The slaughter and sale of a cow reportedly triggered a new series of attacks against Christians in the Indian state of Orissa in which Hindu militants from the group Vishwa Hindu Parishad destroyed a Jesuit residence, a church and a Protestant orphanage. While no one was reported killed in the recent attacks, violence has killed four Catholics and has destroyed 730 houses and 95 churches in 2008 alone.
Local church sources told Fides news agency that intimidation and discrimination continues as local authorities and police are unable to end the anti-Christian violence.
According to UCA News, some Hindus in Malikpada slaughtered a cow and sold the beef to some Christians and other villagers. When the Christians were returning to their house they were stopped by a Hindu religious leader, Bula Chaudri, and his supporters. Chaudri, who is also known as Madhaba Baba, berated the Christians for killing a cow. He threatened to send them to jail, as he had a photo on his cell phone of the Christians carrying beef.
The villagers begged that Chaudri delete the photo, but then grabbed the phone when he refused.
This argument then escalated to the attack on the Jesuit residence, the church and the Protestant orphanage. Four hundred houses were also set on fire by the Hindu extremists.
According to Fides, Archbishop Raphael Cheenath SVD, of the Orissan capital Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, expressed deep concern in response to the attacks. He contacted local authorities, asking for immediate intervention to prevent further violence and to reestablish order.
In December and January the Indian bishops established an ad hoc committee to investigate anti-Christian violence. However, they find that Christians are still targeted by radical groups and suffer threats, intimidation, discrimination and abuse.
Many Christians have left their homes out of fear, preferring to live in refugee camps despite the poor living conditions there.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai, has decried the “organized attacks to destabilize the Church’s presence in India.” Many bishops and other religious leaders have said Christians are considered “second class citizens” and are deprived of the basic rights and liberties guaranteed to them in India’s Constitution.