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More Murder, Arson Reported As Orissa Anti-Christian Violence Continues Unabated

9/30/08 BHUBANESWAR, India (UCAN) — One woman was axed to death and 10 people were wounded on Sept. 30 as anti-Christian violence in Orissa entered a sixth week.

The killing raised the number of confirmed deaths to 47 in the violence that began in the eastern Indian state on Aug. 24.

In the latest pre-dawn attack, groups of armed Hindu radicals descended on Gadaguda and Rudangia villages in Kandhamal district and selectively attacked Christian homes, Father Leo Parichha, the parish priest, told UCA News.

The attackers came with petrol bombs, swords, axes and knives, and “brutally attacked sleeping families,” said the priest, who left the parish for safety after the anti-Christian pogrom began.

An 8-year-old boy and his mother are among those critically injured in the attack that began around 4 a.m., said the priest, who now stays in the state capital of Bhubaneswar, some 1,745 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

The priest said his Sukananda parish covers both villages. Several days earlier, on the night of Sept. 25, hundreds of fanatics destroyed the church, priest’s house and Missionaries of Charity nuns’ convent in the parish compound.

Father Parichha said Catholics and Protestants in the villages did not expect the attacks because most families there are Christian. About 35 of Rudangia’s 40 families belong to Christian Churches and denominations, while Gadaguda has 25 Christian and five Hindu families.

According to information he received from survivors, the attackers burned down Christians’ houses using petrol bombs and attacked escaping people with knives, swords and wooden sticks. They looted valuables, demolished houses, and burned the household items.

“The burning is still continuing. There is no one to stop them. People are fleeing for their life,” the priest told UCA News at 11 a.m., just hours after the attacks.

The previous day, a Catholic in the Phiringia area was critically injured when Hindu radicals tortured him after he refused to denounce his faith. The man is now hospitalized, Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocesan sources said, without giving further details.

On Sept. 28, three bodies, including that of a woman, were fished out of the Salunki River in Phulbani, headquarters of Kandhamal district, 350 kilometers west of Bhubaneswar. On the same day, 30 Catholic houses in the Daringabadi area were attacked, looted and set on fire. The attackers also reportedly feasted on some livestock.

These attacks cannot happen without the support of the local Hindu families, Father Parichha said. “They support, help and invite Hindus to attack us.” He said the hatred has several roots, including jealousy over Christians’ progress and the desire to possess Christian farmland.

The attacks also have political significance for Hindu fanatic groups that support the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party), a partner in the state’s ruling coalition.

“There is no letup in the attacks,” Father Parichha said. “The world does not get the details, but it has been constantly going on.”

The violence began a day after a Hindu leader and four associates were killed in Kandhamal district on Aug. 23 night. The leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, had for decades opposed Christian missionary activities and Hindus converting to Christianity. A Maoist group has claimed responsibility for the murders, but the Hindu radical groups blamed Christians for the murders and began attacking them.

Extremists have so far burned down some 4,500 Christian houses, 100 churches, and 20 other Church institutions including convents and presbyteries. The violence has been concentrated in Kandhamal, where the slain swami was based.

The violence also has displaced an estimated 50,000 people, who are now hiding in forests, living in state-run relief camps or staying with relatives in cities and towns outside the troubled areas.