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India’s Newest Martyrs, Christians Die for Their Faith in Troubled Orissa
ncr ^ | 9.23.08 | ANTO AKKARA

Posted on 03/02/2009 11:50:46 AM PST by Coleus

BHUBANESWAR, India — An armed Hindu mob landed at the doorstep of evangelists Samuel and Daniel Nayak on Aug. 25, with an ultimatum: Denounce the faith or die. “Do you want Christ or your life?” the mob leaders demanded of the Nayaks and five other members of the Nayak family. Unfazed, the brothers replied, “Christ is everything for us.”

Enraged, the Hindu fundamentalists hit two children in the house with iron rods, breaking their skulls. After pouring gasoline on the adults, the fanatics gave them “one more chance.” They stood firm and raised their hands in prayer. Within seconds, five adults were aflame. Foreseeing that they might try to escape, the mob had poured gasoline on the outside walls of the house. The house was set on fire, reducing all seven members of the family to ashes.

History is replete with accounts of how the early Christians were persecuted for their faith under the Roman Empire. Many Christians in the troubled Kandhamal district of eastern Orissa state are being subjected to similar persecution in the 21st century — in the largest democracy on earth. Rakesh Digal, a young Catholic working outside of Orissa, was on a vacation in his native Pupuria, a village near Udaigiri. When one of the roaming Hindu mobs spotted him, he tried to run away but was chased and caught. He was beaten and buried alive for refusing to renounce his faith.

When he asked why they were burying him alive, the Hindu assailants told him, “Jesus will save you.” According to numerous first-person accounts, these are not isolated horror stories from the jungles of the Kandhamal district, where Christians account for more than 100,000 out of a population of 500,000. Church workers have already documented as many as 28 murders of Christians, who have lost their lives for their faith. Unconfirmed figures are still higher.

Apart from this, more than 4,000 Christian houses, along with dozens of churches and Christian institutions, have been emptied and torched in troubled Kandhamal. Half of the Christians have been forced to flee their houses to jungles or refugee camps since late August.

The orgy of violence was let loose by Hindu fundamentalists after Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, senior leader of Hindu nationalist groups in Orissa, was shot dead, along with five of his junior monks, by Maoist rebels who stormed his base the night of Aug. 23. Even though the Maoists claimed responsibility, Hindu groups are convinced Saraswati’s murder was a Christian conspiracy, as the 85-year-old monk had carried out a vociferous campaign against conversion to Christianity in Kandhamal.

In fact, Christian targets across Kandhamal had been attacked last Christmas after an alleged altercation involving Saraswati’s motorcade took place at a Christian-majority village. “Christians are being hunted out now. If they don’t renounce their faith, their life is in danger,” Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, said in an interview in Mumbai Sept. 6.

Archbishop Cheenath rushed to Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai after three seriously injured priests from Orissa were airlifted to the hospital. “Now there is hardly anything [Church owned] left to be destroyed,” said Archbishop Cheenath. Kandhamal accounts for three-quarters of the 64,000 Catholics and 24 of the 34 parishes in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

Priests on the Run

Hindu fundamentalists are on the lookout for anyone wearing clerical clothing, and all the parish priests, along with dozens of religious, have been on the run. Father Prasanna Singh, vicar of St. Peter’s Church at Pobingia, who has been on the run since the night of Aug. 23, said that 34 of the 37 Catholic families in Pobingia have already undergone a forced conversion ceremony. “That was the only way for Christians to remain in the village,” said the priest, who keeps changing his residence in Bhubaneswar, which he reached after spending a week in the jungle. In many places, those Christians who have been forcibly converted are also asked to burn Bibles and join in torching churches or Christian houses to prove that they have forsaken Christianity, he added.

While Father Singh has been lucky to evade the wrath of the Hindu fundamentalists, Father Bernard Digal, procurator of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, remains under treatment at the Catholic hospital in Mumbai with fractured legs. Father Digal was severely beaten by Hindu fundamentalists and left to die in Kandhamal jungles on Aug. 26.

Father Digal had stopped for the night with his driver at the seva sadan (house of service) in Sankarakhol (about 150 miles from Bhubaneswar), where 73-year-old Father Cheralamkunnel Alexander was managing the parish, when the news of Saraswati’s murder came in.

He decided to stay with the elderly priest as the funeral procession of the slain swami traveled across Kandhamal for two days with a huge motorcade, and as Christians became apprehensive. As the huge procession passed by the afternoon of Aug. 25, local Catholics reported that the Hindu fundamentalists wanted to burn the church and nearby convent. But they decided to torch these targets after the funeral.

“First they burned the convent just after the nuns left,” Father Digal said. “Before they reached our place, we also fled.” The mob traced his van parked in a remote place and burned it while the priests and church workers fled into the jungles. “Father Alexander was finding it difficult to walk to the jungle, and so I thought of getting a [motor] bike to take him out of Kandhamal,” recalled Father Digal.

Since he was familiar with the area, Father Digal, along with his driver and a local youth, decided to walk 10 miles to Padhampada, the nearest house of a priest, where there was a bike.“From a distance, we could see the house was on fire, and so we moved to another Christian village,” Father Digal said. With all the houses burned down in the village, Father Digal and his companions moved on. Since it was dark, they decided to stop at a burned Protestant church at Dudurkagaon.

But they were found.

“I was sleeping inside a burnt [Protestant] church thinking nobody would come to the destroyed church. Then they came and started beating me up,” the 46-year-old priest recounted from his hospital bed. “I had dozed off when they came, and my companions woke me up,” he said. “I could not run fast and fell into their hands.”

With all his strength, Father Digal pushed the assailants off and ran for his life through the bushes in total darkness. But after a few hundred yards, the mob managed to catch him and bash him with iron bars, leaving the bleeding priest to die in the jungle at Dudurkagaon village.

With his legs shattered, Father Digal remained in the jungle, motionless the whole night of Aug. 26, while jackals, smelling his blood, howled around him. The following morning, a passing boy heard his cries for help and informed local villagers, who carried him some distance and called the police.

Three weeks later, Christians are still fleeing the villages for their lives, said Sudhanshu Nayak, general secretary of the YMCA in Bhubaneswar, which is now hosting 500 Christian refugees. (He is not related to the Nayak brothers who were killed in August.) More than 20,000 Christians have taken shelter in 14 refugee camps in Kandhamal.

With forcible conversion going on unabated in Kandhamal villages, Nayak said Sept. 18 that Christians who have not left their homes live in fear of the marauding fanatics who continue to attack Christian targets. Because the police took little action against Hindu fundamentalists who looted and torched dozens of churches and Christian institutions last Christmas, “there is an air of immunity, and they feel emboldened to do anything now,” noted Nayak, whose mother, two brothers and sister with two children have taken shelter in a refugee camp in Raikia town in Kandhamal.

As Nayak said, “Unless the government deals with these thugs sternly, our people can never return to their villages.” Anto Akkara is based in Bangalore, India

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: catholiclist; christians; hindu; india; martyrs; murder; persecution; religioustolerance; terrorism

1 posted on 03/02/2009 11:50:46 AM PST by Coleus
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To: Coleus
Our martyrs don't die in the process of taking the lives of others. Instead, we die for having introduced others to the only One Who can save a man's soul.

"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." - Matt. 10:28

2 posted on 03/02/2009 11:59:14 AM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: Coleus

And we think we have “a cross to bear.”

3 posted on 03/02/2009 11:59:26 AM PST by Mrs. Don-o (Lord have mercy (40x))
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To: Coleus

Wow. Coming soon to Amerika.

4 posted on 03/02/2009 12:00:54 PM PST by Sig Sauer P220 (There ought to be one day -- just one -- when there is open season on Senators --- Will Rogers)
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To: Sig Sauer P220

Christians in Amerika are armed. We shoot real bullets after we have turned the other cheek.

5 posted on 03/02/2009 12:06:59 PM PST by Blood of Tyrants (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. Margret Thatcher)
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To: anniegetyourgun

God will give you the strength to stand firm if it comes to denouncing him or death.

6 posted on 03/02/2009 12:07:51 PM PST by Blood of Tyrants (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. Margret Thatcher)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

As part of the spiritual resistance, I am ready for the power of His Grace. No king but King Jesus.

7 posted on 03/02/2009 12:11:22 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: Sig Sauer P220

Already been here.. but may come again..

a Huguenot congregation

8 posted on 03/02/2009 12:24:38 PM PST by triSranch (Live from the Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy)
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To: Coleus
  • REDIFF INTERVIEW: Tristan James Mabry


    I met the Archbishop of Orissa.

    Mar Cheenath?

    Yes. I did some research before I went to talk to him and realised that the struggle between the Kandas and the Panas is very old. And you have an element of the difference between a Scheduled Caste and a Scheduled Tribe, but you also have the difference between ethno-linguistic groups.

    So the Kandas and the Panas have been in ethnic conflict since before the foundation of India. You had a subordinate group, the Panas, who benefited from British rule -- and that's the same that happened with the Muslims in north India. They got a leg-up that they would not have without the British.

    But they (the British) always do that. Well, I'm a dual citizen with Ireland and see, they took a minority of the Protestants and they gave them power. But a minority that has power is yours. You own them. If you ever take away their power they are in deep trouble because they are a minority. So they gave the Panas authority, which really troubled the Kandas because they were of upper status. But the Panas got that power possibly because they converted to Christianity.

    Here we are 60 years later, and it is suddenly been redefined not as an ethnic conflict, but as a religious conflict between the Hindus and the Christians.

    I actually asked the archbishop, 'Look, this looks to me like a classic ethnic conflict, and it's been taken over by the Hindutva group to call it a religious conflict because it helps stir up passions and makes them the Hindutva group more prominent'.

    But the archbishop also has an interest, because of his position in the church, to call it a religious conflict. That way he can depend on support from Rome. So he's kind of playing into the Hindutva group's game a bit. Anyway, it's that kind of conflict which is the biggest threat to Indian civic national identity.

    But it is nowhere near as problematic as the same kind of issues in Pakistan.

9 posted on 03/02/2009 12:26:42 PM PST by MyTwoCopperCoins (I don't have a license to kill; I have a learner's permit.)
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To: Coleus; Squantos

The way I see it, I only got 4 cheeks, after that all bets are off.

10 posted on 03/02/2009 12:42:37 PM PST by TEXASPROUD
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To: Coleus
I read the other day of a "scholar" who claimed that the number of ancient martyrs was probably very small and that we probably know the names of most of them. That just doesn't fit with what we know of opposition to the Gospel in our present day. Millions have been martyred for Christ within our lifetime. Is our era alone really so unique with the waves of persecution and the atrocities going on in so many places? I doubt it, because human nature doesn't change.

May the love of those whose blood is shed reach the hearts of those who bear it on their hands, for in Christ alone is forgiveness and reconciliation with God for life eternal.

11 posted on 03/02/2009 12:44:54 PM PST by Liberty1970 (Democrats are not in control. God is. And Thank God for that!)
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To: Coleus
The trick is to make the other poor bastard die for his sins. A slight change to a quote from Gen. Patton
12 posted on 03/02/2009 1:18:43 PM PST by ANGGAPO (Leyte Gulf Beach Club)
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To: Liberty1970
“I read the other day of a “scholar” who claimed that the number of ancient martyrs was probably very small and that we probably know the names of most of them.”

That's stupid.

13 posted on 03/02/2009 2:30:22 PM PST by monday
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Yer better off than Eaker........:o)

14 posted on 03/02/2009 2:32:50 PM PST by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet)
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To: monday
That's stupid.

I'm convinced that you have to become an academic to reach maximum stupidity.

15 posted on 03/02/2009 5:12:10 PM PST by Liberty1970 (Democrats are not in control. God is. And Thank God for that!)
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To: Coleus

Seems like ‘em yindoos are learning from the muslims that violence and aggression pay. Its easy to parachute into Hindu land and preach to the Hindus that they’ll all burn in Hell. Can’t see the same happening in Muslim lands simply because the preachers would burn on earth before they got too far. And to preserve their majority, their numbers and their way of life, which, as far as I know, doesn’t deny anyone the right to heaven based on belief, but only of actions (’good karma’), seems like some yindus have learned the wrong lessons.

Even so it seems uncharacteristic of the yindoos to indulge in wanton mobbery. As a rule its difficult to organize them to get anything done for a Hindu cause, such are the divisions within their society.

Disclaimer: I’m an atheist. An agnostic at best. And their belief system has place even for folks like me. I wish the broader, peaceable Hindu community well.

16 posted on 03/03/2009 5:27:01 PM PST by voletti (There's no place, I can be, since I found, serenity.)
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To: NYer; narses


17 posted on 03/03/2009 5:33:31 PM PST by Coleus (Abortion, Euthanasia & FOCA - - don't Obama and the Democrats just kill ya!)
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To: voletti; MyTwoCopperCoins

The broader, Hindu community condemns this and the central govt did hang the guy who murdered a pastor some years ago. unfortunately, in poorer states, it seems to be fairly easy for a small group to use force and terrorise the majority (the majority being both Christians and hindus) — the state of Orissa is one of the most backward in India and the govt there doesn’t really control the countryside — Marxists run free there (incidently, the trigger that set this off was a Marxist group that murdered the Hindu religious leader, so perhaps this was a commie plot to set communal flames to lead into the peace of proletariat rule?)

18 posted on 03/05/2009 1:27:21 AM PST by Cronos (Ceterum censeo, Mecca et Medina delenda est)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
As the old saying goes, "put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry."
19 posted on 03/05/2009 1:43:30 AM PST by Stonewall Jackson (Put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry. - Oliver Cromwell)
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To: Stonewall Jackson

Unfortunately, the people of India were disarmed by the British decades ago and the governments ever since have liked it that way. Even Ghandi who said something to the effect of, “Of the greatest crimes committed on the people of India by the British, disarming them was one of the worst”, didn’t do much to try to revers the disarmament.

20 posted on 03/05/2009 6:13:31 AM PST by Blood of Tyrants (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. Margret Thatcher)
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