By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife Correspondents
BHUBANESWAR, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Two persons, including a woman, were burned to death, a pastor critically injured and at least a dozen churches torched as anti Christian violence rocked the Indian state of Orissa, officials confirmed Tuesday, August 26.
Orissa's Home Secretary Tarunkanti Mishra told reporters he had received information about the two casualties, as an investigation continued. Earlier on Monday, August 25, news emerged that a nun was raped, a priest beaten and several other Christians missing or injured in the violence.
Monday's violence erupted after a protest against the killing over the weekend of Laxmanananda Saraswati, a leader of the hard-line Hindu organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and at least four of his associates. It was not clear who was responsible for the murders, but militants blamed Christians for the attacks.
A woman, who was not immediately identified, was reportedly burned to death when suspected Hindu militants torched an orphanage run by a Christian organisation at the town of Phutpali in Bargarh District. Twenty children, who were at the orphanage, managed to escape but a pastor suffered serious burn injuries in the attack, BosNewsLife learned.
BURNED TO DEATH
Another person, identified as Rasananda Pradhan, was burned to death when his house was set ablaze at Rupa village in Kandhamal district where the VHP leader was gunned down along with four others on Saturday night, August 24, officials and church sources said.
Churches were reportedly also attacked in the areas of Khurda, Bargarh, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Koraput, Boudh, Mayurbhanj, Jagatsinghpur and Kandhamal districts and in Orissa's capital Bhubaneswar. Some 40, apparently Christian homes, were said to have been set ablaze in Phulbani town.
And, as the body of Saraswati reached the town of Chakapada in Kandhamal district for the last rites, nine shops and two vehicles were torched while two jeeps were burned, witnesses said. In a statement to BosNewsLife, Orissa's Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath said his church is "concerned at the immediate outbreak of communal violence against innocent Christians in nearby districts."
PRAYER HALL DESTROYED
In addition, Cheenath confirmed reports that at least one prayer hall in Sundergarh District was burned and a vehicle belonging to a Catholic oriented organization.
The bishop said that at "this critical juncture" he has appealed "to all for peace and communal harmony" as "we want good relationship with all the communities with whom we live."
He said he has asked Orissa's government to help prevent further attacks against Christians and to bring those responsible for the death of Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his associates to justice.
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