Sunday, September 7, 2008

Attacks on Indian Christians Escalate

Orissa has long suffered from government neglect, and Christian missionaries provide services, including schooling, much better than most residents receive from the government. While that has caused friction before, the stakes are higher now that better-educated people have more of a chance of joining the economic boom.

The attacks in Kandhamal have destroyed or damaged about 1,400 homes of Christians and at least 80 churches and small prayer houses, which were set on fire, a local government official said. Clergymen say orphanages were also destroyed. Estimates from Christian groups put the death toll at more than 25, though a state official in Orissa said 16 were killed.

“I am afraid and will not go back to my village,” said Ms. Nayak, 25, who took shelter in a crowded relief camp in Raikia. She is among an estimated 13,500 people who have fled to refugee camps, according to Krishna Kumar, the top state official in Kandhamal.

Ms. Nayak says that her husband, Bikram, was fatally wounded while she hid and that her house was destroyed.

The violence in Orissa continued this week, with the media reporting more prayer halls being burned. The federal government pledged Tuesday to send more paramilitary troops to the area to reinforce the local police.

But on Wednesday, India’s Supreme Court ordered Orissa’s government to submit a report about what it is doing to control the area, after reports by Christians that the police were not doing enough to stop attacks.

The violence was prompted by the Aug. 23 killing in Orissa of Laxmanananda Saraswati, who had been associated with a Hindu radical group opposed to Hindus’ converting to Christianity. Although a letter left at the scene claimed that Maoist rebels carried out the attack, many Hindus blame Christians instead.

Read it all here.

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