New Year’s Day Attacks On Christians In India
By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent
NEW DELHI/BHUBANESWAR (BosNewsLife)– There were new reports of attacks by suspected Hindu militants against Christians in India on New Year’s Day, shortly after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to protect the country’s minority Christians in a letter to the widow of an Australian missionary killed nine years ago.
Graham Staines and his two young sons were burned alive in January 1999 as they slept in their car in Orissa state by a right-wing Hindu mob who accused them of trying to convert the local population.
“The government will take all necessary steps to safeguard the fundamental rights and liberties of all sections of our society and protect their religious freedom,” Singh wrote to Gladys Staines, according to a statement from his office obtained by BosNewsLife. “We will not tolerate any efforts aimed at disturbing the communal harmony or secular fabric of our country,” the prime minister said.
It came as about 5,000 Christians in Orissa were believed to have become victims of week-long Hindu-led attacks, in which up to nine Christians died. Roughly 70 churches, other Christian institutions and many more homes were destroyed since the violence began December 24, with Hindu mobs disrupting Christmas celebrations in Orissa’s volatile Kandhamal District, church officials said.
Elsewhere, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, 30-year-old Pastor Krishnappa and several other Christians gathering at his church were attacked in the early hours of Tuesday, January 1, said Sajan J. George, president of advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) in a statement to BosNewsLife.
Two Christians, identified only as Anand, 29, and Raju, 28, were still in a “serious condition” following the attack by some 25 suspected Hindu militants on the Seventh Day Adventist’s prayer hall in the Basavanahally area of Karnataka’s Chickmaglur district, he said.
“The radicals entered the church with metal rods ,knives and started merciless to attack the  peaceful worshippers,” George added. Police officials have reportedly described the incident as a “minor skirmish,” but GCIC’s George said the tiny Christian community is “living in fear.”He said the New Year attack was the latest in some 100 violent incidents against Christians in Karnataka since January 2006. Police and local officials have been accused by human rights watchers and church leaders of not doing enough to stop violence against Christian believers.
In addition, the Christian Legal Association has said in published remarks that Hindu extremists in at least some cases cooperate with local police. In Karnataka’s capital, Bangalore, police reportedly arrested and harassed five Christian workers recently from the Indian Church of Christ after Hindu militants attacked the believers.
In Orissa state, where most of the violence against Christians occurred in recent days, church leaders and other officials have also complained about a lack of police protection. Police denied the charges, saying they have arrested suspects and stepped up patrols in several areas of the troubled region.
Yet, speaking to BosNewsLife, local Christians said they are concerned about a new outbreak of violence in Orissa, after a tense calm returned there Monday, December 31. A priest from Orissa’s Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese told BosNewslife: “You can’t trust police and government officials at all levels anymore.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fears of reprisals, the priest said he had lost all his belongings and money in the clashes which began in the town of Bamunigam. “I had gone there for Christmas…,” he added.
The priest said he never expected that the attacks “were so well planned by Hindu fanatics,” adding that “police inaction to protect Christians and church properties” were “clear signs” that the local government “subtly supported” the Hindu rampage.
He stressed there were concerns of more future attacks on the tiny Christian community of Orissa of roughly 900,000 people.
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