Published: 12:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 20 June 2012
Attack on Christian community in Orissa raises fears of further violence
Country/Region: India, South and East Asia
The discovery of explosives in one village days ahead of a brutal assault on a Christian community in another has raised fears of a repeat of the large scale anti-Christian violence in Orissa state, India.
A church leader and the 12 families in his congregation were attacked by Hindu extremists on 15 June in the village of Mitrapur.
|Christian communities were devastated in the Orissa riots of 2007-08|
Evangelist Baidhar (50) was making his way home from a prayer meeting in a believer’s home when he was set upon. He was seriously injured and left bleeding on the ground. The church leader was found shortly afterwards by local Christians who took him to hospital.
Around 50 Hindus then attacked the entire Christian community in the village. They injured 20 people, and tore the clothing of some of the young women in an attempt to molest them. The assailants then looted the homes of the 12 families.
The Christians fled the village and it is thought that they have been hiding in the jungle.
A few days before this incident, on 10 June, police seized more than 50 homemade bombs and 12 blocks of dynamite from a hut in Gambhari village, Puri district. The offenders fled and the explosives were taken to the police station to be defused.
Intelligence reports suggest that the explosives were being collected in preparation for another major anti-Christian onslaught in Orissa, similar to the large-scale violence unleashed in December 2007 and from August 2008.
Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said that the attack on the Christians in Mitrapur was “meant to terrify the Christian minority” and was part of a “diabolical plan”, adding:
They want to repeat what happened in 2008, with the anti-Christian pogroms in the Kandhamal district.
Around 90 Christians lost their lives as a result of the Orissa riots in 2007 and 2008, and thousands more were injured. Over 56,000 people were displaced as thousands of houses were destroyed; around 10,000 are yet to return home. Barnabas Fund is helping to build homes for those who are still homeless.
Orissa is not the only Indian state where Christians are under threat. In the last few weeks there have been reports of incidents, to name but a few, in West Bengal, where a pastor and his wife have been receiving death threats from Muslim extremists for months; Chhattisgarh, where armed Hindus attacked Christians at a funeral; and Assam, where three Christians were beaten up by Hindus after refusing to renounce Christ.