting," he says.
Christians worldwide are being asked to pray. D'Souza says, "The agenda of the Hindu nationalists groups is to turn Orissa into a second Gujarat, or second Hindu state. So it's a long-term battle, and we have to pray that God will not allow this to happen."