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India: Orissa’s Christians flee genocidal violence

By Elizabeth Kendal
9/3/08 AUSTRALIA (ANS) — In 1969 a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) proselytiser named Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati established an Ashram (Hindu religious centre) in Kandhamal district, Orissa state, north-east India, and committed himself to countering the work of Christian missionaries. He never succeeded in stopping conversions to Christianity but, with state government support, he has turned Orissa into a tinderbox of communal tension. As Hindutva-isation has advanced (especially since 2005) Hindutva zealotry and anti-Christian hatred have escalated, priming whole communities for genocide.

Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati organised and incited an anti-Christian Hindu pogrom in Kandhamal district in December 2007 that left a swathe of destruction and many thousands of Christians displaced. He urged the Hindus of Kandhamal via mobile phone messaging to burn the homes and churches of Christians and repeat the ‘revolution’ that brought ‘peace’ to Gujarat (referring to the 2002 Hindu pogrom that left some 2000 Muslims dead).

On 23 August 2008 Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was ambushed and shot dead. From the evidence this was a targeted assassination perpetrated by a group of well-armed Maoist guerrillas who as egalitarian left-wingers are natural enemies of the caste-perpetuating right-wing Hindu nationalists. Despite this, Hindu leaders in Orissa publicly charged the Christian community with killing the Swami because of his anti-conversion campaign. A violent Hindu pogrom erupted, so far claiming at least 36 lives. Numerous Christians have been burnt, beaten, raped and slashed with swords. In Kandhamal alone some 13,00 0 Christians are living in refuges and tent camps. The violence has spread into surrounding districts and 50,000 Christians are estimated to have fled their homes ahead of violent religious cleansing and are now displaced across Orissa, with many hiding in dense jungle.

On 29 August over 40,000 Christian educational institutions throughout India closed in a nationwide protest against the anti-Christian violence. These institutions are now facing a backlash, particularly in BJP-ruled states like Karnartaka where the state government has ordered officials to take action against the schools for closing without government permission.

The level of violence is shocking. A 20-year-old nun was burned alive in an orphanage. Another young nun was pack-raped. A senior priest and nun were stripped and violently degraded before a crowd of cheering spectators, including known local government officials and several police. Hundreds of churches have been vandalised, looted and torched as have thousands of Christian homes. Archbishop Ra phael Cheenath has petitioned the Supreme Court for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the violence and the state’s failure to maintain law and order.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR —
-God to be a shield around his children, protecting them from violence and intervening to bring it to an end, pushing back the enemy.
-the Holy Spirit to ‘lift the head’ of every terrified, displaced, grief-stricken, confused believer, filling their hearts and minds with peace through an assurance of his eternal love and presence and giving them comfort and hope despite their circumstances.
-God to draw each frightened believer into prayer and then answer their prayers so their faith may be enlarged and fortified; may knowledge of his perfect love drive out their fears and may he be glorified in them.
-the Almighty Sovereign God to save his people and bless them once again.

‘O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me . . . But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah . . . I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! . . . Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah. (Excerpts from Psalm 3 ESV)