By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Pope Benedict XVI and human rights groups around the world are calling for prayer and more police intervention to stop the violence directed against Christians in Orissa, India that have left more than 18 people dead, 75 churches burned and hundreds of homes destroyed.
The violence began after the killing of a prominent Hindu leader by suspected Maoist groups for which Christians are being blamed. Mobs of angry Hindu fundamentalists began attacking homes, churches, schools and other Christian institutions with little or no intervention from local authorities.
A curfew has now been put in place and a “shoot at sight” order issued in Orissa’s Kandhamal area but it has yet to stop the violence.
According to a first-hand account given to the Washington DC based group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org , the situation is far from under control.
The ICC spoke with a Christian who was taking shelter in the middle of an area where Hindus are on a rampage against Christians. When ICC asked him how he was doing, he responded, “By God’s grace I am still alive, but I do not know what will happen tonight.”
According to this eyewitness account, the last three days of violence have resulted in the deaths of 18 Christians that he knew of alone, including pastors, nuns, and Catholic priests. In addition, he said that Hindu radicals have demolished at least 75 churches and hundreds of houses belonging to Christians.
While the Indian government maintains that the situation is under control, the eyewitness said it is anything but. The main towns have received additional police protection, but in the rural areas there is nothing to stop Hindu mobs from looting, killing, raping, and destroying.
The ICC spoke with this eyewitness at about 9:30 p.m. local time in India. At that moment, everything was quiet, but the eyewitness said the Hindus usually attack between 11pm and 4am. Their only defense against another rampage is divine assistance.
Samuel Wallace, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “It looks like the only defense these Christians have is God himself, because the Indian government has proved itself unable to stop the violence.”
Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday condemned the violence in his weekly audience at the Vatican, saying he was “profoundly saddened” by the situation.
“I firmly condemn any attack on human life,” the Pope said. “I express spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in faith who are being so harshly tested.”
He called the killing of the Hindu leader “deplorable” and urged religious leaders and local authorities to “work together to re-establish between the members of the various communities the peaceful coexistence and the harmony that have always marked Indian society.”
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