A new report confirms what Christians in India already feared: 2007 was the worst year since their nation’s independence in 1947 for attacks on Christians.
The report from Compass Direct cited statistics compiled by the All India Christian Council in confirming that the number of attacks on Christians in 2007 surpassed 1,000 for the first time in India’s history.
At least 200 anti-Christian attacks, including four murders, had been documented before the recent violence erupted in Orissa State’s Kandhamal district, the report said. There, at least another four Christians were killed and about 800 attacks were reported. At least 730 homes and 95 churches were burned, the report said.
“It is a matter of serious concern to the country that violence has been widespread in different parts of the country in general and against the Christians in particular,” said Babu Joseph, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
“In all the villages we have visited, people testify that the attacks, destruction and looting was done in the presence of the police,” the report continued, with Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad suspected in many of the gun, knife and bomb assaults.
There exists a “conspiracy to hide the bodies of Christians killed by VHP cadre to destroy evidence … Many are missing – both adults and children – in every village,” the report said.
In one area around the Barakhama village, 415 of the 450 homes belonging to tribal Christians were burned, the AICC wrote. A Christian, Bhogra Naik of Barakhama, was “cut into three pieces” by attackers after his house was destroyed, the report said.
Compass Direct reported between 1950 and 1998, government figures show there were only 50 anti-Christian attacks. In 2000, that reached 100, and the tally has been continuing to rise.
“What is most distressing is the regularity at which these attacks are meticulously planned and almost clinically executed in order to hurt the Christians,” Joseph told Compass Direct.
“In all these instances of atrocities against Christians, it proved beyond doubt that some right-wing Hindu organizations were behind them; they indulge in unhindered hate campaigns creating bad blood between communities of different faiths, and that has caused immense social rupture in India,” he said.
Compass Direct News earlier reported on the surge of attacks that started on Christmas Eve, when members of the extremist World Hindu Council launched their assaults.
Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, a leader of the World Hindu Council (VHP), told local reporters that the violence was triggered by Hindus who converted to Christianity. The violence apparently erupted as members of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in one small village were preparing for their Christmas celebration.
A Hindu mob, upset with Christianity’s beliefs and the apparent choice by some Hindus to follow Christianity, attacked the Christians and their shops, the Compass Direct agency reported.
The blame, the report said, rests with Saraswati, who has opposed Christians and their work in India for more than a decade.
“It was Saraswati who instigated the mob to attack us,” one Christian villager told Compass Direct on condition of anonymity. “Later, Christians learned that Saraswati was coming to launch more attacks. Sections of Christians tried to stop him on the way, which resulted in a clash between the two groups, following which the VHP claimed that their leader was hurt and announced that now Christians would be attacked as revenge.”
The series of attacks earlier prompted Christians to stage a rally to demand government intervention to halt violence against members of the minority religion.
Protesters objecting to violence against Christians in the Indian state of Orissa
The recent rally in Delhi drew an estimated 1,000 Christians and was organized by the All India Christian Council.
A message was delivered to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after officials met with Union Home Minister Shivraj V. Patil, as well as the head of the National Commission for Minorities.
According to Gospel for Asia, another Christian ministry working in India, the violence has amounted to a virtual terror campaign against Christians.
“This violence against believers in Orissa breaks my heart,” said K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of GFA. “This is the same state where missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were martyred. The believers know they will face opposition, but this outburst of persecution at Christmas time is especially disturbing.”
GFA said a project on which its missionaries had worked in Orissa was destroyed, and its missionary leader Matish Junni attacked.
“The mob beat Matish and shaved his head. Then they mockingly paraded him around the village, shouting slurs against him and other Christians,” the report said. “They also forced Matish to go to their religious temples. When the mob finally released him, they warned him not to continue the construction.”
WND recently reported when religious radicals threatened to burn a Christian church’s pastor and his family, and the church building was vandalized with a Hindu “Om” symbol.
Even within the United States, there have been attacks, although verbal instead of physical. As WND reported, the Hindu American Foundation has attacked Christian organizations ranging from the Southern Baptists’ missions board and Gospel for Asia to Olive Tree Ministries, which aims to teach Christians about their beliefs.
“The proliferation of websites promoting religious hatred is an unfortunate consequence of the universality of access to the Internet,” said Vinay Vallabh, the lead author of a report that attacked the Christian groups for their expression of their beliefs.
“We must vigorously identify, condemn and counter those who use the Internet to espouse chauvinism and bigotry over the principles of pluralism and tolerance,” Vallabh said.
Vallabh’s report, called “Hyperlink to Hinduphobia: Online Hatred, Extremism and Bigotry Against Hindus,” expresses his hope that Internet Service Providers will start censoring Christian postings of their beliefs, “a necessary step as we continue our balancing act between free speech and licentious speech that leads to violence in the electronic age.”
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