By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Christians were facing an ultimatum in India's troubled state of Orissa to turn to Hinduism or face expulsion from their villages or even death following weekend violence in which at least two people were killed, missionaries said.
In a statement monitored by BosNewsLife Wednesday, September 3, mission group Gospel for Asia (GFA) said anti-Christian attacks in Orissa are now entering their second week. "GFA leaders in India have reported two new deaths this weekend as violence against Christians in Orissa state refuses to die down despite police intervention."
The clashes began after the leader of extremist Hindu group World Hindu Council (VHP), Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati and four of his associates was murdered by suspected Maoist rebels on August 23. VHP militants blamed Christians for the killings and went on a rampage across several districts of Orissa.
"During the first week of the violence, at least a dozen members of GFA-related churches were murdered and 20 churches and hundreds of home belonging to GFA missionaries and pastors were burned," the group said. It added that in the latest incidents, two people were killed by police gunfire as rioting broke out Saturday, August 30, in Orissa's Koraput District.
"Several people were also seriously injured in the conflict, which began when someone wrote an obscene comment about Christians on the wall of a secular college in the area," the group said. "GFA leaders fear this confrontation will ignite a fresh wave of violence in the state."
Elsewhere in the state's Baragarh District, fighting broke out Saturday, August 30, between Hindu militants and police, who had just rescued six families being held by radicals, GFA claimed. "The [Christian] families were locked in a house and told that they would be burned alive unless they denounced Christ and turned back to Hinduism. The police found out about the hostage situation, rescued the people and took them into protective custody."
When police tried to return the families to their village, violent neighbors, incited by Hindu militants, allegedly said the families would not be allowed to return to their homes unless they turned away from Christianity. "Many Christians in Orissa are facing similar ultimatums," GFA said in a statement. "Only the Christians who agree to be 'reconverted' to Hinduism are spared. Those who agree to become Hindu are then asked to join in destroying the church buildings and the houses of Christians."
Thousands of Christians are reportedly homeless because their homes have been destroyed or they were forced to flee their villages. "Today thousands more are facing the loss of their homes, and pastors are being left without churches, as landlords, under threat from [Hindu militants]," GFA claimed.
At least 10,000 people are reportedly in government relief camps, but possibly tens of thousands more remain in hiding, fearing for their lives, according to church sources.
"One GFA missionary was found near death, hiding in a cave. A young man carried him to a hospital, where the missionary is receiving medical treatment. But he was separated from his family and has no idea where they are," GFA said. GFA President said his group and native missionaries have asked Christians to pray â€œthat God will intervene in the hearts of those committing these merciless acts."
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