ORISSA, India (BP)–Persecution against Christians in India’s Orissa state has a long history, but it escalated in August 2008 when Hindu extremists blamed Christians for the murder of a Hindu leader. A radical Maoist group claimed responsibility, but months of persecution against Christians took about 70 lives and destroyed thousands of homes and churches. Here are the July 2010 testimonies of three survivors of the attacks, gathered by Southern Baptist humanitarian worker Adrien Telford* and translated by Indian Christians.
‘THEY TOOK MY HUSBAND; THEY BURNED EVERYTHING’
“Around 10 o’clock, people came along with the sword and different weapons. They had also brought guns, sticks, etc…. Together they were giving slogan, ‘Hindu! Hindu! Bhai! Bhai! (Brother! Brother!),’ and ‘We will wipe out Christianity.’ All the children, along with the young and old, ran toward different jungles. At that time, I was there with my husband, and they caught us and asked [us] to be with them and become Hindu. Then they took my husband. At the same time, they burned everything in the entire village. After six days, [we] all came back from the jungle and went to the police station to file the case against them; and all went to the relief camp to stay there. After being there for six months, [a] few of us were here, but because we did not get sufficient food material, we were forced to move toward the relief camp. Since last two years, we have been staying inside the relief camp because of not getting sufficient help to build our houses. We are still living inside the tent.”
‘LORD, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE OUR LIVES’
“The day when we heard that people would come to attack us, we all went to the main road and worried, thinking which side they will come and attack. When we started hearing the sound of the gun and bombs and their noise, we confirmed that they are really coming soon. After that, fear gripped our hearts. [At] that point in time, my daughter was sick, and we were worried. How will we run? Children and even the elders were screaming out of fear. My daughter was worried, thinking that everybody would leave her in that condition. So when they came closer, I carried my sick daughter; and we all of us ran toward the jungle. The place where we were about [to] stay was such a place where one tiger had killed the cow and the place was stinking very badly, so we all surrendered in the hand of our Lord. We prayed, ‘Lord, You are the only one who can save our lives, because we are nothing. Everything is in Your hand.’ It was very difficult for us to be there. Whole day we were there by gathering in one place, and the children were crying for the food out of hunger. We did not even get water for our children in that jungle. After few moments, we could see the smoke coming out of our houses, which they were burning. We were then again worried. How we would stay now? They have not burned our love for the Lord, even though they burned our houses. God had given us the houses, and those all burned, but God gave us the strength to face this entire situation. The day after, four elderly people came to our village. They saw our houses are burning and also started crying along with us. From there, we went to the relief camp where we stayed for four to five days. Few people went and told to BDO (Block Development Officer) that now there is peace at their village, so he told us to go back to our respective places. From there, they brought us to a school by a bus where we all stayed together. Once again, the attackers came to us and threatened to kill. We again ran to the relief camp; but BDO would not allow us to stay there, saying, ‘There is already peace in your place. Why did you come here again?’ He could not keep our request, even though we begged him to stay there. There was a lot of rain on that day. Whole day we were there. In spite of that, BDO did not allow us to enter into the relief camp. The next day, we all went wherever we liked to go. From that day, we went to Navarangapur. We stayed there for so many days, and God has never kept us hungry; still now. He has been faithful [to] provide all our needs always.”
‘THEY HAVE ONLY BURNED OUR HOUSES’
“I really praise God for He has kept me alive. I kept asking to the people [about] those who were coming to our place, about this matter. When I came to know that people are coming to attack us, I took my two small children and went with them crying, one suitcase in my hand. Whoever came to follow us, I told them, ‘Please don’t come with us,’ but they all followed [us] throughout the jungle wherever we went. In one hand, I carried the suitcase, and in other hand, I carried two small daughters. In that jungle, we heard the noise of burning and could see the fire burning in that place. When we returned to our place, two people came and mocked us by saying, ‘Now see. You became Christian, so we lost your house.’ But we all 10 families stayed there. We discussed ourselves that they have only burned our houses, but they could not touch us. Today, God has given us everything, and praise God for that.
*Name changed. Caroline Anderson is a writer in Asia for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.