Although government officials say the situation is "under control," churches continue to be attacked and Christians threatened with death simply for practicing their faith. The Indian Bishops Conference has issued a letter protesting forced conversions to Hinduism in so-called "homecoming" ceremonies.
The attacks began around August 24 after the leader of a Hindu extremist group was killed. (A communist group has since taken responsiblity for that killing.) Christians were blamed. Most Hindus do not support the extremist, anti-Christian agenda, yet the state government sat on its hands while mobs attacked unarmed Christians, including women and children. The Union (equivalent to Federal) Government would not send in troops without the request of the state government. Cardinal Vithayathil characterized this as an excuse. They eventually did so, but by then the violence had escalated to almost unbelievable proportions.
Pope Benedict, Missionaries of Charity Superior General Sr. Nirmala Joshi, the Indian bishops and Dr. Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, are among those condemning the violence.
Many more details and pictures can be found at the Orissa Burning blog. Warning: some of the images and stories are truly horrific.
Please pray for our persecuted brethren.
Update (9/30/08): Unfortunately, the violence continues and has even escalated. Refugees are not returning home because they fear for their lives if they do. Now the US Society of Jesus adds its voice to the chorus calling for better government protection:
The Society of Jesus in the United States is increasingly alarmed by the continuing outbreaks of violence in the India state of Orissa against Christians and other minorities by Hindu extremists. With many of our American and Indian Jesuits in the region ministering to the people of Orissa, we are extremely concerned for our brothers’ safety and the safety of the people they serve. The violence has spread and is occurring in other states throughout India, only increasing the need for greater protection by the government. Source
Please continue to keep the persecuted Christians in your prayers.