There have been violent communal attacks by “fundamentalist Hindus” against Christians in Orissa, India. At least 100 have been killed since last week. Some 10,000 Christians are in shelter camps set up by the government and just as many are taking refuge in forests to escape the violence of Hindu fundamentalist gangs. On August 29 45,000 Catholic schools, institutes and colleges all over India shut their doors in protest against the series of violent attacks against Christians in Orissa.
Zenit reported that Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Ankamaly and president of the episcopal conference of India (equivalent to our CBCP), called for the protest as a way to voice concern against the attacks. Christians, Zenit said, have been on the receiving end of numerous acts of violence in Orissa after a Hindu political leader Swami Laxmananada Saraswati and several of his companions were killed on Saturday August 23. Christians were blamed for killing the Hindu leader.
On August 29, the episcopal conference of India had put the number of deaths at 26. But violence continued (and still does), the latest count by Christian news sources is 100 dead. On September 1, Dr. Sajan George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said: “We have received authentic information that the death toll is 100 and more butchered bodies and burnt corpes are being found.” He is calling for the resignation of the entire state government of Orissa, which is incapable of stopping the massacres against the Christian community. He added, “In Bakingia, two families of seven Christians – Daniel Naik and Michael Naik and their families – were tortured and killed, their bodies were found with their heads pulped and smashed, they were recognized by their clothes. Bakingia is about 8 kilometers from Raikia police station.” Anti-Christian attacks have continued outside Orissa. In Madhya Pradesh state, fanatics attacked five schools and a church—in retaliation against the closing of the buildings. The attacks took place in the districts of Gwaliar (three schools and a church) and Barwani (two schools). Swift intervention of the police stopped the Hindu mobs from causing worse injuries to victims and damage to the buildings.
The Indian bishop of Vasai, Thomas Dabre, a member of the pontifical council for interre ligious dialogue, described the schools in his diocese to be in “total paralysis.” “Thousands of young people,” the prelate said according to GCIC, “ended their march in front of the buildings of the bishop’s residence. I told them to promote interre ligious dialogue, and to and trust themselves completely to the protection of the Virgin Mary.”
In our commitment to Mission ad Gentes, what is your take on this?