Hindustani Church Leader Requests Prayers for Peace

Post a Comment » Written on December 8th, 2008     
Filed under: News
PUNE, INDIA (December 8, 2008) – The moderator of the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) is asking people to pray “so that peace may prevail in our country” following terrorist violence that has stoked anger within India.

The HCC central offices are located near Mumbai, but Steven David says no members of the denomination’s churches were wounded in the attacks that killed nearly 180 people.

David also expressed concern Friday about two other crises threatening his country – religious persecution and continued suffering in the wake of flooding that displaced millions of people.

Hindustani extremists who have twice inflicted violence on Christians in the Orrisa region of the country since last December are threatening actions that could lead to more persecution, David says. “In many major cities there have been meetings and rallies being organized by the fundamentalists, which indicate that there are chances again to persecute Christians in a major way,” he reports.

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. Acts that included the killing of one HCC pastor brought worldwide condemnation.

Last December, the VHP led attacks on Christians in the region, destroying 95 churches and killing at least five Christians, according to news reports.

SharingAlthough the intensity of the violence has subsided, the threat continues. “Christians living in villages, which were not affected in the past, are living in traumatic conditions because they have been informed that it can be their turn in the coming days to face persecution.”

Most of the people who fled the violence have not returned to their native villages, David says. “Even now they have been asked to renounce their faith, if they choose to return to their village.” Two HCC prayer groups have not been able to worship regularly and openly, he adds.

Some HCC members who returned have struggled. “Children are not being able to go to school regularly since they are harassed by other students and teachers in the school,” David said. “Since their houses have been burned and household goods have been destroyed, Christians are finding it really hard to return to normalcy.”

The HCC continues to bring relief to villagers who were displaced by floods in the state of Bihar earlier this year. Flooding left more than three million people homeless in the northern part of Bihar. For a previous story on the flooding and HCC response, click here.

“The condition of the flood-affected people is becoming more miserable as all the relief camps have been closed down and people are forced to return to their villages,” David said. Other villages still remain surrounded by water.

KidsHealth threats continue to increase. Disease has spread where domestic animals have died and are polluting the water in areas where it has not receded, David said.

The flooding has overwhelmed local economies, making recovery difficult. “The major crops such as rice and wheat were completely destroyed during the flood,” David said.
Further worsening the situation, many fields are filled with sand and will not be usable for agriculture in the foreseeable future. Unemployment has increased even as the waters have receded.

David said people in the area are requesting support that includes:
•    Sewing machines for women’s self-help groups so that they can earn income for their families
•    Job training to produce candles and incense sticks that families can sell at market
•    Construction of houses to replace the homes destroyed in the flood
•    Continued medical support
•    Continued psycho-social care and counseling
•    Educational materials for children

The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), through Covenant World Relief and others, has continued to provide funds to the HCC to help with relief and development. Click here to learn more about a special India Flood Relief Fund

Editor’s note: the top photo was taken in one of the sewing centers made possible by Evangelical Covenant Church support, where women learn sewing skills to help produce family income; the woman in the center photo is describing persecution at the hands of extremists; and the lower photo shows children in one of the many flooded areas in India.

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