International Christian Concern (ICC) and
India's Christian community are marking the ninth anniversary of the
2008 anti-Christian Orissa riots, widely considered to be the worst
incident of Christian persecution in India's independent history.
Despite the passage of nine years, the lives of many Christians affected
by the violence remain shattered by fear and injustice.
On August 24, 2008, anti-Christian mob violence swept across the
Kandhamal District of India's Odisha State, then known as Orissa, after
Christians were wrongly blamed for the assassination of Vishwa Hindu
Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati.
After three months of violence, at
least 91 Christians were killed, many hacked to death by axes and
machetes, and at least three Christian women were gang raped.
Additionally, nearly 56,000 people were displaced, forced to flee into
the forests, as mobs burned down more than 5,600 houses, 300 churches,
and other Christian institutions.
"We are still in terror, not feeling safe," Pastor Pradeep Nayak, a
Christian survivor of the 2008 violence, told ICC. "At every corner of
the market we feel something is going against Christians."
"It was [the] most terrifying day of my life," Pastor Raj Kishore, a
Christian who survived the violence, told ICC. "I saw big flames and
thick smoke coming out of a neighboring village. We had to run away
knowing that the next target [was] our village. We walked 40 kilometers
through the thickest forest in the dark night with my 20-days-old son
and my wife to reach a town nearby."
"Kandhamal is peaceful, but there is no peace in Kandhamal," Suranjan
Nayak, General Secretary of the Christian Jankalyan Samiti Kandhamal,
told ICC. "On the date Lakshmanananda was assassinated, all the churches
were provided with security. This means there is still a threat to
Many Christians displaced by the violence have been unable to return to
their home villages due to threats and a lack of government assistance.
"So many people are not able to return to their own homes as they are
not able to build back their houses," Suranjan Nayak explains. "During
the government survey, many were still away from their villages and were
not recorded, hence they were not able to get government compensation to
reconstruct their houses."
William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager, said, "It has been nine years
since Christians in India experienced the worst anti-Christian violence
the country has seen in its independent history. Many of the victims of
this terrible violence have yet to receive justice due to discrimination
and poor police work following the riots. In many cases, Christians
driven from their homes by mobs in 2008 are still unable to return to
their villages unless they agree to convert to Hinduism. The Indian
government must do more to provide justice to these victims and must
take greater steps to rebuild the lives that were devastated by this
violence nine years ago."
Courtesy: International Christian Concern. To read more Christian
persecution news, visit www.persecution.org