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BosNewsLife (02/24/06) – Thousands of Christian orphans and other believers in India have begun 10-days of prayers for religious freedom and peace in their country and neighboring Pakistan , a major mission group said Friday, February 24.

Hopegivers International (HI) organized the prayer chain after several reported attacks by Hindu militants in recent weeks against individual Christians and Christian properties, including churches and an orphanage in the Indian state of Rajasthan as well as other areas of India .

On Thursday, February 23, HI said it was forced to abandon what would have been the largest ever graduation ceremony for 10,000 Christian ‘dalit’ students in the city of Kota in Rajasthan, because police warned of Hindu violence against them.

MANY ORPHANAGES

The students, aged 19 till 30, finished a seminar or related education in orphanages and other HI centers. HI operates over 90 Hope Home orphanages in India , nearly 200 schools and 500 outreach programs to people with leprosy.

Most of the graduates are ‘dalits’, the term used for the so-called “untouchables” of India , up to 300-million people, who occupy the lowest place in the country’s ancient caste system of Hinduism.

HI President, Samuel Thomas, said he hopes “believers around the world will join with thousands of needy orphans to pray for peace and religious freedom in India and Pakistan .” The two nuclear arch rivals have both Christian minorities, who have complained about religious extremism directed against them.

MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS

Christians, comprise about 2.3 percent of India ‘s predominantly Hindu population of nearly 1.1 billion, while in Pakistan Christians make up less than 3 percent of its nearly 163-million people.

The main prayer request on the first day’s prayer was based on naming the “Lord God by His biblical title, The King of the Nations,” and focused on an upcoming visit by United States President George W. Bush to the region, HI said.

“King of the Nations we pray for the impact of President…Bush’s visits to India and Pakistan next week. Bless him as he speaks out for freedom of speech and religion. May this visit prompt investigations of abuses against minorities and greater support for persecuted Christians,” the prayer statement obtained by BosNewsLife said.