On August 23, widespread violence erupted against Christians following the assassination of World Hindu Council leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, the alleged mastermind behind the December 2007 attacks on believers in Kandhamal, Orissa State. Saraswati was killed with four of his followers. 30 men believed to be Maoist extremists, stormed a religious center in Kandhamal and opened fire, VOM contacts reported.
“Despite evidence indicating that Maoists are responsible for Saraswati’s murder, several Hindu militant groups have blamed Christians,” VOM contacts said. “As a result, Hindu militants have launched attacks on Christians throughout the state, setting buildings on fire and beating and killing believers in at least 12 districts. The Voice of the Martyrs has been receiving numerous reports on this developing crisis. At present, it is difficult to know the full extent of what is happening to Christians in Orissa State.
VOM contacts reported churches, mission buildings and schools throughout the state have been damaged or destroyed in the attacks. In the village of Nuagaon, Kandhamal district, extremists set fire to a social centre in the village after violating a nun who was at the facility. The Bethel Association, a Christian orphanage in the district of Rayagada, was burned to the ground. The mission was home to 150 children, many of them from families who have suffered persecution for their faith.
In Bargarh district, another orphanage was torched and a young woman was burned alive after she was thrown inside the building when she tried to protect the children. At least 20 churches have reportedly been destroyed, but the extent of the damage in Orissa State has not been ascertained as reports continue to be released from the affected regions.
VOM contacts report more than 50 homes belonging to Christians have been reportedly burned to the ground by extremists in the village of Rupagaon, Kandhamal alone. “A paralyzed man was unable to escape his burning house and was killed. Houses have also been ransacked, pelted with stones and vandalized throughout the state. Christian-owned shops have been torched and looted. Many Christians have fled their homes and are seeking refuge in the jungle. Although police have attempted to protect Christians and end the attacks in Orissa, the violence has continued to occur. Militant groups have blocked roads with logs in order to keep the police away. Christian groups continue to beseech government authorities to intervene and end the violence,” VOM contacts added.
Similar attacks erupted on Christmas Eve 2007 after Hindu extremists targeted Christian homes and churches. Four Christians were killed, many injured and numerous homes and churches destroyed or damaged in the violent clashes that lasted five days. More than 18 churches and prayer houses were ransacked and torched in several areas of Kandhamal district in Orissa. In the past Hindu extremists have used anti-conversion laws to terrorize Christians.
VOM is working to gather information on these attacks and provide assistance to believers affected. Following the December attacks VOM provided assistance, by distributing thousands of Bibles and supporting some families that lost loves ones during the attack, through VOM’s Family of Martyrs fund.
VOM encourages you to continue praying for believers affected by the attacks. Ask God to protect believers who facing great challenges. Thank God for their faithfulness, and ask Him to provide for their needs.