Hindu extremist groups are offering money, food and alcohol to anyone who murders Christians and destroys their homes.
The violence is nothing new in Orissa, India, where India’s Communist Party estimates that more than 500 Christians have been killed by Hindu mobs in Orissa since late August, 12 times more than official government claims of only 40 homicides.
But now the stakes are even higher – and pastors have a bounty on their heads.
Faiz Rahman, chairman of Good News India, said Hindu militants are targeting Christian leaders, the Christian Post reported.
“The going price to kill a pastor is $250,” he said.
Rahman, a head of several orphanages in Orissa State, said he’s helped 25 pastors to leave refugee camps, but 250 Christian leaders are still in shelters.
“All of the pastors are high value targets,” Rahman told the UK-based Release International. “We’ve got to get them out of the refugee camps.”
An All-India Christian Council spokesman said, “People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties. They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are given petrol and kerosene.”
One official said he personally authorized “cremation of more than 200 bodies” found in jungles after Christians were blamed for the death of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 24. They continue to be persecuted even though Maoists openly admitted to murdering Saraswati.
Thousands of homes and churches have been destroyed, and an estimated 50,000 Christians have been forced to flee the violence. Mission Network News estimates 5,000 Christian homes have been burned and 200 churches ruined. According to the Christian Post, 30,000 people remain in government-operated refugee camps. Tens of thousands are living in forests – many seriously wounded.
Father Manoj, based at the archbishop’s office in Bhubaneshwar, said Christians remain in hiding.
“They are too scared to go home. They know that if they return to their villages they will be forced to convert to Hinduism.”
Religious rights group Barnabus Fund told the group Hindu militants “forced” Christians in Orissa to “convert” to Hinduism by threatening them with rape if they refused.
Neighbors reportedly gang-raped a Hindu woman after her Christian uncle refused to renounce his faith, according to reports.
Another Christian woman named Jaspina was told by neighbors, “If you go on being Christian, we will burn your house and your children in front of you.” She and her family were forced to eat cow excrement to “purify” themselves of Christianity.
Other Christians were doused with gasoline and told to participate in conversion ceremonies or be lit on fire.
This week, Hindu extremists said they have set a deadline for the capture of Saraswati’s murderers. If the killers are not caught by Dec. 15, they promised to begin a massacre on Dec. 25, Christmas day.
According to the latest report, Orissa’s Catholic bishops wrote an ominous letter to the state’s chief minister. It read, “This conflict is a calculated and pre-planned master plan to wipe out Christianity from Kandhamal in order to realize the hidden agenda … of establishing a Hindu nation.”