India: Christians Consider Self-Defense Against Violence

Wolfgang Polzer | Special to ASSIST News Service | Thursday, October 9, 2008

India: Christians Consider Self-Defense Against Violence

October 9, 2008

WETZLAR (ANS) -- Faced with continuing violence by Hindu extremists Christians in India are considering appropriate ways of self-defense.

Retaliation is, however, out of the question, as Rev. Pran R. Parichha, President of the Orissa Chapter of the All India Christian Council (AICC), explained to the German evangelical news agency “idea."

In the federal state of Orissa, where anti-Christian attacks continue, police and paramilitary security forces are not providing sufficient protection for the Christian minority, said Parichha during a visit to idea’s main office in Wetzlar, October 6. Christians were living in constant fear.

In defiance of curfews militant Hindus are carrying out further attacks, according to Parichha. He recalls one incident in a village, where Christians had defended themselves and one person was killed. Any form of self-defense had to be considered very carefully, emphasized Parichha.

On the other hand, Christians were wondering how long they could run away from the Hindu attacks and give up their homes and their belongings.

According to the AICC 59 Christians in Orissa and two in Uttarakhand have been killed in attacks by Hindu extremists. Among the casualties are at least seven members of the clergy. In Orissa alone, 300 churches and 6,000 houses of Christians in 300 villages were attacked and destroyed, according to Parichha.

Approximately 50,000 Christians have been displaced; 24,000 are living in emergency camps. But even there they are not safe. Three bomb attacks have been carried out against camps, said Parichha.

Hindu extremists are trying to convert Christians to Hinduism by force. This is against Orissa’s anti-conversion laws, said Parichha. Nonetheless, the state government had ordered police to “go slow” against Hindu violence.

Confronted with the apparent inability of the government to safeguard the lives of Christian citizens, the AICC is calling for an emergency measure. Under the so-called President’s Rule Orissa would be governed directly by the India’s President.

Orissa has 37 million citizens; three percent are Christians. India as a whole has 1.1 billion inhabitants. Of these, 82 percent are Hindus, 12 percent Muslims and three percent Christians.

The recent unrest started in Orissa after the assassination of the Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, August 23. Although an extremist Maoist group has taken responsibility for the murder, Hindu militants are still blaming Christians. Saraswati, local leader of the radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), masterminded anti-Christian attacks for the last 40 years, said Parichha.

The violence against Christian minorities has spread from Orissa to other Indian states such as Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh. Parichha called on Christians around the globe to pray for God’s intervention. They should also ask their respective governments to urge the Indian government to safeguard human rights and religious freedom.

Christian in India were seeking dialog with the government, political parties, civil and human rights groups as well as tribal Hindu leaders. The displaced Christians needed more than material help like clothes, food and medicine; they also needed spiritual counseling.

Their future is completely uncertain, according to Parichha. After a bout of Hindu violence last Christmas, they had just rebuilt their houses, when the new attacks began. They were asking themselves, how long they could run away without defending themselves.

Parichha is also the founder and director of the India Evangelistic Association and a partner of the Swiss-German ministry Inter-Mission.

Copyright 2008 ASSIST News Service