.- Contrary to an earlier report by Fides, the outbreak of anti-Christian violence in India is not lessening. Some Christian converts victimized by extremist Hindu attacks in the Indian state of Orissa are now being forced to return to Hinduism and attack their Christian churches. The violence has prompted Sister Nirmala, head of the Missionaries of Charity, to urge the country to “put down the weapon of hatred and violence and put on the armor of love.”
As of Monday, it was reported that a church was destroyed by fire in Mondasore, under Raikia Block. Two Christians were killed in the fire. A convent, two hostels and 82 houses were also burned, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India reports on its web site.
Mobs of extremists have also destroyed ten prayer halls in Kundra in the Jayapur district and attacked and looted five villages in Tikabali Block. A Rapid Action Force has been deployed to several places in the area of Kandhamal with specific instructions to “shoot on sight,” but the violence has continued.
Shri Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Orissa, has assured India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh that the violence would be brought under control.
Despite such assurances, the Indian bishops report they have found that “there has not been much improvement in the riot hit areas of Kandhamal.”
“Even though security forces have been deployed in Kandhamal, the fundamentalists continue to attack Christians and their institutions freely.”
The bishops appealed to the Orissa chief minister to “act firmly against those who are taking law into their hands” and to safeguard Christians, their houses, and institutions. They also asked that the state government investigate the forced re-conversions of Christians, calling the practice “a gross violation of their Constitutional right to live in the country without fear.”
Sister Nirmala, who heads the Missionaries of Charity religious order founded by Mother Teresa, exhorted people in Orissa and all over India to end the violence.
“Let us not forget our true identity as the beloved children of God our Father,” Sister Nirmala exhorted. “We are brothers and sisters of one another no matter what our religion, race, culture or language is, whether we are rich or poor. Nothing should separate us.”
“Above all,” she continued, “let us not use religion to divide us. The essence of all religion is love - love of God and love of one another. Violence on the ground of religion is an abuse of religion.”
Quoting Blessed Mother Teresa, whose feast day is September 5, Sister Nirmala said: “Religion is meant to be a work of love. It is not meant to destroy peace and unity. Works of love are works of peace. Let us use religion to become one heart full of love in the heart of God.”
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” Sister Nirmala resumed, “in the name of God and in the name of our own humanity, created for greater things, to love and to be loved eternally, and in the name of our country and its noble heritage, and in the name of the poor, the children, and all our suffering brothers and sisters who are victims of this senseless violence and destruction, I make this appeal: let us pray, opening our mind and heart to the light and love of God. Let us put down the weapon of hatred and violence and put on the armor of love. Let us forgive one another and ask forgiveness from one another for the wrong we have done to each other and reach out in love to each other.”
She then offered prayers for Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and his four associates, whose murder at the hand of suspected Communists sparked the violence.
“Let us pray for each other and ask our Mother, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to pray for us so that we may become channels of God's own peace, love and joy to one another and builders of the civilization of love!” she said.