Friday, January 25, 2008

The Christians face death threats in India

In the world's largest democracy. From this week's Tablet
Christians rebuilding their lives after last month's campaign of religious violence in Orissa are being ordered to convert to Hinduism, leave the area or die, according to a Catholic archbishop, writes Anto Akkara.

'The situation is getting really bad,'Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar said by telephone from his office in Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state. 'Many Christians and their families are being singled out and threatened these days. ‘If you want to live here, be Hindus or get out of here. Otherwise, we will kill you,' is what they are being told,' Archbishop Cheenath said.

Thousands of Christians fled their homes and four Christians were killed in almost two weeks of violent attacks. Dozens of churches and institutions and around 600 homes were looted and burned. The Catholic Church bore the brunt of the violence, losing 55 village churches, five convents, three presbyteries, six hostels, two seminaries and a dispensary.

Christians make up a fifth of the 500,000-population of Kandhamal district, and half the Christians are Catholic. But the archbishop said the state officials and police repeatedly advised him not to visit his troubled pastoral area, because the situation was 'volatile'. Earlier this month Archbishop Cheenath said officials had denied churchgoers permission to take aid to people who had taken shelter in the jungle. Churches made.

1 comment:

Mac said...

We've been hearing of this in Orissa for years. (Some time ago a family of Australian missionaries in Orissa were incinerated in their car, you may recall -- or perhaps it didn't get the coverage internationally that it got here in Australia.) But what is the background? Why are the Hindus of Orissa in particular so incensed at the presence of autochthonous Christians? There have to be other issues at play than purely religious ones -- the issue of Harijans casting off their caste status by becoming Christians and that being an affront to caste Hindus, for example. But why especially in Orissa? Any insights? It's particularly odd when Orissa is immediately adjacent to Tamil Nadu with its disproportionately vast population of Christians, and all of them relatively recent converts from Hinduism, within the past, say, 150 years or so, and where Christians don't seem to have a particularly bad time of it.