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Anti-Christian Threats Unnoticed by Media in Rural Karnataka, Recent Violence in Nine Districts outside Kandhamal, Orissa
10,000 Civil Society and religious communities came out in Protest against Anti-Christian Violence in Bangalore

By Michael Ireland
10/6/08 NEW DELHI, INDIA (ANS) — Senior leaders from the All India Christian Council (AICC) toured rural churches in Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka on October 4-5, 2008 and found intimidation of Christians by police and fundamentalist Hindu groups.

The AICC says that in Orissa, anti-Christian attacks continue, largely unnoticed, outside Kandhamal district. Over 10,000 civil society and religious communities came out in a protest rally in Bangalore today in protest against anti-Christian violence led by Brinda Karat of CPI (M), Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolon and other prominent leaders.

Dr. John Dayal, AICC Secretary General, said, “Outside the metropolitan areas of Bangalore and Mangalore, innocent Christians live in fear since coordinated attacks on churches on September 14th. Police are ordering village churches not to hold Sunday worship services and even requiring them to submit ‘licenses’ to hold prayers.”

In Orissa, AICC state leaders said many anti-Christian attacks occurred outside of Kandhamal district in the last few weeks.
AICC says that most media coverage hasn’t acknowledged widespread attacks after the initial wave on Aug. 25-26, 2008.

For example, on Oct. 5, 2008, the Sikuli Church of North India under the R. Madanpur police station, Kalahandi district was heavily damaged in an attack at approximately 8 p.m. There were also reliable reports of 40 Christian homes burned nearby at 10:30 p.m. Police often register these types of incidents as burglary or “land disputes.”

Rev. Madhu Chandra, AICC Regional Secretary, said, “The rule of law is inoperative and anarchy is prevalent in many districts of Orissa and Karnataka. Especially in Orissa, the state government says the problems are simply a socio-economic dispute between two groups. But the attacks in districts outside Kandhamal and religious slogans used by assailants tell us this is not the truth.”

According to AICC, the motive of attack on Christians is seen as to gain the political mileage of Hindutva political parities.

“The blood bath of innocent Christians must not be utilized for the political mileage,” say, Rev. Chandra while addressing to a interview by the Voice of India and News 24 TV channel.

In addition to Kalahandi district, Christian houses in at least eight other districts were destroyed in recent days including: Boudh, 250; Bargarh, 50; Koraput “undivided,” 50 (this includes four districts resulting from bifurcation: Nabarangapur, Malkangiri, Rayagada, and Jajpur); Gajapati, 313.

AICC reports that one Christian was seriously injured in Bargarh and one killed and three injured in Gajapati. Eight churches, mostly Baptist, were burned in Gajapati in September and over 1,000 people remain in two government-run relief camps. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, Orissa’s largest cities, saw violence in September; there was at least one church attacked in each city and a mission in Bhubaneswar was ransacked and literature burned.

Violent threats continue to force Christians to leave their homes throughout Orissa. Last week in Dubla village, Balangir district, an extremist Hindutva group came from Phulbani, shouted anti-Christian slogans, and intimidated Christians.

On Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, authorities called Christians to return to the village for a peace talk. During and after the talk they were threatened again. The police did not respond to their complaints. The next day they fled to a nearby town.

In Karnataka, the AICC survey found:

— Pastor Christu Das of a Believers Church in Kayarthada in Belthangandy D-K stopped a sword attack with his arm, which now is in thick plaster. His wife was also attacked. The state only gave him Rs. 1,005 from the Taluk office in spite of promises of larger sums by officials. He was told not to hold church services by local Hindutva activists who stopped and questioned visitors. The police are nowhere to be seen.

— At other churches, belonging to Believers Church, Indian Pentecostal Church, and other evangelical denominations, lone unarmed police or home guards sit and told the clergy not to carry out religious work.

— Senior police and administrative officers met the wounded only in hospitals and have not visited the devastated churches in these rural areas.

— In multiple cases, police visited churches before the violence and warned pastors to be cautious. They were missing when the actual violence occurred. Then they appeared within minutes of the attacks as if they were waiting close by. At some churches, they forced the pastor and associates to clean up the damage before the press were allowed to take pictures. In one case, attempts were made to wipe out evidence of attempted arson.

AICC Secretary General, Dr. John Dayal said: “What were the police trying to hide and who where they attempting to protect?

“We are afraid that, beyond the glare of television and the reach of newspaper reporters, the fundamentalist Hindutva groups and the police are ensuring that the law cannot take its due course and the culprits will never be caught.”

Dayal continued: “We are especially hurt by the mocking tone of the Karnataka Home Minister, V.S. Acharya, his continuing verbal attacks on the church including the Roman Catholic leadership, as well as New Life Fellowship and its pastors, his defense of the assailants, and his constant proposals for a moratorium on conversions.”

Kandhamal district is the epicenter of violence against Christians which started on Aug. 23, 2008 after the murder of a controversial swami by unknown assailants. Right wing Hindu groups blamed Christians. This weekend, Maoist guerilla leaders again claimed responsibility for the killings in interviews with multiple Indian news organizations.

The AICC recorded dozens of anti-Christian attacks in other states since Aug. 23, 2008. These include: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttaranchal.

The All India Christian Council (www.indianchristians.in ), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The AICC is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For more information, contact Dr. John Dayal, AICC Secretary General, [email protected] .