03/01/2005, 00.00
INDIA

Protestant clergyman killed in Orissa state

It is the second murder in two weeks. Hindu nationalist weekly claims that Christian organisations want to convert at any cost.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews/UCAN) – A Pentecostal pastor was killed last Saturday in the north-eastern Indian state of Orissa. Pastor Dilip Dalai, 22, of the Orissa Follow-up community was stabbed to death at his home in Begunia village, Khurda district, about 60 kilometres west of the state capital of Bhubaneswar.

Pastor Hrudayaban Dandia, head of Orissa Follow-up, said villagers suspect Satrughan Pal, a Begonia Hindu, of the crime.

On several occasions Pal, a native of the same village, had opposed pastors staying in the village and preaching the Gospel. The killing may have been aimed to "put an end to the spread of the Gospel," Pastor Dandia said.

Police investigations are underway but Pal has fled.

Dalai's murder is the second in the last two weeks in Orissa. Pastor Gilbert Raj of the India Mission was killed on February 16. According to police reports, the Baptist clergyman was tortured before being killed.

Bishop Banchanidhi Nayak of Believers Church of Orissa says the killing of Pastor Dalai shows that "Christians are not safe" in the state.

Orissa is known for its re-conversion campaigns, that is, campaigns in which Hindu fundamentalists force Christian Adivasi (tribal people) to convert back to Hinduism.

Father Marcus Soreng, parish priest in Nayagarh, a village near Begunia, said the state government should take "all measures to protect Christians and Church ministers" in the wake of increased attacks on them.

Hindu fundamentalist groups claim instead that the recent spat of violence "is a spontaneous reaction by local people against missioners adamant on conversion".

"Christian organizations are on a warpath—accept their religion or face the music," Hindu nationalist weekly Organizer reports, quoting Subash Chouhan, a Hindu leader in the state.

Organizer is the official weekly newspaper of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (national volunteer corps), an umbrella organization of right-wing Hindu groups.

In an article titled "Proselytizers run amok", another Hindu leader, Jagaram Samukhya, alleged that "Christian missioners in Orissa were on a conversion spree to achieve their target by hook or crook". (LF)

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