'Prayer for the Martyrs' Marks 10 Years Since Anti-Christian Massacre in India

Christians in India are launching a "prayer for the martyrs" in churches to mark 10 years since the biggest massacre of believers in the country in 300 years, when in 2008 nearly 100 Christians were killed in a riot where 6,000 homes were attacked by Hindus. 

The Indian Christian website Christian Persecution Update noted on Wednesday that the special prayer has been prepared in both English and Odiya, the state language of Odisha, also known as Orissa, which was the site of the anti-Christian violence 10 years ago.

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Nearly 100 Christians were killed when 300 churches and 6,000 homes were raided by Hindu radicals, leaving close to 56,000 believers homeless over several months of violence.

Christians in the state were accused of converting Hindus, a charge that hardliners keep using to justify violence against followers of Christ to this day.

Indian Christians have been demanding justice from the government for the massacre, and pressured authorities into reopening 315 cases of violence back in August 2016.

John Dayal, an Indian Catholic and former national president of the "All India Catholic Union," recalled at the time the horrors of the attacks: "In a wave of targeted violence against Dalits and tribal communities in Kandhamal district, Hindu fundamentalist militants penetrated inland, killing indiscriminately. They took advantage of the impunity guaranteed by the state and the possible complicity of the police and other government apparatus."

Fr. Joseph Kalathil, former vicar general of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, said recently that the victims were killed specifically for their faith in Jesus, which is why they are being designated in the prayer as martyrs.

"The victims of anti-Christian persecution of Kandhamal for the sake of faith in Christ manifest the supreme witness to the truth of the faith. It means bearing witness even unto death for Christ who died and rose," Kalathil explained.

He continued: "Praying for the martyrs' cause in every nook and corner of the diocese and Odisha definitely will increase our faith in Christ and respect and honor the victims. Their shining examples will inspire us to do the mission of Christ with dedication and commitment."

Christians in India continue to suffer through rising levels of persecution at the hands of Hindu radical attacks, often accusing the government of siding with the hardliners instead of protecting them.

India rose to No.11 on Open Doors USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith, with "religious nationalism" identified as the main cause for the oppression.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's annual Global Democracy Index released late last month also marked an alarming drop in human rights in India, with the country falling to No.42 on the list.

"The rise of conservative religious ideologies also affected India. The strengthening of right-wing Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country led to a rise of vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims, as well as other dissenting voices," the EIU warned in its report.

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