India (MNN) — With a little more than two weeks until Christmas, Christians in India are bracing for more violence. Violence against Christians in the state of Orissa has seen homes and churches destroyed and thousands homeless.
Glenn Penner with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says Christians won't get a reprieve this Christmas. "Hindu militant organizations have gone on record as saying, 'If the government does not make some arrests of those who killed their leaders, December 25th will be a day of violence.' Christmas for Christians in India does not bode very well right now, and we really need to be upholding our brothers and sisters in prayer."
One report indicates more than 200 churches and 40 religious institutions were damaged in the violence targeting Christians in November, following the murder of a Hindu leader. While Maoists claimed responsibility, Christians were attacked. The violence claimed the lives of 60 Christians, and more than 5,000 Christian houses have been looted or torched in the Kandhamal district.
Penner puts the persecution against Christians in perspective. "In the last three or four years, things have certainly escalated, and we've seen in the last year two waves of attacks. Certainly things aren't improving, and if anything, they're getting worse."
Voice of the Martyrs is doing what they can financially to help. "We've been helping believers rebuild — those who have had their homes destroyed. And we provide legal funding for those who are trying to make a claim for damages. We're also looking at trying to provide pastors in persecuted areas with training on how to respond to persecution so they can pass that on to their people."
While they are helping, Penner says, "There's still a huge humanitarian crisis there. Christian are in refugee camps, and the government is trying to shut down some of these camps, forcing people to go home. They have nothing to go back to."
Penner says there are three ways you can help. "Prayer is probably the most significant thing that we can do. We can also be writing to the Indian government expressing our concerns. People can also support organizations like Voice of the Martyrs as we're trying to provide relief aid."