Orissa Christians Requesting Scripture Over Food, Says Ministry

More than food and water, victims of the anti-Christian violence in Orissa, India, are requesting God's Word, says a Christian ministry.

Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM) reported, "Some of the most oppressed Christians in these states began to write to us. They did not write us to ask for food or money. They wrote because they wanted God's Word. They wanted to hear God speak to them at a time like this. It was astounding."

"People had lost everything, and yet the main thing they craved in this time of need was God's Word! Our Indian offices were swamped with requests for Scripture, mostly in languages that we haven't seen much demand for in recent years."

The ministry plans to send thousands of audio Bibles to families in the volatile state of Orissa. Previously, there were only 700 audio Bibles in India, the ministry reported.

"They realize that if there's going to be any joy in anything that comes into their lives, it will come through God's Word," ASM executive director Tom Dudenhofer said.

"That really gets us excited, to see the power of God's Word demonstrated in the requests of these believers...who want to listen to God's Word right in the middle of these tough times," he added.

Hindu campaigns against Christians began last August after the assassination of a Hindu fundamentalist leader in Orissa. His followers accused Christians of being the masterminds behind the murder and maintained this position despite a public statement by Maoist rebels claiming responsibility for the Hindu leader's death.

At least 60 Christians have been killed, 18,000 wounded, 181 churches razed or destroyed, 4,500 Christian homes burned, and more than 50,000 Christians displaced.

According to ASM, most of the victims are unable to read the word of God, and therefore need audio Scriptures which can serve as encouragement and hope in devastating times.

The ministry is wary that distributing materials can incite violence from Hindu fanatics. To counter this, the ASM teams will approach local churches that will "discreetly handle all the details that are involved in this process."

Additionally, the ASM will also charge a small fee for the audio players, which Dudenhofer says might seem harsh, but is another form of defense. If the players are free, Hindu radicals might accuse people of converting to Christianity.

Dudenhofer believes this provides them with a sense of "personal ownership."

"It also demonstrates that they are investing their own money into this, that nobody is bribing them," he said.

There are still over 3,000 Christians in Kandhamal relief camps where the living conditions are said to be very appalling. Some have also complained of being constantly intimidated by Hindu extremists who demand their conversion to Hinduism.