|Persecution Watch August 25, 2010|
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The Evangelical Fellowship of India joins hands with the churches in India to observe Martyrs Day (August 25) in remembrance of the martyrs of Kandhamal district of Orissa on the second anniversary of India’s worst ever violence against the Christian community.
Speaking on the occasion, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, EFI General Secretary said, "Over a hundred people were brutally killed for their faith in Kandhamal. Even today their families wait for justice and for peace to return to the area."
EFI estimates that in the violence that ensued the killing of a local Hindu right wing leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, on August 23, 2007, over 100 people were killed, including women, disabled persons, children, adivasis and dalits. At least three incidents of gang-rape were recorded. At least 295 churches, big and small, were destroyed. Also, 13 schools, colleges, and offices of five NGOs were damaged. About 30,000 people had to live in relief camps for months.
At the recently concluded National People's Tribunal in Delhi, former chief justice of Delhi High Court, A.P. Shah who headed the 12-member public jury on Kandhamal stated that justice had eluded the victims. "They continue to be intimidated, denied protection and access to justice," the jury noted, recommending stronger state protection to survivors and witnesses" Justice Shah said.
Yet, Kandhamal is not alone in the attacks against the minority community. Each day, across India, violent attacks are witnessed against the church (see below for most recent attack against pastors in Delhi and Karnataka). Last year alone, EFI recorded over 200 violent attacks against churches and Christians across the country.
Tehmina Arora, EFI Advocacy Director stated, "India cannot afford to forget those who are persecuted and killed for their faith. It is matter of great concern for our secular nation, if those who perpetrate violence against religious communities, are allowed to go scot free. Persecution of religious minorities undermines the very spirit of the Indian constitution."
EFI invites the churches in India to pray for:
1. Peace in Kandhamal and for those who were affected by the violence across the country
2. Those in authority that they would take necessary action to prevent such communal violence from being perpetrated and hatred being spread and
3. The church in India to stand united in the face of such barbaric attacks against the community and to speak out strongly against injustice and hatred.