Pope set to honour victims of worst anti-Christian violence in India

Christians protest against persecution in Orissa in 2008Reuters

One of the most savage acts of anti-Christian violence could soon be marked by Pope Francis. The Pontiff has been asked to recognise 100 of the victims of persecution in India as saints.

The horrific violence took place in 2008 in Orissa state, which like many in India is overwhelmingly Hindu. Extremist Hindus went on a series of murderous rampages eight years ago.

Churches were attacked and Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians all became victims.

Now, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and the most senior Catholic leader in the country, says he will ask the Pope to mark some of the victims as saints.

The process may take some time but is sure to raise the profile of the attacks, which were of a shocking ferocity and included gang rape, acid burning and assaults with clubs and axes.

More than 50,000 Christians were displaced from their homes during the violence and had to live in makeshift camps. Nearly 400 churches were attacked during the persecution, which began after a Hindu leader was assassinated.

Christians were blamed for his death but it is thought the killing was actually carried out by communist rebels.

The current situation is better than it was, but Christian Solidarity Worldwide says there are still parts of India where Christians remain under threat. A spokesperson said, "It's very worrying. There has been targeted violence against Christians and Christian institutions."

The India specialist goes on, "Christians in rural villages have been forcibly converted to Hinduism, churches have been vandalised or demolished, missionaries have been detained and beaten, and an elderly nun was gang-raped. Christians in India continue to live in bleak uncertainty of their future as Indian citizens."