Generous Orthodoxy  

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Christians vs. Hindus

The excellent reporter Somini Sengupta files this story today from New Delhi:
The remote, destitute state of Orissa, marred for years by Hindu-versus-Christian violence, erupted in a retaliatory killing on Monday after the murder of a Hindu leader led a mob to burn small Christian churches, prayer halls and an orphanage that had housed 21 children.

The police said a woman’s body, charred beyond recognition, was found inside the church orphanage. The church’s pastor, whom the police did not identify and who was injured in the fire, told the authorities that the body was that of a nun working there. No children were injured.

The attack on the orphanage on Monday, in an isolated district called Bargarh, came after the killing Saturday of a Hindu leader who had been associated with the World Hindu Council, and who was leading a drive to wean local villagers from Christianity. Radical Hindu groups like the council are vehemently opposed to conversions to Christianity, which in India tend to focus on traditionally downtrodden lower-caste and indigenous groups, and have lately taken to conducting mass ceremonies to convert them back to Hinduism.

The Hindu leader who was killed, Laxmanananda Saraswati, was among five people slain by unidentified armed men who stormed a Hindu school in the nearby district of Kandhamal. The police blamed Maoist insurgents who prevail in the area. Mr. Saraswati’s followers, however, blamed Christians...

The Press Trust of India reported that Hindu activists, defying an official curfew in the area, paraded through the streets, attacking Christian churches and homes.

Fights broke out in Orissa last Christmas Eve, when one person was killed and churches and temples were damaged. In 1999, a Hindu mob burned an Australian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two children while they slept inside their car. A Hindu has been sentenced to life imprisonment in their deaths. Eleven others who had been convicted were freed by an appeals court in 2005 because of insufficient evidence. Mr. Staines ran a hospital and clinics for leprosy patients.

I remember well the killing of Graham Staines, how the leprosy patients wept for him, and how his wife wanted to continue his work. Ms. Sengupta has not forgotten him. May the Lord continue to show forth his love for "the traditionally downtrodden lower-caste groups" (the Dalits, formerly known as the Untouchables) in India and everywhere, so that our faith might be known in the world for what it really is, not for ugly divisions and imperialist rhetoric.