Persecution against Christians abroad is a topic that often escapes notice in the American press. Since 9/11 public awareness of Muslim violence against Christians has increased, but scandalously scant attention has been paid to the increasingly brutal attacks against Christians perpetrated by Hindus in India, a country that has long offered religious and cultural freedom to minorities -- Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
Relations are usually peaceful between Christians, who make up 2.4 percent of India's 1.1 billion people, and Hindus, who account for more than 80 percent. Over the past five months, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The All India Christian Council estimates that since August 2008, 100 Christians have been killed (some horrifically), 18,000 wounded, 100,000 driven from their homes, 180 churches torched and razed to the ground, and 4,500 homes, 13 schools, and at least one convent and one orphanage destroyed in the Indian state of Orissa, where the vast majority of the violence has taken place. Amazingly, most Westerners are still wholly unaware of this ongoing anti-Christian pogrom that shows no signs of abating.
The current wave of deadly assaults was precipitated by the murder of political leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his religious associates in Orissa on August 23. Saraswati notably opposed conversions to Christianity. Even though a group of Maoist rebels has repeatedly taken responsibility for the killings, the Hindus blame the assassination on Christians, in effect giving radicals an excuse to rampage. The first target of their attacks: a Catholic-run orphanage, which they burned to the ground.
Rather than lessening in intensity with time, the sporadic attacks have become more frequent and methodical, with Hindu radicals systematically attacking Christians even in refugee camps, often with active cooperation from local police and the complicity of public officials. Their objective: to prevent Christians from praying, to intimidate or kill Hindu converts to Christianity, and to take over land where churches and Christian homes once stood. From all appearances, the ultimate goal seems to be to uproot Christianity from Orissa and to wipe away all vestiges of the Christian faith.
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