By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Nearly fourteen years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burned to death by a mob in eastern India, police have detained two more suspects, BosNewsLife learned Monday, May 20.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told media that it had arrested Ghanashyam Mohant, 35, and Ranjan Mohant, 38, from their villages Gayalmunda and Bhalughera in Keonjhar district. Another alleged attacker remains at large, police said.
The detained suspects are accused of involvement in killing Staines and his two sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, 6. The Christians were burnt to death on January 22, 1999, while sleeping in a station wagon at Manoharpur village in India’s state of Odisha, then known as Orissa.
The incident triggered global outrage and underscored wider concerns about attacks against minority Christians in India, a heavily Hindu nation where nationalists have expressed concerns about the spread of Christianity.
In 2011 India’s top court confirmed the life sentence given to Hindu activist Dara Singh, who was convicted of leading a mob that murdered the Christians. While Singh and his accomplice Mahendra Hembram were sentenced to life imprisonment, eleven other defendants were released.
The missionary’s widow, Gladys, said at the time she holds no bitterness towards the killers. “Because of forgiveness I hold no bitterness towards the persons who killed my family,” she told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
A series of attacks against missionaries and Christian institutions at the time were blamed on right-wing Hindus, who claimed missionaries tricked impoverished Hindus by force, money and superstition into converting to another religion.
Evangelical Christians and missionaries have strongly denied the charges, saying the Bible teaches that faith in Jesus Christ is based on a voluntary personal decision.
Odisha remains a hotbed for religious violence. Over 100 people have died in anti-Christian violence in the state since August 2008, according to rights activists and church estimates. Christians comprise just over 2 percent of India’s 1 billion-plus, mainly Hindu, population.
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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