More Christian churches were burned and attacked and desecrated on Sunday. The violence has spread towo churches in Karnataka State
National Commission for Minorities (NCM) chairman Mohammed Shafi Qureshi criticised the Karnataka government for the recent violence against Christians and their prayer halls. Qureshi said that had the state government been more alert, when the tension was building up in the state, the violence would not have gone on spreading in the manner it did. “The violence was spreading and the state government was merely watching,” he said. He also blamed the state intelligence department in not ensuring that the violence was contained.
Qureshi added that members of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), were involved in the attacks, as several members of the Bajrang Dal have been arrested in Karnataka, including the leader of Bairang Dal's Karnataka branch, Mahendra Kumar, who had even claimed responsibility for the attacks. Kumar said, “I am ready for arrest or any sacrifice in defence of Hindu religion.”
Kumar's arrest had been demanded by several Congress leaders and also by the members of the National Commission for Minorities. So far, there have been 201 arrests in Karnataka in connection with the violence. Qureshi said that communal tension had been simmering in many areas for a long time with sporadic attacks on the Christian community, but this was ignored by the Karnataka state government.
The Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa announced he had set up judicial inquiry so that the truth of the attacks “will keep no one in the dark.” Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar said that the state will hold the police inspectors and senior police officers responsible for any attack on minorities and their places of worship under their jurisdiction.
The National Commission for Minorities chairman said that the commission will be meeting on Monday to finalise the report which will then be submitted to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The violence started in Orissa, a state on the east coast of India. A senior VHP politician, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, known for his anti-Christian rhetoric, was murdered at his ashram by Maoist terrorists who have claimed responsibility. Four of his close aids were also killed in the attack.
The attack was brutal and indiscriminate as the attackers threw hand grenades and fired randomly. The brutality of the attack and the weapons used make any suggestion that Christians were behind the murder ludicrous. In the ensuing persecution the Christians have not fought back, but have in some cases allowed themselves to be killed for not converting back to Hinduism. Christian leaders are holding peace meetings and urging forgiveness.
Many of the Christians had been low caste Hindus, who often see Christianity as an escape from the caste system. The Gospel gives them a hope which is not there for them within Hinduism. This is perceived, by Hindu extremists, as a threat to the Hindu social structure. Lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.
Mobs of Hindu Extremists rampaged, attacking Christians, killing, raping and burning homes. In some cases Christians were given a choice, to reconvert back to Hinduism, or be killed or have their homes destroyed. They saw no choice, but to be killed or have their homes burned.
This violence had been preceded by anti-Christian violence in Uttarakhand State in the north, bordering on Tibet and Nepal, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Mangalore, Jharkhand north of Orissa and Karnataka State in the south east of India. Hindu extremists, who are behind the violence in Orissa, blamed “Christian militants” for their leader's death. They were repeating phrases from the swami's hate rhetoric.
As Indian elections, in May 2009, approach there are fears Hindu extremists will use anti-Christian emotionalism for political reasons and the situation will get worse. There is even cries for ethnic cleansing. The anti-Christian attacks are said to be the worst in the 60 years of India’s independence.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), desparate to regain the power they lost in the 2004 general election, has been accused of inciting violence against Christians instead of calming the tense situation in the state. Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati's VHP had a wide spread network and the BJP's growth was built on the VHP's base.
The Delhi government has previously passed anti-Christian legislation, for example removing churches from the list of places of worship because wine is offered there. 2.6% of the population of India are Christian.
The Bajrang Dal is also known as vanar sena or the “army of apes” for their violent behaviour, are a militant political Hindu youth militia. Its members are young Hindu extremists who focused on purifying the Hindu religion and Hindu society. They even have training camps where they are taught martial arts and hate. This is the opposite of Ghandi's dreams and philosophy.
The Bajrang Dal have previously attacked Dalits and Muslims, now they have used the murder of a VHP leader as an excuse to attack Christians.
It is about time the Bajrang Dal be declared for what it is, a terrorist organisation.
No religion is spared the lunatic extremist fringe, which embarrasses the actual followers of the religion. Some religions have more loonies than others, but what generally identifies these extremists are their strong political ideological leanings. Al Qaeda is perceived by the West, and themselves, as an Islamic movement. Their theology is based on a cherry picking of verses and parts of verses from the Koran and Hadiths. Much of their activities go against the Koran and the Hadiths, but fit neatly into a fringe political ideology.
This is why it is vital to understand what it is one believes. Too many follow religious leaders as mindlessly as they follow political leaders. Going to a mosque on Friday, a synagogue on Saturday or a church on Sunday and not think about the basics of one's religion hardly entitles one to call oneself a believer. A believer is one who lives the Faith from Sunday to Saturday, who's every decision is based on one's Faith.
This is the strength of Christianity, as other religions do not have a direct relationship for all believers, with our Creator God, but contact God via intermediaries.
There has over the years been a dramatic increase in the number of Christians in Orissa State. If these persecutions continue, and as the Christians remain unwavering in their faith, more will turn to Christ.
September 22nd 2008