India Violence Spreads Despite Christian Protests

Anti-Christian violence in India continues unabated despite escalating calls for the central government to intervene and stop the attacks on Christians.

In Orissa state, atrocities against Christians still rages on after more than a month as anti-Christian sentiments spread to other Indian states in recent weeks.

In response, Indian faith leaders as well as politicians have joined together for several rallies to protest the persecution of minority Christians.

This week, a five-day rally is being held in New Delhi to protest the violence. The event, called a dharna, is an Indian method of seeking justice. Traditionally, justice-seekers sit at the door of their debtor or wrongdoer and fast until justice is obtained.

The dharna – which has attracted the participation of heads of churches, ministries and Christian institutions - began Sunday and will conclude Thursday on Mahatma Ghandis' birthday, when a peace march ends at the Raj Ghat, Ghandi's cremation site.

"I believe the Lord is going to use this event," said Gospel for Asia president Dr. K.P. Yohannan, "and I have instructed our leaders all over India to seek out other Christian leaders and meet with them and stand with them in this time of persecution."

"But sadly," Yohannan also noted, "even as the dharna is going on, the situation in Orissa continues to get worse. But little is being reported to the outside world now because the media is being kept out, even as entire villages are being destroyed."

Yohannan shared that radical Hindu groups are using Hindu flags to mark Hindu homes in Orissa. They are also going to Christian homes and warning families that they have so many days to convert or their homes will be destroyed.

"When the Christians refuse to renounce their faith, the Hindus go through and tear down their houses," the GFA president said.

One of the "worst things" that Yohannan has heard, he said, was that police were harassing the people in refugee camps and trying to force them back to their village where they will be attacked and possibly killed.

"I just have one thing to say to the Christians in the West: Keep on praying!" Yohannan urged.

Meanwhile, Washington-based human rights group, International Christian Concern, reported that its representatives visiting Orissa discovered that the violence will soon be packaged as "ethnic conflict" so that radical Hindu groups can avoid responsibility.

The ICC investigators, who interviewed Indian Christians in relief camps, also found that:

• All Christian denominations have been affected (Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, etc.) • One Christians man lost his brother when Hindu extremists poured gasoline on his brother and lit him on fire in front of his eyes • In just one district of Orissa, Kandhamal, 50 Christians were murdered (including pastors and evangelists), 6,000 Christians have had their homes burned down, and 300 churches were destroyed.

"I pray that this dharna, along with the prayers of Christians around the world, will have an effect on the government," Yohannan declared.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) last Friday introduced a bipartisan resolution to condemn religious violence in India and to call the Indian government to respond immediately.

Religious freedom groups hope that the U.S. Congress will quickly approve the resolution and press the Indian government to do more to stop the violence.

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