India: Orissa’s Christians Flee Genocidal Violence

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 494 |

In 1969 a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) proselytiser named Swami
Laxmanananda Saraswati established an Ashram (Hindu religious
centre) in Kandhamal district, Orissa state, north-east India, and
committed himself to countering the work of Christian missionaries.
He never succeeded in stopping conversions to Christianity but,
with state government support, he has turned Orissa into a
tinderbox of communal tension. As Hindutva-isation has advanced
(especially since 2005) Hindutva zealotry and anti-Christian hatred
have escalated, priming whole communities for genocide.

Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati organised and incited an anti-
Christian Hindu pogrom in Kandhamal district in December 2007 that
left a swathe of destruction and many thousands of Christians
displaced. He urged the Hindus of Kandhamal via mobile phone
messaging to burn the homes and churches of Christians and repeat
the 'revolution' that brought 'peace' to Gujarat (referring to the
2002 Hindu pogrom that left some 2000 Muslims dead).

On 23 August 2008 Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was ambushed and
shot dead. From the evidence this was a targeted assassination
perpetrated by a group of well-armed Maoist guerrillas who as
egalitarian left-wingers are natural enemies of the caste-
perpetuating right-wing Hindu nationalists. Despite this, Hindu
leaders in Orissa publicly charged the Christian community with
killing the Swami because of his anti-conversion campaign. A
violent Hindu pogrom erupted, so far claiming at least 36 lives.
Numerous Christians have been burnt, beaten, raped and slashed with
swords. In Kandhamal alone some 13,000 Christians are living in
refuges and tent camps. The violence has spread into surrounding
districts and 50,000 Christians are estimated to have fled their
homes ahead of violent religious cleansing and are now displaced
across Orissa, with many hiding in dense jungle.

On 29 August over 40,000 Christian educational institutions
throughout India closed in a nationwide protest against the anti-
Christian violence. These institutions are now facing a backlash,
particularly in BJP-ruled states like Karnartaka where the state
government has ordered officials to take action against the schools
for closing without government permission.

The level of violence is shocking. A 20-year-old nun was burned
alive in an orphanage. Another young nun was pack-raped. A senior
priest and nun were stripped and violently degraded before a crowd
of cheering spectators, including known local government officials
and several police. Hundreds of churches have been vandalised,
looted and torched as have thousands of Christian homes. Archbishop
Raphael Cheenath has petitioned the Supreme Court for a Central
Bureau of Investigation probe into the violence and the state's
failure to maintain law and order.


* God to be a shield around his children, protecting them from
violence and intervening to bring it to an end, pushing back the

* the Holy Spirit to 'lift the head' of every terrified,
displaced, grief-stricken, confused believer, filling their
hearts and minds with peace through an assurance of his eternal
love and presence and giving them comfort and hope despite
their circumstances.

* God to draw each frightened believer into prayer and then answer
their prayers so their faith may be enlarged and fortified; may
knowledge of his perfect love drive out their fears and may he
be glorified in them.

* the Almighty Sovereign God to save his people and bless them
once again.

'O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me . . .
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of
my head. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy
hill. Selah . . . I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord! Save
me, O my God! . . . Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be
on your people! Selah. (Excerpts from Psalm 3 ESV)




For decades Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) zealots have turned Orissa
state in north-east India into a tinderbox of communal tension. In
recent years Hindutva agencies have escalated their campaign to
Hindutva-ise the masses, priming whole Hindu communities to commit
genocide. A Hindu pogrom erupted on 23 August in Kandhamal district
after Hindu leaders accused the Christian community of killing the
state's chief Hindutva proselytiser, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati,
despite evidence he was assassinated by Maoist guerrillas. Anti-
Christian violence has spread, so far claiming 36 lives. Christians
are being beaten, raped, burned and slashed. Hundreds of churches
have been torched as have thousands of Christian homes. Some 50,000
fleeing Christians are now displaced. Please pray for the violence
to end and for God to protect and preserve his people.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
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issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.