Aid Sent to Assist Covenant Refugees in India

Post a Comment » Written on January 25th, 2008     
Filed under: News
PUNE, INDIA (January 25, 2008) – Members of the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) are among the refugees living in camps established after Hindu extremists attacked their villages and destroyed churches in the Orissa region of India on Christmas Eve, says denomination Moderator Steven David. The moderator is equivalent to president.

The HCC has one large church in the area and is working in 20 villages where it has house churches and believers groups, according to David. “Some of their meeting places have been destroyed and some of the members have received injury due to mindless violence.”

A report by the All India Christian Council states that 95 churches were destroyed or vandalized and 730 homes were burnt. The International Federation of Free Evangelical Churches has reported that five people were killed with others missing and presumed dead.

“The situation is very tense at present,” David says. “People who have been affected by the violence are living in refugee camps. Some affected people are moving back to their villages after getting assurance from the police commissioner and district collector of their safety.”

For those who are returning, living conditions are even worse than when the violence began. “The people who have moved back to their villages are starving as there has been no provision of shelter or food or clothes.”

Covenant World Relief sent $5,000 today (Friday) to help with immediate relief, says Elliott Johnson, director of finance and controller for the ECC.

Orissa is located on the east coast of India and is considered one of the poorest regions in the country. Hindu extremists in the area have targeted Christians for years.

In 1999, Australian missionary Graham Steines along with his two sons – ages seven and nine – were burned alive in their Jeep while in Orissa. Steines had served lepers in the country for 30 years.

“Since then, the Christians are persecuted all over Orissa including the HCC,” David says. The persecution has been spread to other states of India, including Gujarat, Chattisgarah, Rajasthan and Madhy Pradesh, he adds.

“Our members in some of the village churches have suffered due to persecution and violence,” David says. “Some of the members have lost their houses and shops, and some of the members have lost their crops. Since they are poor Christians living in tribal areas and have no protection from the police and other law keeping authority, they are forced to live in fear.”

Christian groups have claimed police watched and did not try to stop the December attacks, which some suggest appeared to have been well coordinated.

Despite the attacks, “Christianity has taken deeper roots in Orissa and other parts of India,” David says. “Persecution has never deterred Christians from their faith and spreading the good news of God. People have become more strong in their faith.”

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