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Extremists Demand End to Christian Activity in Orissa

Gospel for Asia
11/19/08 ORISSA, INDIA (ANS) — Two of the anti-Christian extremist groups responsible for the violence against Christians in Orissa, India, are demanding that the state government ban Christian witnessing and officially honor their murdered leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. At the same time, Orissa’s state government announced that it would give up to 200,000 rupees ($3,990) to the churches whose buildings were destroyed and 100,000 rupees ($1,995) for those that were damaged.

About 50,000 people representing the Sangh Parivar and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) extremist groups rallied in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, on November 15. They have made the following demands of the state government:

1. Arrest the killers of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati.
2. Stop all Christian conversions and the slaughtering of cows in Orissa.
3. Grant national awards to the slain Swami for his service, like those granted to famed Catholic nun Mother Teresa, who ministered to thousands of poverty-stricken Indians in Calcutta during her lifetime.

If these demands are not met by December 15, the extremists say they will organize a bandh, an illegal statewide strike that shuts down all transportation and commerce, on December 25. Some are saying the ultimate purpose of the threats appears to be preventing Christians from returning to their villages in time to celebrate Christmas.

The Sangh Parivar and VHP speakers at the event said they were simply demanding that Orissa officials properly enforce the Orissa “Freedom of Religion” Act. In spite of its name, the law places restrictions on people who choose to follow Christ or become Muslims.

Speakers at the rally also lashed out at state and federal politicians who have condemned the violence against Christians, saying they are simply protecting the Swami’s killers. Three people, including two Christians, were arrested for the murder of the Swami, in spite of the fact that the Maoist group known as the Naxalites has taken responsibility for the murder.

Although the offer of government assistance to rebuild churches is appealing to Christians, they also express concern that excessive demands for documentation will prevent the churches from actually receiving the funds. The VHP is actively opposing the move, saying the government has no right to spend taxpayer funds to appease the Christian community.

Gospel for Asia’s leaders in Orissa ask for prayer for wisdom for the government in dealing with the extremists’ demands. They also ask you to pray for the many Christians who are still hiding out in the jungles and forests as the bitter cold winter weather arrives in the state.