December 26th, 2007 14:25 EST
Christians Attacked at Christmas Time
Christians across India`s Orissa state were terrorized this Christmas season by hate groups opposed to the Gospel. Anti-Christian extremists attacked Gospel for Asia native missionary Matish Junni on December 23. They also destroyed a newly-built GFA-related church building on Christmas Eve.
"This violence against believers in Orissa breaks my heart," said K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia. "This is the same state where missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were martyred. The believers know they will face opposition, but this outburst of persecution at Christmas time is especially disturbing."
Opposition began for Matish when his church decided to construct a building. As construction began, anti- Christian fanatics in the area threatened the missionary and the believers. Then, last Sunday, a mob of extremists surrounded Matish while he traveled to conduct worship services.
The mob beat Matish and shaved his head. Then they mockingly paraded him around the village, shouting slurs against him and other Christians. They also forced Matish to go to their religious temples. When the mob finally released him, they warned him not to continue the construction.
Anti-Christian radicals also destroyed a GFA-related church building in another area of Orissa on Christmas Eve. Although local police were there, the mobs were so out of control that the church received no protection. The extremists have completely blocked the roads to this village and are not allowing Christians to travel.
The church building stood for only one month before the militants attacked. Anti-Christian hate groups have also taken over another GFA-related church building in Orissa and plan to destroy it soon.
All across Orissa, political and religious extremists have been acting against believers and Christian organizations. According to news reports, the mobs disrupted Christmas services, destroying at least 14 church buildings. Gangs also attacked Christian relief groups, including World Vision`s office. Several pastors and missionaries have been beaten as well.
The recent attacks began when believers prepared to celebrate Christmas. The extremist organizers saw an opportunity to bring more sadness and grief to the Christians by attacking them on their most joyous holiday. Tensions rose when one of the anti-Christian leaders was allegedly attacked.
One person was killed on Christmas day during an extremist "bandh," a form of protest in India in which activists force the entire community to strike from their daily tasks. Although formally outlawed, many extremist groups still conduct "bandhs" in an effort to persuade others to join their cause.
"I hope that the government in Orissa will do everything in its power to protect the believers and bring peace to the state," Yohannan said. "Please join with our leaders in Orissa as they pray for Matish and other missionaries during this time, that they will be examples of Christ`s love to those who are persecuting them. Also pray that the anti-Christian extremists will come to know the Prince of Peace."
Gospel for Asia is a mission organization involved in evangelism and church planting in Asia`s unreached regions. Currently Gospel for Asia supports more than 16,500 native missionaries in 10 countries. On average, these missionaries establish approximately 10 fellowships every day among unreached villages and people groups. Gospel for Asia is also committed to training native missionaries in its 54 Bible colleges.