Posted by: becketfund | October 16, 2008

India: Forced Conversion of Christians to Hinduism in State of Orissa

BOREPANGA – Reports of forced conversions by Hindu extremists of Christians under threat of physical harm have become more frequent over the past several weeks, the New York Times reported on October 12. The Digal family was ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. They were then forced to watch their Hindu neighbors set the items on fire. Mr Digal recalls being told to “Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished, otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.” Police response has been slow or non-existent in such cases.

The Times reported that the forced conversions come on the heels of a spate of violence in the state of Orissa that has seen more than more than 30 people killed, 3,000 homes burned, and over 130 churches destroyed.  Rights groups and the government report over 50 confirmed deaths and thousands of homes torched.  The mob violence began in retribution for the murder of Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23 and has continued for over a month.  Saraswati was part of a Hindu nationalist movement that accused Christian missionaries of being too aggressive and coercing the poor into converting to Christianity by providing free education and social assistance.  The Chief Minister of Orissa has said that he would respond to the violence by enforcing an existing law discouraging conversions through humanitarian work.

The Washington Times published an article on the continuing violence on October 16 in which Becket Fund International Law Director Angela Wu, who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Orissa, stated the United States “should not have inked a nuclear deal with a country that cannot provide basic security for its citizens.”

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