The names have been taken out, to protect their privacy. The pastors on our conference received these letters to encourage our continued prayer. There were topics I’d love to blog about: movies I’ve seen that bring up relevant issues (even with only a 1.5 family friendly rating?), things I’d like to say to my teenagers that a youth pastor probably shouldn’t say (cause they might not like me), etc. But this seemed a heck of a lot more important…
Dear Friends of India,
I just arrived back in Hyderabad safely. I was able to visit the riot-torn district of Kandhamal in Orissa and meeting with our church members. Kandhamal still shivers with the fear of new attacks. The tragedy has been unprecedented. Thousands have fled into the forests and famished, some times filling their stomach with roots and leaves. People had even licked the dew drops deposited in the leaves to quench their thirst . 925 of our church members including 210 children in 1-12 years have been rendered homeless.
20 of our church buildings have been broken down. Wherever the Hindu extremists could not fully demolish the building, they indulged in desecrating the cross, burning down the furniture, doors and windows, musical instruments, Bibles and books and whatever they could access in the premises.
Here is a couple of testimonies:
Age: About 58
“24 December 2007. About 10 in the night, hundreds of Sangh Activists attacked our villages armed with chains, swords and axes. They started setting the houses on fire. Everybody ran away into the jungle. I too started running but I was late to leave the village. They chased me and hit me with chains. I fell down. One of them put the sword on my throat and demanded that I recant my faith in Jesus. Others kept shouted: “Kill him, kill him if he did not renounce Christ.”
“Kill me if you wanted but I would not renounce Jesus.” I closed my eyes anticipating the sword to run into my throat. They left me almost dead, burnt my house, looted everything as I watched helplessly. In the darkness of the night I limped my way into the jungle and spent 4 days there in hunger and thirst before I reached our Relief Camp in Raikia.
Our Superintendent Prakash wanted me to file an FIR at the local police station but the sub-inspector refused to accept it. Therefore we went to the Sub-collector of Kandhamal and submitted the FIR at his office.
Age: About 40 yrs
December 28, 2007. Hundreds of RSS activists attacked our village. They had already burnt many villages in the vicinity. Before we could run, they caught 13 of us and demanded that we convert to Hinduism. They led us to the temple at Patakhanada and broke cocoanuts and sacrificed goats before the presiding deity. They called for a village magician, Kameswar Digal, to tonsure our heads by force as a part of the ritual to convert us to Hinduism and gave water mixed with cow-dung to drink at gunpoint. After this they forced us to leave the village at once. Jungle became our home for 3 days and 3 night before our Superintendent Prakash picked us from Balliguda to come to the relief camp set up at Raikia.
On my way to Kandhamal, I participated in a rally in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, demanding Government action to stop voilence against Christians. Organized by All India Christian Council, it had the support of the non-Christian dalits too. Nearly 10,000 people marched from railways station to the state assembly. This was the first ever rally organized in the state capital for the protection of Christians.
Thank you very much for your prayers and support.
It’s eye-opening, if anything. This still happens. In places that have websites dedicated to tourism, even. Probably my own ignorance that I forget things like this are taking place, even in this moment.