eports out of India over the past week or so describe a dramatic increase in violence against Christians, mainly at the hands of radical Hindus in the state of Orissa. The conflicts are to a large degree rooted in Hinduism's caste system and Hindu resentment over lower-caste people who have converted from Hinduism to Christianity.
But the incident that sparked the current violence was the August 23 murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, Orissa's top leader of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu nationalist organization. Saraswati was well-known for his militant opposition to Christianity. He is alleged to have directed the burning of hundreds of churches.
Maoists (communists) have taken responsibility for Swami Saraswati's murder, but Christians have been the main targets of the radical Hindiu backlash. VHP leaders insist Christian missionaries plotted the murder.
More than 50,000 Christians are said to have fled the region, hiding in jungles and forests to escape the violence. Many of them will likely be permanently dispossessed of all they have.
Reports also allege that the partisan government in Orissa has done little to stop the anti-Christian violence, and has perhaps even been complicit in the persecutions.
I've received a few e-mails this weekend from friends in India describing some of the persecution. The Web is full of stories about it as well. None was more disturbing than this e-mail I received, from an evangelical church in India:
Here's another document, compiled by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, listing forty-six typical acts of violence that have occurred over the past week. At the end of the document is contact information for three government officials to whom letters of concern and protest may be addressed.
Do pray for our brothers and sisters in India.