Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 22, 2008
Indian priests flee sectarian violence
Hindu extremist kill Catholics, force others to convert to Hinduism
By ANTO AKKARA
“Their plan now is to annihilate Christianity and their main targets are the priests.”
- Fr. Prasanna Singh
“If they (Christians) refused, they are just beaten up. We are getting reports that some of them have been even killed,” said another priest who asked to remain anonymous.
Church activists have confirmed that 28 Christians, most of them Catholics, have been killed by Hindu mobs in Kandhamal after a prominent Hindu leader was murdered Aug. 23.
Maoists have claimed responsibility for the killings, but Hindu radical groups continue to blame Christians.
One of those killed was a young man who was beaten and buried alive for refusing to disown his Catholicism. When he asked why they were burying him alive, the mob said, “Jesus will save you,” the youth’s brother-in-law told Church workers.
“Our people are being hunted out now,” said Father Prasanna Singh, vicar of St. Peter Church in Pobingia. Thirty-four of the 37 Catholic families in Pobingia, he said, already have undergone the forced conversion ceremony.
In many places, Christians are asked to burn Bibles and join in torching churches or Christians’ houses to prove they have forsaken Christianity, he said.
“Many of my parishioners in other stations (more than 150 families in 12 stations) are telling me these dreadful stories,” said the priest.
Singh had been on the run since Aug. 23, when he heard banging on his gates.
“I thought they had come again,” said the priest who had to run for his life after his church was destroyed last Christmas by Hindu mobs.
“But this time, it was policemen asking me to run for my life,” said the priest, who instantly fled to the jungles. Over the next seven days, Singh hid in a mountain.
“Their plan now is to annihilate Christianity and their main targets are the priests,” said Singh, who said he has been getting calls from strangers on his mobile phone asking for his location.As a result, two dozen priests in Kandhamal parishes are on the run.
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