22 October, 2008

In Orissa Things Cont. to Deteriorate

Convert or we will kill you, Hindu lynch mobs tell fleeing Christians

According to The Guardian conversion is the option Christians have been given.

The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month orgy of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. As neighbour has turned on neighbour, thousands more Christians have sought sanctuary in refugee camps, unable to return to the wreckage of their homes unless they, too, agree to abandon their faith.

Last week, in the worst-affected Kandhamal district, The Observer encountered compelling evidence of the scale of the violence employed in a conversion programme apparently sanctioned by members of one of the most powerful Hindu groups in India, the 6.8-million member Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - the World Hindu Council.

Standing in the ashes of her neighbour's house in the village of Sarangagada, Jaspina Naik, 32, spoke nervously, glancing towards a group of Hindu men watching her suspiciously. 'My neighbours said, "If you go on being Christians, we will burn your houses and your children in front of you, so make up your minds quickly",' she said. 'I was scared. Christians have no place in this area now.'

The article goes on to suggest that the VHP is involved on a grassroots level for the forced conversions. One priest comments, “The 18 had been the only Christians in the village, he said. They were happy to convert.”

I’m sure they were.

'They said, 'If you don't become Hindu, we'll burn your houses too and start killing you',' said Ashish Digal, the former Christian pastor. 'I've been forced to convert. Everyone is being converted. They beat us in the fields. I went to the temple. We had to say that we belonged to the Hindu state of Orissa, and that from this day we are Hindus.'

And when the Guardian reporter went to document the story of a Christian family’s house being burned this was the scene as they returned to the vehicle.

Back on the main road, the men were waiting. 'Put your notebook and your cameras away. You will take no pictures and record nothing,' the VHP man said. 'You want to know what is happening? Now I will tell you why this is happening.' He blamed the Christians for taking the jobs of Hindus, for the murder of the Swami. The only solution was for Christians to convert, he said. 'This is a Hindu community. Everyone can stay here, as long as they are part of that community. And now you should go.'

I am speechless on how to respond. We must do something! Go reporters - tell the story they don't want you to! Call American Christians - tell our reps in Congress that religious discrimination is wrong, the US must call India and tell them to stop. Hindus - speak up and say that this is NOT ok - this is not your religion!

Someone must stand against this...