Posted by: becketfund | October 19, 2008

India: Hindus Threaten Christians with Death for Failure to Convert

KANDHAMAL – Hundreds of Christians in the Indian state of Orissa have been forced to renounce their religion and become Hindus after lynch mobs threatened them with death if they refused to convert, the Guardian reported on October 19. The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month span of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. Last week, in the worst-hit Kandhamal district, The Observer witnessed the scale of the violence employed in a conversion program ostensibly sanctioned by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The VHP has said that to avoid future violence India’s anti-conversion laws need to be enforced to prevent the “allurement” by material benefits such as free education and healthcare by Christians missionary and aid workers.  However the VHP has not invoked the use of anti-conversion laws during the forced violent conversion of the Christians in Orissa.  Police have done little to prevent the forced conversions, and Christian leaders have accused the authorities of not responding to the religious violence since it began on August 23, claiming they are reluctant to rile the majority Hindu community in the run-up to parliamentary elections next year.

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