Pope condemns violence against Christians in India
The Violent attacks against Christians in the eastern Indian has now attracted the ire of Pope. There is no let up in the continuing violence against Christians. Christian run educational institutions have called for the closing of schools to protest against this mindless violence. Orissa has a long history of communal clashes between Hindus and Christians and religious conversion is highly political issues in India where Hindus allege Christians missionaries of forcibly converting Tribal Hindus to Christianity. Hindus also blame Christian church in these areas to pay money for conversion.
The Hindu religion is deeply caste ridden and mostly low caste untouchables convert to Christanity to escape the wrath of upper caste.
The current cycle of violence started after the murder of a Hindu Priest by unknown assailants on Aug. 23, 2008. Irate mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. Violence spread during the the strike call by hardliner Hindu nationalist organizations. An angry Hindu mob had killed Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons by burning them in their car in 1999. Staines had been involved with charitable work in Orissa since 1965.
The ongoing violence in the Orissa has prompted the Vatican to condemn the actions of the Hindu groups.
Pope Benedict XVI condemned anti-Christian violence in Orissa, where at least 11 people were killed in three days of violence as Christians clashed with Hindu mobs attacking churches, shops and homes.
During his weekly audience at the Vatican, Benedict said he was "profoundly saddened" by news of the violence against Christian communities in India.
"I firmly condemn any attack on human life," Benedict told a crowd of faithful and pilgrims. "I express spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in faith who are being so harshly tested."
The pope also called "deplorable" the killing of a Hindu leader. Hardline Hindus have blamed that death on Christian militants, setting off the latest violence in India's Orissa state.
Benedict urged religious leaders and local authorities to "work together to re-establish between the members of the various communities the peaceful coexistence and the harmony that have always marked Indian society."
The violence began as Hindu hard-liners set ablaze a Christian orphanage early on Monday, killing a woman who worked as a lay teacher and seriously injuring a priest.
Four people were killed later that day, including two burned alive when rioters set fire to thatched huts.
Six more people were killed on Tuesday and Wednesday in villages across the state, despite a curfew imposed by police, authorities said. One was doused with kerosene and burned to death by a mob, another died when protesters set fire to a house, while four were killed in an exchange of gunfire between the rival groups.
It is not clear if the latest dead were Christians or Hindus. Security forces on Wednesday were ordered to shoot on sight protesters defying the curfew.
On Tuesday the Holy See condemned the orphanage attack, and a top Vatican official called it "a sin against God and humanity."
In an interview published in Italy's Corriere della Sera daily, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the head of the Vatican's council for inter-religious dialogue, said there was "no possible justification" for the assault.
Hinduism is the main religion in India, and relations with the country's religious minorities - such as Christians, who account for 2.5 percent of the country's 1.1 billion people, and Muslims, who make up 14 percent - are usually peaceful.
However, Hindu nationalists often accuse Christian missionaries of luring poor people away from India's largest faith through bribes or coercion - a charge churches have denied. The issue of conversions has sparked violence by hard-line Hindus throughout India's history.