Persecution of Hindustani Covenant Church Continues

Post a Comment » Written on October 20th, 2008     
Filed under: News
BHUBANESHWAR, INDIA (October 20, 2008) – Members of the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) continue to be victims of deadly violence by Hindu extremists directed at Christians in the Orissa region, writes Moderator Steven David in an email. The moderator is similar in position to the president of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The violence erupted in August following the murder of a local leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a nationalist Hindu organization. The VHP initially blamed Christians, but the India government says a Maoist organization probably was responsible.

Food centerThis is the second time in less than a year that the VHP has led attacks on Christians in the region. Last December, Hindus destroyed 95 churches and killed at least five Christians, according to news reports.

“The situation of Christians in Orissa is still grim,” David writes. “Worse is the situation of the Christians in Kandhamal (a district of Orissa) as communal tension still exists there.”

Hindustani Covenant Church pastor Akbar Digal was killed recently when Hindu extremists slit his throat, David writes. Other church members have been attacked and had their homes and businesses destroyed.

The shop of Iswar Digal was destroyed, David reports. “He resisted for some time, but it did not help.”

After demolishing his business, the group rushed toward his house. “He pleaded with them not to destroy his house since they already destroyed his shop, but the group did not listen to him and burned his house too,” David writes. “They hit him ruthlessly and left him unconscious.”

The attackers also have assaulted women. The wife of Raghab Digal was at home with her three-month-old child when a group attacked her during the night, according to David.

She fled to the forest carrying her child, but was forced to return to the village because she encountered a tiger. “She prayed earnestly so that she and her child could be saved,” David says.

“The refugees are living in fear and have no desire to go back to their villages.”

Mr. Raghab returned the next day from the city of Cuttack, where he had sought work, and “somehow managed to come to Bhubaneshwar with his family,” David writes. They have sought shelter in a relief camp.

David says the family has no idea how long they will have to remain in the camp. If they return to the village, they will be forced to reconvert to Hinduism.

“Many Christians of Kandhamal area have left the district and scattered to other districts in Orissa,” David says. Some of them have fled to the capital city of Orissa. Many left home with just one set of clothes because their houses and household goods had been destroyed.

Others are taking refuge in relief camps or with relatives, David says. They also are staying in buildings that are partially constructed or under construction.

Neither food nor jobs are available for a lot of the refugees, David adds. Mothers struggle to nurse their children.

“The refugees are living in fear and have no desire to go back to their villages at present,” David says.

In cooperation with the Assembly of God church in Bhubaneshwar and another church in Balangir, the HCC is providing financial support to the victims. In both areas, roughly 300 people have sought relief from the persecution, David says. The accompanying photo shows some of the refugees being served at one of the special food centers.

“There was definitely a smile in their face, and it (has) arisen a new hope in them,” David reports.

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