American Baptist International Ministries is again calling for prayer on behalf of Christians in Orissa, India, during a recent wave of violence. The latest outbreak of violence occurred after a Hindu religious leader was killed and militant Hindus blamed Christians for the death. In news reports, the police have said they believe so-called Maoist rebels were responsible for the murder of Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati on Saturday, Aug. 23.
But since that time, the churches, homes and lives of many Christians have been threatened in Orissa -- a state in Eastern India, which borders the Bay of Bengal.
Rev. Samaresh Nayak, with the Bengal-Orissa-Bihar Baptist Churches Association, told International Ministries that five Christians have been killed in Orissa by Hindu militants. Three people who died were from the same village in a region called Kandhamal, Nayak said.
"Churches all over Orissa have been ransacked and demolished," Nayak told Rev. Ben Chan, area director for India. "Communications have been cut off to most of the places in Kandhamal," but he asked that American Baptists "continue to uphold the situation in prayer."
This latest religious violence follows a call to prayer International Ministries issued in December 2007, after 20 churches and organizations in the Orissa State were attacked on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
"We continue to be deeply concerned about and deeply engaged with Christians in Orissa during this crisis," said Chan, "and we hope that our ongoing efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation can again stem the tide of violence."
Through International Ministries, global consultant Dan Buttry, who works on conflict transformation and non-violence training, has gone to Orissa, in January and then again in late Spring, seeking to help the Baptist leaders bring peace in the midst of great conflict.
At the time, Buttry said, "Amid all this suffering I saw the Spirit of Christ rising up in these Baptist friends. The BOBBCA staff brought relief not just to the Christians who were displaced, but also to the Hindus who had suffered at the hands of either Christians or Hindus. These Baptists didn’t look at people’s religious identity but rather at their hunger. If they were hungry, the Baptists sought to feed them. The conflict is still simmering … So this expression of compassion showed tremendous courage and conviction. Please keep the Christians in Orissa in your prayers."
For the latest news on this crisis go to http://www.alertnet.org/index.htm