31 August 2008

Pray for India

by Phil Johnson

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:

Yesterday one of our church members B_____ P______ hailing from Orissa reported that Fanatic Hindus came to her home in Orissa and asked all of them to become Hindus. On refusal they started threatening the family, so her brother said, "We will worship our Lord Jesus." The Hindus said that they would kill him, and asked, "Don't you fear to be killed?" He said, "I am willing to die for Jesus." So they cut him in three pieces. They also killed her maternal uncle, burnt the whole house and threw them on the road. Kindly keep on praying. Things are started happening in our state also. Kindly see Orissa violence on Net for more information.

I thank you all for praying, & we can say that He is El-Shaddi God. S_____ F______.


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.

  1. On 24th of August Pastor Jeebaratna Lima from Khurda District, was attacked and beaten up mercilessly. The miscreants doused petrol on him and about to set him on fire but timely arrival of Police saved his life. He was in Police custody but later was released on bail next day.
  2. Pastor Bahumulya Paik of Bamandei, Patpur Police Station. Ganjam District was beaten to a point of death by a mob of around 100 people. He vomited blood and later gained conciousness and managed to flee from the place while the group was engaged in attacking the local believers. Since the hospitals were closed no medical help was available. On August 26, the police escorted him to some distance by their vehicle and left him on the way to take a bus and go away.
  3. Pastor Bishnu Kumbhar and his pregnant wife of village Dutta, under Madan Rampur Police Station of Kalahandi district, were chased out. To save their lives, they ran away in the darkness and hid themselves from the attackers.
  4. Pastor Susanjit Beero of Tengada Pathar under Tikabali Police Station of Phulabani, was attacked by a group of Hindutva miscreants. Along with few believers he is still reported to be taking shelter in the forest though without food and clothes from the last 48 hours.
  5. Pastor Dillip Koshla of Tiangia village, under Raikia Police Station was attacked by the mob. His house and property are burned and looted by the unruly mob.
  6. Pastor Birendra Harijan, of Nakapolo Church under Dharmasala Police Station of Jajpur District was beaten up badly. As the miscreants were about to set his house on fire the timely arrival of police saved the disaster.
  7. Pastor Amit Pani of Ampani village, Koksora Police Station(PS) under Kalahandi district was chased out and locked in a house but they manage to escape.
  8. Pastor Lebiyo Raito of Kanjamendi, Nuagam PS, Phulbani, was attacked and chased away from his house. He is still hiding in the jungle.
  9. Pastor Jatan Nayak, of Bhadrak district was attacked and his house ransacked. He is in the Police protection at the moment.
  10. Pastor Abinash Garjang, of Tattaguda, Malkangiriis attacked and the Church building was ransacked.
  11. Pastor Aurobindo Sahu of Tumgurpada Church, Bargarh District is threatened to leave the place with dire consequences.
  12. District pastor Anant Benya of Badibahal church, Luisingha PS, in Bolangir District was issued threat to attack the church on 26th August.
  13. Pastor Pabitra Digal and Pastor Dharmendra Digal, of Sundargarh district have received threats to their life burning the church.
  14. Pastor Thomas Bhoi of Petapanga church Raikia, Kandhamal district was attacked by the mob and their household items were damaged.
  15. Pastor Ramakant Pradhan of Dotta Church and Pastor Sulaisng Barik of Hatibandh Church under Sinapali PS of Nuapada District was chased away from the village. Their whereabouts are not known.
  16. Pastor Bijaya Surya of Penkam Church, Gunapur PS, Rayagada District is threatened and asked to leave the place.
  17. Pastor Mothilal Sagar and his family, also along with 5 Sisters and two brothers in Madekela, Godphila block were attacked but they managed to flee and hid themselves. The miscreants are searching for them.
  18. More than 15 church buildings of Believers Church alone and several churches of other denomination are damaged. The rampage is still going on unabated.
  19. Church building and 60 houses in Tiangia village, Raikia, Kandhamal burnt. Two Christians named Dasarath Pradhan, Bikram Naik killed.
  20. Church building was bombed and destroyed. 30 houses burnt in Tengdapathar, Tikabali, Kandhamal.
  21. Church and parsonage damaged, 20 houses burnt, Two believers killed in Pettapanga, Saranggada, Kandhmal.
  22. Chandrasekaharpur, BDA Church, Bhubaneswar damaged.
  23. Tangupada, Bargarh District, the anti-Christians have threatened the pastor Arobindo Sahu to leave and they have a plan to destroy the newly built Church.
  24. Audio Visual Team are hiding in the jungle in Chandragiri, Gajapati District because of the threats.
  25. BOH (Education centre for Children) in Kuttenpalli, Bolangir District having 120 students was threatened to close down.
  26. Tattaguda Church of Pastor Abinash Garjang in Baipariguda, Malkangiri demolished.
  27. Bhatta Palla Church of Pastor John Naik in Madanpur, Rampur, in Kalahandi demoslished.
  28. Tujung Church of Pastor Basant Digal in M. Rampur Kalahandi damaged.
  29. Ladapanga Church of Pastor Rajanikanth Nayak in Daringbadi damaged.
  30. The residences of Pastor Bijaya Kumar Surya, Pastor Susil Lima of Miraguda, Gunupur ransacked and looted. No police protection given.
  31. The Church of Pastor Junus Digal destroyed and 180 houses of Christians burnt in Balkidadi, Kandhmal. Without food and drinking water the Christians are in the jungle from last three days.
  32. The church building and all the houses of the Christians in Kurmingia of Kandhamal burnt. The Christians have fled to nearby jungles.
  33. Church building and houses ransacked and later burnt in Tattaguda of Malkangiri District.
  34. Churches destroyed and houses burnt along with 4 believers killed in Dadingia of Raikia, Kandhamal.
  35. The church of Pastor Alif Nayak alongwith 12 houses in Ranipada, Kandhamal burnt. Pastor killed.
  36. Houses burnt and Christians attacked in Madkela, Tusura in Bolangir.
  37. Pastors Dandapani and Junus Diagal chased out of their place but they managed to flee to safety in nearby jungle.
  38. Four incidents of attacks reported in Koraput. 39. Carmel English Medium School in Khurda threatened to close down by Hindu fundamentalists.
  39. Houses in Khariapada, Udaigari were bombed by petrol bombs.
  40. Unconfirmed reports suggests around 10-11 Christians were killed in jungles by angry and unruly mob.
  41. Church in Balangir demolished.
  42. Complete failure of Law and Order in violence affected areas. Police and Para-millitary forces are mere spectators.
  43. 300-400 attackers burnt houses of Christians in Kurmanga, Raikia.
  44. Nuagaon village dominated by around 50 Christian families completely burnt down.
  45. Church in Nuagaon village burnt.
  46. Grace Girls Hostel having 60-70 students in Kotagarh, Phulbani attacked by more than 1000 people. Just 10 Police personnel posted for protection were not sufficient to protect the Hostel.


The [Hindu] fundamentalist group are going from village to village destroying Churches, burning houses, attacking and killing Christians. It is reported that thousands of extremists have been brought from Gujarat and Chhattisgarh to perpetrate this violence which has spread to all the districts of Orissa. Their agenda is to wipe out Chrisitians and Christianity from India starting from Orissa.

Christian community is saddened by the response of the Government so far to tackle the situation in Orissa that has become the boiling pot of crooked political agendas of the Sangh Parivar. EFI once again request the concerned Christians to voice their concerns at the below mentioned addresses:

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
Room No. 152,
South Block,
New Delhi, 110001

Shri Navin Patnaik
Chief Minister of Orissa
Naveen Nivas,
Aerodrome Road,
P.O.-Bhubaneswar,
District-Khurda,
Pin-751001 (Orissa)

Email:cmo@ori.nic.in
Shri Amarananda Pattanayak, IPS
Director General of Police

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India


Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.


Do pray for our brothers and sisters in India.
Phil's signature

24 comments:

Rick Frueh said...

Yes and amen. May God continue to enlighten us to the plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

Wes ("Theophilus") Walker said...

I feel ill.

I spent two wonderful months teaching /preaching in Orissa in '96. It is a cherished time of my life, and the people there are amazing.

We had the pleasure of proclaiming the gospel in some remote villages where it may or may not have been preached previously.

Please pray for Samuel, Nathaniel, Nicodemus and the others in Churches they have established.

God Bless G. Udayagiri, and Orissa.

Solameanie said...

Horrible.

Sort of gives the lie to the American 1960s notion that Hindus are like flower children.

Puritan said...

Thanks for posting.

CR said...

Folks can also get monthly updates on Barnabas on this particular issue and many other saints being persecuted around the world.

Nitin Joseph said...

I am Indian Christian. And i know that hinduism treats the low caste as no better than animals. Its the truth. These unjust social structures have existed for millenia. This means the poor dalits and the tribals till today have no access to education and medical facilities. Live hand to mouth and accept thier fate because karma is burned into the indian conciousnes.
In rapidly developing india the caste systems are being shaken and christain missionaries working in far flung corners of the country are unawares themselves of the changes that they are bringing in the country.
Most often all they do is run a small clinic or a school. School! Literacy! These are powerful agents of change. Ushering in dreaded thoughts in most radical hindus minds of dalits rising up in millions and questioning the caste system.
Its much more then religion the fight is about. Its a virluent strain of nationalism. That fears other religions as usurper of Indian ‘way of life’. Its religious nationalism. Its called Hindutva. A marriage of religion and nationalism that takes violent approach for the hearts and minds of the majority in India.

herewestand said...

Maranatha O Lord.

Wes ("Theophilus") Walker said...

Samuel Nayak (45) at Bakingia village of Raikia block at about 0230 PM today, stood in between and did not allow around 500 radicals to enter into his Church to damage it. Then they cut his throat by a dagger and he died on the spot and after that they destroyed the Church.

I knew him, and admired him.
He planted numerous churches in his region where there were previously none, including remote mountain villages.

Faithful to the end.

Mike Riccardi said...

Thanks for posting this. If it's OK I'd just like to post some passages that come to mind that I think would be useful in guiding our prayers and resting in the faithfulness of our God.

---
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. -- 2Tim 3:12

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. -- Matt 5:10-12

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. -- 1Pet 4:12-16

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." -- Acts 14:19-22

And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:22-24

As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." -- Acts 21:10-13

PhileoSophia said...

This is really hit home for us... Wes, my husband, as he previously mentioned, spent time in Orissa in '96, and worked with Pastor Samuel Nayak.

I found this list of those who have been killed, as well as the churches that have been attacked.

http://www.theindiancatholic.com/report.asp?nid=11215

I also found this site which seems to be updated quite frequently:

http://orissaburning.blogspot.com/

Our prayers are with the Believers of Orissa. God bless you.

Christopher Lake said...

Pray *and* write e-mails and letters to the Indian officials whose addresses are listed at the bottom of this blog entry! If we have time to comment on blogs (as I obviously do), then we also have time to act on behalf our brothers and sisters in India.

JD Gunter said...

I'm a regular reader but have never commented here before. I thought I would paste a copy of the e-mail I wrote so anyone could easily copy it into their own e-mail:

Shri Amarananda Pattanayak, IPS
Director General of Police

It is with grave concern that I address you sir. I have recently become aware of the persecution suffered in your country by my fellow believers in Jesus Christ. It is the government's responsibility to protect the safety and peace of its citizens and yet little seems to have been done to protect these dear people. I request that you and your government take immediate action to prevent any further harm from coming to these churches and families. In the meantime, many thousands of Americans will hear of these dreadful circumstances.

Sincerely,

JD Gunter
Colorado Springs, Colorado
U.S.A.

Penn Tomassetti said...

I wrote an email to the police chief listed at the end of the post. I thought I'd let all know to encourage others to do likewise in a gracious manner.

Here is a portion of my short message:
"I am praying for the government officials and for you and the police in Orissa. Please know that true followers of Christ love you and desire your well-being."

Penn Tomassetti said...

I also included this Scripture in my email:

I want to encourage you to continue providing such needed help to my brothers and sisters in Christ with this saying from the words of the Almighty:

"God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
'How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.'"
(Psalm 82:1-4 English Standard Version of the Bible).

Carol Jean said...

I wonder if it would do any good to ask American companies that do business in India (for example, the companies that employ those help desk folks we talk to on the phone)to put pressure on the government to address the issue (Whew! That was an extreme run-on sentence!)

Amit said...

Thats interesting really. I wonder how a person born in Crsitian family and preached by cristian priests know so much about Hindu and Hinduism. Many of you will be surprised to know that cast system is not a part of Hindu Religion and govt and civil society are working hard to eradicate the menace (Even your enemy RSS is working for the same) and if preachers from your community keep doing the same they are doing right now (Spreding dis-information about Hinduism) I am affraid to say that acts are justified. One more thing....this is for the people who think Indian GDP is dependent on Call-center business, even if all US business pulls out of India we are strong enough to sustain ourselves. BPO and IT constitutes less than 1% of Indian economy and thsi sector is not dependent solely upon Italy and US

Mesa Mike said...

Amit writes:
> if preachers from your community
> keep ... [spreading
> dis-information about Hinduism],
> I am afraid to say that acts are
> justified.

What terrible oppression you, as a Hindu, must feel. I can't imagine living under a system where you have to be afraid of what you say, lest you be burned alive or drawn-and-quartered because someone with sufficient power has decided that you are spreading mis-information.

May the God of the Bible have Mercy on you and all the people of India.

Cindy said...

Oh my God, I'm reading this crying and then I get to the last comment and commenter "amit" says such acts are justified in the case of "spreading disinformation", now I'm crying more. How can such acts be justified for mere speech ever, amit? Why can't words be confronted with words and let people decide what they believe?

jim_l said...

Amit -

You (or anyone) may spread all the dis-information about Christianity that you care to, but that would not justify any harm done to you. It is sad and inconceivable that you would think that the mutiliating, burning, dismembering, and murdering of innocent people who live in India is somehow justified because of their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, they are no longer here or hiding in the jungles so they cannot answer your question on whether they were spreading dis-information. I don't understand how you can make such a callous observation and provide tacit approval to such heinous acts. I grieve for the persecuted families and for those whose minds that have been twisted and given themselves over to such evil as this.

Phil Johnson said...

Amit: "Many of you will be surprised to know that cast system is not a part of Hindu Religion and govt and civil society are working hard to eradicate the menace (Even your enemy RSS is working for the same)"

That's partly true, but deliberately misleading.

No one knows why or how the caste system originated. Perhaps there's an element of race (as distinguished from religion) involved in India's historic caste distinctions.

But the system is ancient, and has been interwoven into Hindu beliefs and culture as far back as it can be traced. Brahmins are a priestly caste, and Dalits were (and still are, in places) prohibited from most Hindu temples, because their presence supposedly pollutes the whole environment. So you can't really argue that the caste system "is not a part of Hindu religion." It has always been a factor in Hindui beliefs. That's a historic fact. Whether it's a necessary part of Hindu belief today is a matter of debate even among Hindus. However, none of that alters the basic point: the trouble in Orissa today stems from the fact that Hindu nationalists are angry that low-caste Hindus have converted to Christianity.

It may also be true that Christians and Muslims have sometimes maintained caste distinctions. (Christian missiologists: here is a classic example of how unguarded "contextualization" can be most harmful.) But the caste system precedes both Christianity and Islam by centuries and is not intrinsic in any of their teachings. In fact, the early Buddhists and Jains (and most of the original Christian missionaries in India) openly challenged caste restrictions and clashed severely with Hindus over that issue.

It is likewise true that there have been reform movements within Hinduism for the past few generations, seeking to do away with caste discrimination. On the other hand, many of those who have most fiercely argued in favor of continued discrimination against scheduled castes have been Hindu nationalists.

So while the case may not be as simple as the common terminology ("Hindu Caste System") might imply to a cursory reader, the facts are by no means as benign as your reply suggests.

More to the point is the easy and offhand way you justified the murders of Christians. That attitude is precisely what I'm suggesting is the heart of the trouble in Orissa. You've helped make my case, and for that I am grateful, but you need to repent of your murderous attitude.

And a genuine concern for your soul compels me to say that true and eternal forgiveness is available to you--as well as a cleansed heart--only in Jesus Christ.

Amit: "I wonder how a person born in Crsitian family and preached by cristian priests know so much about Hindu and Hinduism."

I became a Christian at age 17. I was not "born" into it; I was born again into it. My conversion was the turning point of my life, and it that's why it saddens me that some people think conversion is something bad.

Wes ("Theophilus") Walker said...

Amit:

It may seem strange to you, but someone who is a genuine Christian, and understands what it means to be a genuine Christian has no desire for someone to be "converted" (so-called) by force, trickery or deceit. Such a conversion is no conversion at all.

Anyone with a genuine interest in a fellow human's eternal well-being will be more interested in a genuine change of heart, with repentance of sin, and trust in Jesus' atoning sacrifice than merely adding to attendance rolls.

Trickery, deceit, force, coercion and any other means cannot force anyone to truly, and from the heart trust and believe. In fact, these methods run contrary to trust and belief, and undermine it.

The Apostle Paul, in our own Scriptures tells us:
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

Real trust in Jesus Christ, and repentance from sin is a gift that only God can give. It can't be forced or faked.

Nitin Joseph said...

Amit

(Even your enemy RSS is working for the same)

They are not our enemies. We love them and we love you.

Solameanie said...

Phil,

I mentioned your blog and used part of this in SGA's chapel service this morning. Thanks so much for drawing attention to this evil.

Would that the news media could pay attention.

Aji George said...

Amit says, "One more thing....this is for the people who think Indian GDP is dependent on Call-center business, even if all US business pulls out of India we are strong enough to sustain ourselves. BPO and IT constitutes less than 1% of Indian economy and thsi sector is not dependent solely upon Italy and US"

You are right the Indian GDP is not dependent on call centers or the economy depend on US. May be you should know the difference between the Hindus and Christians. We do not believe in violence nor do we teach violence. It is against our belief to kill people no matter what the cause maybe. I am Indian from birth and now I live in USA. Maybe Amit like the Hindus are destroying the churches and killing people, we should as a Christian nation; a nation that was found on Christian beliefs should not allow Hindus to come over here and build your temples or fund these terrorist. We could easily retaliate but we will not do that nor do we force convert people. Let me tell you brother one day will come when you and others like you who believe in killing innocent people have to answer to all the killings not to us or to any human being, but to one and only God, father of our Christ Jesus. For your own sake don't you think you should repent and ask for forgiveness? And Don't worry we wont destroy Hindu temples in USA or in any other Christian countries, we dont terrorize anyone and to prove that we are the same Christian who the Hindus are killing, a loving and forgiving people.