In India Hindus and Christians clash

A wave of violence between Hindus and Christians has struck the state of Orissa in eastern India. The AP provides some background:

Christians clashed with Hindu mobs who attacked churches, and eight people died in the violence in an eastern region known for deadly religious fighting.

Police imposed a curfew in the Kandhamal district of Orissa state after overnight attacks by hardline Hindus to avenge the killing of one of their leaders, whose death they blamed on Christian militants.

The violence comes after Hindu hard-liners set ablaze a Christian orphanage early Monday, killing a 21-year-old woman who was teaching children to use computers and seriously injuring a priest. The Vatican condemned the attack as “a sin against God and humanity.”

The latest violence was set off when unidentified assailants killed a Hindu religious leader, Swami Laxmmananada Saraswati, and four others. Police blamed Maoist rebels, but Subhash Chauhan, a World Hindu Organization leader, accused “Christian militants” in the death.

Relations among India’s religious minorities — such as Christians, who account for 2.5 percent of the country’s 1.1 billion people, and Muslims, who make up 14 percent — are usually peaceful.

However, Orissa has a long history of Hindu-Christian clashes, usually sparked by Hindu suspicions over missionary work.

Episcopal Life Online has more from Ecumenical News International.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, has issued the following statement:

There have been recent, alarming reports of violence against minority Christian groups living in Orissa, India. The news of churches being destroyed, orphanages set on fire, and Christians forced to flee for their lives are cause for great concern. We urge all Episcopalians to keep the Church of North India and particularly the Rt. Rev. Bijay Kumar Nayak, Bishop of Phulbani, in our prayers. In the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Here’s a Church Times report concerning the violence last Christmas.

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