One Year Later: Orissa Churches Bouncing Back

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One year ago this week, Christians in India suffered some of the worst persecution ever seen in that nation.

Yet, the attacks that destroyed hundreds of churches and affected thousands of lives have not stopped the church.

Last summer, widespread and unprecedented mob violence against Christians erupted in Orissa state following the assassination of World Hindu Council leader Swami Saraswati.

Although Maoists claimed responsibility for the leader's murder, Hindu militants continued to use it as a pretext to attack Christians throughout the state, burning more than 2,000 Christians' homes, shops and hundreds of churches.

The initial attacks lasted for weeks leaving dozens dead, the majority were burned alive, and more than 100,000 fled their homes, many are still not able to return home and are living in tents

Rev. Sudharkar Mondithoka is a Christian leader from the neighbouring state of Andhra  Pradesh and works with persecuted Christians in India.  He says the reason for the attacks on the followers of Christ in Orissa and in other parts of the country is two-fold.

Another reason for the increased  violence against Christians in Orissa and in other parts of India is the growth of the church especially among the Dalits, the so-called untouchables.

Orissa is one of seven states in India with an anti-conversation law.

There are many legal hurdles set up to discourage Hindus to convert to Christianity and curtail the growth of the church.  Often converts are imprisoned, beaten driving from their home and in some cases killed.  Others return to Hindusim for fear of further attacks against them and receive immediate help.

Sudharkar and Shanti give leadership to the Hyderabad Institute of Theology and Apologetics. A part of their ministry is teaching Christian leaders to understand the biblical theology of persecution using the book "In the Shadow of the Cross" by The Voice of the Martyrs CEO Glenn Penner.

Even though recent elections have put more secular politicians into the State government in Orissa, Rev. Sudharkar doesn't expect the attacks against Christians to end anytime soon.

In the meantime, helping the tens of thousands Christians displaced by the violence has to be a priority.

In spite of all the violence directed towards Christians in Orissa, with the loss of life and property there have been some positives coming out of all this.

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Greg Musselman

Greg Musselman

Voice of the Martyrs

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