Blessed are the peacemakers.
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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptists and other Christians in an overwhelmingly Hindu state in India fell victim to significant violence during the Christmas holiday, according to Baptist World Alliance officials.
Attacks began Dec. 23 in the state of Orissa, in northeastern India. That day, “50 to 70 Hindu radicals pulled out Pastor Junas Digal from a parked bus, paraded him on the road, all the way beating him with sticks and hands, and finally shaved his head to claim him a Hindu,” said Swarupananda Patra, general secretary of the All Orissa Baptist Churches Federation.
Patra also reported that on Christmas Eve, in the Christian-dominated town of Brahmanigaon, two Christians were shot and injured, many shops operated by Christians were destroyed, 20 churches were damaged, and three churches were razed.
A statement from the Evangelical Fellowship of India said Hindu militants attacked and set fire to at least 400 homes owned by Christians in the town, as well as six churches.
The attacks continued for several days in other parts of Orissa, leaving as many as 5,000 Christians homeless, according to Patra. He and other Christian leaders in the region accused a radical Hindu party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the World Hindu Council, of encouraging the attacks.
“Orissa is a place where a Baptist community of about 500,000 live, and most of them are in these areas where persecution is most intense,” wrote Bonny Resu, general secretary of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, in a Jan. 3 e-mail to his fellow BWA officials. “They are also among the poorest of the poor of India, which is why they are often voiceless.” Resu is a native of the nearby Indian state of Nagaland.
While Orissa has one of India’s largest Baptist communities, they comprise a small percentage of the state’s overall population of more than 30 million. The vast majority of Orissa residents are Hindu.
“If at all possible, a word of concern needs to be lodged at the international [level] to urge the government of India to do more to safeguard its religious minorities … who have become increasingly targeted and to ensure freedom of religion as enshrined in its constitution,” Resu wrote. “As the most populous democracy of the world, India owes it to the international community to show an example.”
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