India (MNN) — At least 3,000 people, most of them Christians, are living in government-run relief camps after days of Christian-versus-Hindu violence in the Kandhamal district of Orissa State in eastern India.
Government officials say large numbers of people were living in the open jungle, without any shelter and security, because of the tensions that erupted in violence after a Hindu leader was killed August 23. At least 20 Christians have been killed. Christian community leaders say at least 1,000 Christian homes have been set on fire since Monday, and more than 5,000 people are homeless.
John Varghese, speaking from Orissa, oversees the Philadelphia Fellowship Church, a native-run missionary movement in India. He says the upper caste BJP, World Hindu Council, has a plan in place to keep power over the lower castes majority tribal peoples. "This upper caste community always wants to divide them so that they keep the political power over them. Christianity is the only power which can unite these people, and this is a big threat for the people politically."
Since many are coming to Christ, the BJP are threatened, says Varghese, and they're turning their anger on Christians. "At least 60 of our workers and missionaries are in that particular area. So most of them are in trouble. And of course, at least for one day, we had a lot of problems. And even today, 20 km from here another church was targeted by these people."
Varghese and his family are safe, "Our church believers and all people are around us, and we are protected."
He says many Christians are facing incredible danger. "In certain places, they cannot leave home. But in Central Orissa they already left. They're in the jungles. They're wandering. They cannot go back to their [homes]. Most of the houses are burned down."
And many Christians are missing. They are either wandering in the forests or are feared dead.
Philadelphia Fellowship has 130 missionaries and more than 200 village churches. 14 of those churches have been completely burned down.
Varghese says fear is taking its toll on leaders there. "Some people lost everything. One of our co-workers was crying. He told me, 'We are going to perish. If I die, will you take care of my children?'"
Varghese is urging you to pray that Christians would be bold in their witness and that many more will turn to Christ.