09/22/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Two Christians killed in Orissa; churches destroyed in Madya Pradesh, Kerala; missionaries targeted

by Nirmala Carvalho
The bodies of the two victims were cut into pieces and thrown into a pond. Some churches from the 1600's and from the Middle Ages attacked. Sisters and priests forced to conceal their identity in order to escape persecution and reconversion to Hinduism. At a meeting in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh), the government is being asked to outlaw radical Hindu groups.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - No end to the attacks and violence against Christians. In Orissa, where for more than three weeks a pogrom against Catholics and Protestants has been underway, two more killings have been recorded. Iswar Digal and Purinder Pradhan were murdered and cut to pieces. Iswar Digal, was from the the village of Gatringia in the district of Kandhamal; he was stopped on September 20 by a group of Hindu extremists while he and his wife were trying to escape to a refugee camp. Their home was burned. The other victim was from Nilungia. His body was cut to pieces, put into a jute sack, and thrown into a pond.

The new wave of violence began last August 23, in the district of Kandhamal, after the killing of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, a radical Hindu leader. Hindu fundamentalist organizations accuse the Christians of killing him, although the police of Orissa suspect that the authors of the assassination were Maoist militants. The pogrom to "kill all Christians and destroy their institutions" is motivated in part by the accusations according to which Christians are coercing tribals and Dalits to convert through force or bribery.

According to estimates from the All India Christian Council, 37 Christians have been killed in the state of Orissa alone, including 2 Protestant pastors; more than 4,000 homes belonging to Christians have been burned; and more than 50,000 faithful have been forced to flee. Of these, only 14,000 are believed to be in refugee camps provided by the government. Tens of thousands are hiding in the forest.

The primary targets of the Hindu radicals are the priests, the sisters, and their families. They are attacked, and often forced to convert to Hinduism. Even in the camps, the persecution is strong, and the police check to make sure "that there are no conversions". Priests and sisters present in the camp must conceal their identity.

A sister at the camp in Raikia (district of Kandhamal) tells AsiaNews:

"I am here as part of the medical team; if the authorities find out we are nuns, we will be sent away. I am here dressed in ethnic clothes, wearing bangles, earrings and even the ‘tikka’, in this way we are disguised. The women are in severe trauma, unfortunately, we can only talk to them about their medical problems, we cannot even counsel them, we are continuously being watched, but there is such despair and fear among the women, they have lost every material possession and sadly even hope is lost".

"This is my tenth day at the camp and even now, I cannot hold back my tears. I have never seen a sight like this before in my life. Yes, I have seen natural calamities like tsunamis, earthquakes and cyclones, but nothing as horrifying as this. The intent of the radicals to destroy humanity is so intense - brutality has no limit, the torture and devastation has stooped to levels beyond imagination".

From Orissa, the pogrom has spread to other states: Chhattisghar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.

Yesterday, the church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Bangalore was attack by vandals. Rocks were hurled at a statue of the Virgin Mary. The day before, on September 20, also in Bangalore, the church of St. James was ransacked. The vandals desecrated the Eucharistic species and destroyed the furniture and pews. The windows were damaged at a church in Siddapura (district of Kodagu).

In Kerala, two of the oldest churches in India were vandalized. Yesterday, a statue of Christ in the church of Protasius and Gervasius (17th century) was broken and thrown down from its pedestal. The church belongs to the faithful of the Syro-Malabar rite. The nearby cathedral of the Jacobites, the Mar Sabore Afroth Church, was damaged: its windows were broken, and some relics of St. Paulos Mar Athanasius were destroyed. The church of the Jacobites was built in 825.

On September 20 in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh), the All India Christian Council (AICC) held a meeting to condemn the violence against Christians. It was attended by more than 15,000 people from various faiths: Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and even moderate Hindus.

Sam Paul of the AICC criticized the central government for its inability to stop the attacks, and called for a ban against all Hindu radical organizations, like Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, and Sangh Parivar.

All of these extremist organizations take their political guidance from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Some experts note that the new wave of violence began after the national meeting of the BJP in Bangalore, which was intended to design the strategy for the upcoming national elections, which will be held next March.

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See also
Sister raped in Orissa accuses police of being "friendly" toward rapists
24/10/2008
Pressures on Indian president to stop anti-Christian violence in Orissa
01/09/2008
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05/03/2009
Political motives also behind Hindu fundamentalist violence
16/09/2008
Day of prayer and fasting for Christians in Orissa, together with Hindus and Muslims
08/09/2008


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