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Published:December 22nd, 2008 13:28 EST
Christians Die Unnoticed

Christians Die Unnoticed

By Krzys Wasilewski

Christians in India still fall victims to Hindu extremists. The massacres that started in August have already claimed at least 100 innocent lives. Another wave of violence is expected to hit Christian communities around Christmas day. Undaunted by international protests, Indian authorities have refused to react.


The southeastern region of Orissa, where most of India`s Christians live, has yet to recover from the August uproars. Most sources agree that at least 100 Christians were brutally murdered by those Hindu groups that perceive Christianity as a dangerous foreign influence. In addition, thousands of people are still living in temporary camps set up by the central government. The region`s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, recently admitted that over 4,200 houses and as many as 252 churches and prayer halls had been destroyed.


The same groups that stood behind the Christian massacres plan to stage a mass protest on December 24. The official reason is the lack of progress in the investigation into the assassination of  Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a popular Hindu activist murdered on August 23. It was his death that sparked the religious upheaval in the Orissa region. Even though the assassination was orchestrated by a Muslim group, local Christians bore the brunt of the religious upheaval. From August through October media reported on men, women, and children being dragged out from their homes and slashed in front of their relatives. A number of nuns are said to have been gang raped. Priests were burned alive in their churches, trying to save chalices from blasphemy.


Christians fear that the protest is a mere excuse for Hindu extremists to renew their attacks. An official of the All India Christian Council said that there is potential for violence over Christmas. Despite assurances from the police, he did not think the protection of the local Christians sufficient. "We appeal to police, politicians, local language media, and civil society in Orissa - and across India - to seek peace instead of hostility," he added.


Many experts believe that India`s central authorities are not doing enough to protect its Christian citizens. Most of those who lost their homes in August and September have not received any compensation from the central government despite earlier pledges. Moreover, some suspect that a number of politicians give their tacit support to anti-Christian crimes, believing it is the only way to purge India of foreign influence. In contrast with Hinduism, Christianity preaches equality in a society that has been used to the caste system. Unsurprisingly, conservative circles find it more dangerous than Islam.


Foreign delegations that recently visited India agree with the local Christians` concerns. Baroness Cox of Great Britain, who traveled to the Orissa region in November, said in the House of Lords: "From what I have read, neither [the local] Government nor the Union Government in Delhi have taken sufficient action to find the perpetrators of this massacre or to protect its victims still in camps."  As if to support her words, two other delegations were forbidden to see several places in December on the grounds of their personal security.


Official condemnation, however, has never come. Foreign governments have remained silent, not wanting to anger an important trading partner. With over one billion citizens and booming economy, India has become a juicy tidbit for the big and the small. Even the most human-rights oriented countries turn a blind eye to the death of a hundred people when multi-billion dollar contracts are at risk. Being warned that a strong statement could incite more violence, the Vatican issued only a lackluster letter calling on the Indian government to protect Christians.


Massacres? What massacres? The mass-murders of Christians in the Orissa region went unnoticed by most of the world`s main media. No coverage has been made of thousands of people still living in refugee camps. At the same time, television channels and newspapers have reported a countless number of times on "oppressed" sexual minorities in California. The basic rule says: if something does not exist in the media, it does not exist at all. Meanwhile, many more Indian Christians will have to die for their faith.



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