Washington, D.C. (BWA) –The Baptist World Alliance has expressed grave concerns about the persecution of Christians in the Indian eastern state of Orissa.
Since the month of August, an outbreak of violence and intimidation against Christians by Hindu radicals has occurred, following the murder of a Hindu leader in that state, which is home to more than half a million Baptists.
Even though a militant Maoist group claimed responsibility for the killing, supporters of the slain leader blame Christians for his death. Reports are that more than 90 Christians have been killed and many more injured by Hindu militants who have attacked predominantly Christian villages. Approximately 200 churches and more than 4,000 houses have been burnt or otherwise destroyed, while some 65,000 Christians have hid in the forests and elsewhere to escape persecution.
General Secretary Neville Callam stated that the BWA is “shocked by the grim situation facing Christians in Orissa,” and that he is “alarmed that it is taking so long to bring an end to the fierce persecution they are suffering.”
In a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Callam called on the Indian leader “to intervene, in the best traditions of the Indian sub-continent, to bring relief to the people suffering in Orissa.”
The violence, which began on Aug. 24, has continued into the month of October. On Tuesday, Sept. 30, one woman was killed and 12 others injured in Kandhamal district, the scene of most of the clashes. An Oct. 1 BBC report stated that “a mob of tribespeople armed with guns, bows and arrows and sharp weapons attacked Christian villagers in the village of Rudangia.”
On Sept. 29, three bomb blasts, one hour apart from each other, went off near three relief camps housing Christians in Kandhamal in Orissa.
Sushanta Das, a Baptist leader in Orissa, told the BWA that 10 houses were damaged or destroyed by a mob on Oct. 2. The attackers also felled trees and damaged roads.
Bonny Resu, BWA Regional Secretary for Asia/Pacific, reported to the BWA that “attacks on Christians/Baptists continue unabated and seem to be spreading to other parts of India.”
This is not the first time violence has flared in the Eastern Indian state. From December of last year into January of this year, Hindu radicals attacked Christians, killing at least 10, and burned some 95 churches and 700 houses.