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Persecution of Christians in India 10 years after Kandhamal
Dwindling freedom of religion brings back memories of the pogrom in Orissa

24.08.2018 – 11:40

Open Doors Germany e.V.

Kelkheim (ots)

These were the most violent attacks that Christians in India had ever experienced: August 25th marks the tenth anniversary of the week-long pogrom-like riots in Orissa (now Odisha) in 2008. The trigger was the murder of the Hindu monk Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati on August 23 in the Kandhamal region. A group of the extremist Maoists immediately took action, but Hindu nationalists blamed the Christians. In 14 of the 30 districts of Orissa, mobs armed with axes, machetes, firearms or kerosene cans attacked the Christians - under the eyes of the authorities. They killed around 120, looted 600 villages and destroyed 5,600 houses and 400 churches or ecclesiastical institutions. More than 55,000 Christians had to flee. There can hardly be any talk of a processing of the incidents by the judiciary and the authorities. But on the contrary.

Despite the overwhelming evidence and the confession of the Maoists, seven Christians were found guilty of murdering the Hindu monk and thrown in prison. They are there to this day. Ten years later the situation of the more than 60 million Christians in India is no better. The Christian aid organization Open Doors reports a massive increase in violence since 2014. More than 600 attacks against Christians were documented in 2017 and the negative trend continues in 2018. Forty-five million of them face high levels of persecution.

Largest democracy in the world under the grip of religious nationalism

In many states, supporters of Prime Minister Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hindu nationalist groups are putting massive pressure on Christians. In addition, anti-conversion laws in seven states specifically block the activity of Christian congregations. Conversely, however, at public conversion events (Ghar Wapsi) Christians are forced to return to Hinduism. Casteless Dalits, who have turned to the Christian faith in large numbers and are therefore persecuted, are particularly threatened.

Just as most of Orissa’s crimes went unpunished, Hindu-nationalistly motivated violent criminals feel encouraged by persistent impunity to ever new attacks. Government and authorities offer little protection for Christians and other religious minorities. But on the contrary. The motto 'India for the Hindus', which is widespread among hardliners, means for them: You are undesirable! You are not entitled to protection, freedom of religion or justice in court. '

For example, on July 24, in Telangana state, at least 150 activists from the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghvon (RSS) and Bajrang Dal blocked the entrance of a Christian family in Lalgadi Malakpet because Pastor Avaru Santosh was praying there for a sick family member. He reports: "The mob screamed furiously for hours and did not want to leave without beating me. One of the mob shouted: 'Today we will finish this pastor, then we will go'." Finally the police came and the pastor could go home. "However, RSS and Bajrang Dal have filed charges against me, falsely claiming that I am converting Hindus to Christianity by offering money," said Pastor Santosh.

"Orissa must not repeat itself"

Pastors are regularly mistreated and murdered, church services attacked, churches destroyed, Christian families expelled from villages and Christian girls and women raped. Christian leaders and activities are monitored, and Christians of Hindu origin are often severely harassed, beaten and even killed. According to the current World Persecution Index, Christians live more dangerously in only ten other countries than in India.

With house building projects, income security projects, literacy courses and building house churches, Open Doors has contributed to the resettlement of Christians in the region. Markus Rode, CEO of Open Doors Germany, says: "Orissa must not repeat itself. Today, however, the point is that not ALL Christians are expelled from India, as some political groups are trying to do. Western governments can decisively counteract this by they demand religious freedom. But it is also important that we now pray for our fellow believers in India. "

For photos and interviews with Markus Rode, please contact our press office.

Press contact:

Open Doors Germany e.V.
P.O. Box 11 42
D-65761 Kelkheim
T 06195 6767-180
E [email protected]

Original content from: Open Doors Deutschland e.V., transmitted by news aktuell