Orissa Christians still too afraid to go home

|PIC1|One year after the murder of a Hindu leader triggered a wave of violence against Christians in Orissa, thousands of refugees are still living in temporary camps and slums.

The head of Release International, Andy Dipper, recently travelled to India where he met some of the refugees and visited one town where 100 Christian families are sheltering after being forced out of their homes just 10 kilometres away.

He heard from many of the refugees that they fear being killed or driven out again if they return after militants told them that they can only go back home if they convert to Hinduism.

“The violence had been carefully planned,” he says. “Hindus in the village put saffron flags on their houses, so that the rioting mob passed them by. Trees were cut down and laid on the road to slow down the police.

“The houses of the Christians were completely destroyed, as was their church building. Hindu militants have now built a temple on the same site.”

Release International estimates that as many as 4,000 refugees are still living in tents. It warns that many of the refugees have drifted into the slums of Orissa’s capital rather than risk returning home and that those still living in the tents have nowhere else to go since the government started closing camps across the state in the last few months.

Despite the difficulties, the refugees remain steadfast in their faith.

One refugee told Mr Dipper: “To know and suffer for Jesus is valuable. Suffering for Christ is worthwhile. We have a burden that one day these people will know the Lord, so we must remain here to share His word with them.”

Another refugee said: “I pray that God will let people go back to their homes to live as Christians and will keep their children safe with health and education. I pray for the persecutors, that God will touch their hearts, show them the bad they have done and bring them to faith.”

Release International is calling on Christians to pray for the safe return of those still stranded at the camps.

“There is still much need for prayer,” said Mr Dipper. “While the violence has subsided in Orissa, official sources report a growing number of attacks against Christians in Karnataka and four other states.”

He urged Christians to get involved with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 15.

Release International has put together resources for use on the day, including a DVD, ‘Faith Under Fire’.