By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in India’s troubled state of Orissa cautiously celebrated Christmas Friday, December 25, amid fears of more anti-Christian violence that since 2007 killed over 100 people here.
The memories of clashes that occurred in December 2007 and continued through August 2008 “may not be that easy erased,” a Catholic priest told BosNewsLife.
“We have lost people, houses and property due to the man-made violence proving how humans can be so cruel. Even after a year and half situation has not improved much,” said priest Augustine Singh of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocesan Center for Psychosocial Care.
“People are still in temporary shelters. They can not return to their own villages and are badly hit by a bitter cold of winter or the scorching heat of summer and the sickening weather of rainy days,” he added.
“It is hard to imagine how our Christian people have been growing through the struggles that forcibly imposed upon them.”
Last year’s violence, in which at least 90 people died, began on August 24, 2008, after the killing of a Hindu religious leader.
Although Maoist rebels claimed responsibility Hindu militants blamed Christians for killing the man, prompting massive attacks on Christian homes, churches and other Christian institutions.
The tensions in Orissa have underscored tensions across overwhelmingly Hindu India, where church leaders, missionaries and other Christians face attacks in several states nearly every day, according to several rights groups and church organizations.
In one of the two latest violent attacks and alleged “reconversion” of over 1,700 Christians in the week leading up to Christmas, a sense of fear is growing among India’s minority Christian community, Christians said.
On Sunday, December 20, Hindu extremists attacked a church during worship in western Maharashtra state’s Sindhudurg district and a Christmas exhibition in Gwalior city in Madhya Pradesh state, according to Christian righs investigators said.
The next day Hindu militants reportedly claimed having converted over 1,700 tribal (aboriginal) Christians “back” to Hinduism in western Gujarat state.
“Christmas is a favorite time for violence against Christians in India, as it intimidates the Christian community at large,” explained John Dayal, member of the government’s National Integration Council.
However a prominent rights activist has also urged churches to reach out to end “the world’s worst apartheid under [India’s ancient Hindu] caste system,” that has encouraged extremists to attack.
“When Christians think about Christ’s given commission [to evangelize] we often dwell around preaching the message of Jesus half…Medical and educational services have been provided as optional role for churches to get involved in society,” said Madhu Chandra, a social activist and research scholar based in New Delhi. Chandra also works as Regional Secretary of All India Christian Council, a major advocacy group.
He said religious tensions are also fueled by poverty. The gap between “India’s haves and India’s have-nots spreads like wild fire, he said. “India’s dream of becoming a world super power will only produce super global rich Indians while 250 million live on less than a dollar a day.”
Dalits, the ‘lowest’ caste in India’s Hinduism, are especially vulnerable, with reports of widespread discrimination and killings near temples and wells.
Many of those living in poverty are Christians. In a published report ‘Rural Christians of North West India’, Reverend Vidhya Sagar Dogar’s claims 11 percent of Dalit Christians in Punjab state still have live in unhygienic circumstances, working between human feces and struggling to survive.
HAPPY NEW YEAR?
With New Year approaching, Christians said they hope their situation will somewhat improve, after a government-appointed commission recommended last week to give Christian converts of a Hindu ‘Dalit’ caste background similar state benefits as underprivileged groups professing Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism as their religion.
The report of the ‘National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities’, headed by India’s former chief justice Ranganath Misra, may end nearly 60 years of discrimination, said John Dayal, a leading Indian Christian activist and campaigner for Dalit rights.
India’s Constitution already granted political, economic and development privileges to all Dalits, the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s ancient system of Hinduism, but since 1950 Dalit Christians were excluded from the arrangement. Dalits are believed to comprise at least 16 percent of India’s billion-plus population.
But in the meantime, Augustine Singh said he remains busy helping traumatized Christians in Orissa where the popular Christmas message “peace on earth” remains apparently a distant dream.
I want to point out with utmost humility that the article looks biased against the Hindus. Most
Hindus have the highest respect for Jesus and a significant percentage venerate him(like me) while remaining true to their Hindu religion.
The attacks were motivated by ‘ethnic’/’tribal’ reasons and were only because of fight between two tribal groups (one Hinduized other Chritianized by ‘commercialized’ conversions).India is a very large country with 28 states and therefore it can be safely said that there is no ‘fear’ or so called ‘persecution’.
Wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Ohhh, such a nice article. Truly unbiased. I will celebrate this christmas a little differently because im tried of eating monkey brains. I will catch a few christians and eat there brains instead. During new years eve, i’ll sacrifice a few christians to our goddess kali. I’ll immediately follow that burning christians women on sundays.
Merry christmas to fellow christians. Im coming, Im coming.
In general, we avoid speaking about ‘the Hindus’, usually mentioning for instance either ‘Hindu militants’ or ‘groups’ as we do not want to suggest that all Hindus hate Christians. That was also done in this article. At the same time, there are many violent attacks reported in several states of India, not just in Orissa, making persecution of Christians and other religious minorities a real issue. We also wish you a very good and peaceful New(s) Year!
The message of hindu infidel only underscores that extremists are indeed very active in India. Perhaps next time, ‘hindu infidel’, you write your real name and location, or would that make it more difficult for you to make this, shall we say, somewhat strange statements?
Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center
Hey man yet_another_hindu_infide. your comment is not Amazing to any one. Hold your tong. This 5-6″ tong has the ability to despise any one even the Almighty and you are doing this. I am surprise how long it is in your mouth. In a very moment it can be auto stick. You will never be forgiven with this tong. You are alive just The Ruler of this universe is very patient on you. Still has the time return to your dirt. And know what is the mean of Oral care.
May the use of tong be given unto you.