Despite brutal and horrifying persecution that has left countless dead and an estimated 50,000 homeless, Christians in India’s Orissa state are determined that God will have the victory in their violence-torn homeland.
Since the assassination of anti-Christian Hindu leader Swami Laxamanananda Saraswat on Aug. 22, mobs of Hindu fanatics that blame Christians for the leader’s death have been roving the Orissa state on the eastern shore of India, torching churches and homes, brutalizing Christians and burning the bodies of those they kill.
Reports from missions organization Gospel for Asia (GFA), however, tell of courage and determination in the face of violence.
One story reported on Christian Newswire told of a missionary beaten multiple times by a Hindu mob demanding he leave a village where he had been working.
“Even if you kill me, I will not make a vow that I will never come back,” the missionary is reported to have answered. “That depends not on me but on the Lord. If he wants to send me here, then I will come,” he told his attackers.
Simon John, a GFA regional leader in India, said, “Christians will stand together in this nation, in love and to lift up the people, even if persecution or death comes. We will not stop doing good for the people.”
Persecution and death, however, have come, and they have come by horrifying means.
United Kingdom newspaper The Times reports several cases of brutality over the last two weeks alone: a nun was gang-raped; a worker at a church-run orphanage was burned alive; and a woman seven months pregnant was cut to pieces along with her one-year-old son when she refused to denounce Christianity and convert to Hinduism.
Ravindra Nath Prahan, 45, told the Times he and 113 others, warned by a text message, fled to the jungle, living off rainwater and foraging food for a week. His paralyzed brother, however, couldn’t take to flight.
“They doused him with petrol and taunted him; we could hear him screaming,” Prahan told The Times. His brother was burned alive.
“I could have tried to save him. But we had to save ourselves,” Prahan said.
An estimated 50,000 Christians have been forced to run for their lives, while the Hindu radicals have torched more than 3,000 homes and over 100 churches. The Vatican records 36 deaths, but warns an accurate account is impossible since the mobs are burning their victims.
Orissa made headlines last Christmas when 95 churches were razed and at least five people were murdered, The Times reports, but the current massacre reflects the country’s worst persecution of Christians since gaining its independence in 1947.
“It’s a national shame,” India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has reportedly said.
As WND reported earlier, the Indian Supreme Court last week ordered additional police forces into the Kandhamal district, the worst region of violence, and also ordered state officials in Orissa to do more to protect Christians. Reports had come from the region that the police were permitting the attacks.
Citizens have petitioned India’s president and rallied in the country’s capital city to seek a stop to the violence.
GFA reports, however, that even though 24 of their missionaries have been attacked and 27 GFA-related churches have been destroyed, the Indian Christians still believe God will have victory.
“The encouraging thing is that the attackers themselves acknowledge that Orissa used to be only 2 percent Christian, and now it’s 28 percent Christian,” reports Juria Bardhan, GFA’s state leader in Orissa. Pointing to Christianity’s historical growth during times of persecution and the dramatic rise of Christianity among India’s lowest, despised caste of people, Juria added, “They don’t understand that by doing this, the church will grow by leaps and bounds, and this will cause thousands to come to Christ.”