"Young and healthy Christians have left their villages to flee for their lives."
-- John Dayal, Christian leader in India
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Hindu extremists in India's Orissa state killed six Christians, burned 400 homes and destroyed 60 church buildings during the Christmas holy days, according to a report from the All India Christian Council. An estimated 600 Christians took refuge in a church building after extremists tried to attack their village.
"Young and healthy Christians have left their villages to flee for their lives. Children, women, [the] old and sick, who could not flee for their lives, are in great danger," John Dayal, the council’s secretary general, told International Christian Concern, a human rights group based in Washington, D.C. "Remnants are starving for the last four days, and sick are suffering without medical attention."
Christians are being forced to convert to Hinduism in order to get food, medical attention and shelter, Dayal said.
Hundreds of Christians fled to government-run relief camps, where authorities were providing food, medicine and security, the Associated Press reported. Police officers were dispatched and curfews announced in an effort to stop the violence.
Although India's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Hindu nationalists often persecute the country's Muslim and Christian minorities, especially if they believe efforts are being made to persuade tribal minorities to change their religion. Orissa state requires people to obtain police permission before changing their religion. Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were martyred in Orissa in 1999. Read More