Violence spreads in India

By September 11, 2008

India (MNN) — Open Doors is holding the Indian government responsible for the recent outbreak of attacks against Christians in the country. It is also urging the government to do its best to restore peace and stability in the region of Orissa.

Hindu leaders accused Christians of assassinating Hindu leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati on August 23 of this year and called for revenge. The government made some security arrangements to protect Christians and places of worship, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the killings of Christians and destruction of their property.

“The outburst of religiously-motivated violence that followed the call for retaliation has claimed the lives of at least 53 people–most of them Christians, and destroyed hundreds of churches and homes,” said Lindsay Vessey, Advocacy Program manager for Open Doors USA. “Reportedly, 40,000 people fled the violence, and an estimated 20,000 people found shelter in 10 refugee camps in the region.”

Hindu extremists burnt down the St. Bartholomew Church of North India, right after it had been elaborately decorated for its 86th anniversary. In Chhattisgarh state, about 20 Barjrang Dal extremists boarded a train and took four babies from Missionaries of Charity nuns and helpers. They accused the nuns of forced conversion and turned them over to police, but not before beating one of the nuns as well as a driver who was sent to help.

“Christians in the United States need to stand in solidarity with fellow Christians in Orissa to let the Indian government know that it will be held accountable for the protection of Christians against more violence,” said Vessey.

Open Doors is asking supporters to e-mail Ronen Sen, the Indian ambassador to the U.S., to ask him to provide adequate protection for the Christians in Orissa and to ensure justice and compensation to the victims of violent attacks. To send an e-mail to Indian ambassador Sen, click here.

Open Doors is working with a partner in India to launch a preliminary relief effort. Clothing, towels, soaps and shampoo are being provided, as well as medical assistance for those badly injured in the attacks. Due to government restrictions, Open Doors is not able to provide food.

A Maoist group later claimed responsibility for the assassination, and said that the fanatical Hindu claims that Christians murdered Saraswati were “lies.”


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