By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The brutal gang rape of a 28 year-old Catholic nun in India, a crime that occurred within sight of a dozen police officers, is just the latest atrocity in the on-going violence against Christians in India. The situation is so bad the U.S. Congress has issued a resolution condemning the violence and demanding action from the government.
Violence against Christians by Hindu extremists in the Indian state of Orissa began shortly after the August 23 murder of a Hindu spiritual leader, Swami Laxmananand Saraswati. Even though a Maoist group claimed responsibility for the assassination, Hindu radicals are blaming the Christians and have embarked on a wide-scale campaign of violence against them.
The latest attack involved a nun who was dragged out of a house where she and a priest had taken shelter from an angry Hindu mob. The nun was dragged out of the shelter and taken into a nearby building where she was gang-raped.
The entire incident took place in front of a police outpost with 12 officers from the Orissa State Armed Police present and watching, according to Fr. Thomas Chellan, the priest who was with her in the shelter. Fr. Chellan was badly beaten after refusing to participate in the crime.
“My appeals to the policemen who were standing nearby and watching only resulted in further beating,” Fr. Chellan told the Hindu newspaper. “At one point the nun slipped away to plead with the police for help but she was dragged back by the mob and her blouse torn,” he said. While the mob dragged the nun into a nearby building, Fr. Chellan was doused with kerosene by the mob who threatened to set him on fire.
The victims were taken to the Baliguda police station where police reports were filed. Thus far no action has been taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This is only one of many attacks in the second deadliest campaign against Christians to take place in this part of India since December, 2007. According to the Washington DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC), in just one district of Orissa, 50 Christians have been murdered in the latest attacks. More than 6,000 Christian homes have been burned and 300 churches have been destroyed.
Unfortunately, the violence is being met with little response from the local government. In addition, the ICC recently learned that local officials are planning to spin the Orissa violence as an “ethnic conflict” so radical Hindu groups can avoid responsibility.
”What this means is that the crisis in Orissa is far from over, despite government propaganda to the contrary,” the ICC said in a recent press release.
Besides the assassination of Swami Saraswati, the ICC says another reason for the murderous hatred “is that Dalits (untouchables) have been converting to Christianity in large numbers.”
In an attempt to pressure the government into bringing Hindu extremists to justice, on Sept. 26, Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) introduced H. Con. Res. 434. This bi-partisan resolution condemns the religious violence in India and calls upon the Indian government to respond immediately.
The resolution asks the Indian Government “to take all necessary steps to restrict the reach and resources of the radical religious party elements that cause such violence regularly.” It also asks the government to “take strong steps to prevent ongoing and future violence, including the provision of adequate police protection for targets of violence, and active prosecution of perpetrators of violence.”
The government of India must protect all their citizens, “regardless of their religious beliefs,” the resolution states, and condemns the implementation of any laws “restricting the freedom of religion or the freedom to change one’s religion” which are fundamental rights in any democracy.
The resolution concludes by urging the people of India “to respect all peaceful religious beliefs and live together as a model to the rest of the world.”
To voice your support of H. Con. Res. 434, contact your state representative www.house.gov and urge them to sign the resolution.
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