The Methodist Church in Britain has joined other churches and NGOs in calling for urgent support and prayer for thousands of hard-pressed Christians in India as violence flares across the state of Orissa.
The British Methodist Church offered its support to The Church of North India (CNI) this week as more than 50,000 people were left homeless and many killed in attacks following the worst anti-Christian violence India has seen since independence 60 years ago.
But churches have also unequivocally condemned violence against Hindus, too.
The Rev Dr Enos Das Pradhan from CNI made contact with the World Church Relationships Office, asking Methodists to uphold their brothers and sisters in Orissa in prayers for peace.
“Fear of attack has taken every Christian into its grip and our people are living in the most persecuting time of their lives,” he said. “Will you join us in prayer for our brethren in Orissa? Kindly uphold the people of Orissa in your prayers, that God grants them strength to bear the losses and also to be witness [God's] love in these trying times.”
CNI, the British Methodist Church’s partner in the region, and that of other Anglican and Protestant churches, has been at pains to condemn the killings of both Hindus and Christians.
The Rev Dr Pradham also condemned the killing of Hindu leader, Pradhan Swami Laxminarayan Saraswati and his four associates in his letter to British Methodists.
Steve Pearce, Partnership Coordinator for Asia, was keen to pass on CNI’s request. “To use religion as a justification for attacking individuals or groups is abhorrent and yet we are seeing widespread community violence,” he said.
“We have heard of horrific attacks on homes, places of worship and individuals. Many of us were moved this week by a press photo of a young girl whose face had been burnt because she was a Christian. We ask the Indian Government to act for peace, to act for the vulnerable and quickly undermine the culture of intolerance and violence while there is time.”
Kasta Dip, Coordinator of Youth Concerns for CNI emailed youth and children’s Connexional team colleagues at the British Methodist Church. “We have been hearing news of killings everyday,” said Kasta.
She added: “My hometown Bolangir is in the western part of Orissa. There have been already over 60 instances of violence, including the burning alive of at least eight persons and over six hundred homes. Last night three CNI churches were burnt. Pray for our three dioceses in Orissa.”