Recent violence in Orissa, India, was the worst ever targeting the Christian community in democratic India, according to a fact-finding report by the All India Christian Council.”
We are saddened to acknowledge the violence in Orissa will go into the history books as an unprecedented attack on Christians in India,” AICC President Joseph D’souza said in a Monday press release. “The tragedy is deepened by proof that the violence was avoidable if the authorities had enforced the rule of law.”
Four leaders from AICC chapters in Orissa visited villages affected by violence that started Dec. 24 between Jan. 3 and Jan. 5. The report said 95 churches and 730 Christian homes were burned.
Estimates of the number of deaths vary. The delegation said many people are still missing, but it isn’t clear which are dead and which are still in hiding. The delegates suspect there was a conspiracy to hide bodies to cover up Christian deaths.
The delegation found names of four confirmed deaths through interviews. The first identified victim was Bhogra Naik, a 50-plus-year-old Christian from the village of Barkhama, was killed and his body cut into three pieces. Family members retrieved his body and buried it on his own land.
The report said a group called Vishwa Hindu Parishad instigated the attacks and carefully targeted Christians throughout Kandhamal District, Orissa. Most of the Christians were Dalits.
VHP mobs chanting pro-Hindu slogans allegedly attacked with guns, knives, spears, bombs and other lethal weapons. In most cases police reportedly did little or nothing to stop the attacks, and most TV and print media seemed unaware of the facts, giving biased reports from the VHP perspective.
Families that fled into jungles for safety spent up to three nights without food or water, sleeping under trees or behind rocks. Children licked dew from the leaves of plants to survive. There were spottings of tigers and bears.
Christians unable to get away reportedly had their heads forcibly shaved for refusing to renounce their Christianity and told to eat raw rice mixed with goat blood in order to become Hindus.
The report said the scene today looks like a “man-made desert” and that the situation “now feels like after a war.”
In Barminigaon, at the epicenter of the violence, only women are found in the village or relief camps, the delegation said. All the men have gone into hiding.
The AICC planned rallies Jan. 10 to protest violence against Christians.
Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, condemned the attacks and urged Christians, especially Baptists, to remember “our Christian brothers and sisters in Orissa state in our prayers.”
Callam said the BWA “will respond meaningfully to the needs and concerns of those who have suffered and will make the appropriate representations to make the case for respect for religious freedom in India.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Baptist Leader Urges Solidarity With Christians Under Attack in India
Bob Allen was the managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, writing more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure. He is currently the news editor at Baptist News Global.