09/28/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that four Christian homes were set on fire by radical Hindu nationalists in the Kandhamal District of India’s Odisha State. Local Christians report that the homes were attacked after the Christian owners refused to recant their faith and continued to fetch water from the village well.
The tensions between Christians and Hindus began earlier this month when the Christians of Ladamila village were banned from using the village well. Village leaders, influenced by anti-Christian activists, claimed that this was a just punishment for the Christians refusing to recant their faith.
On September 17, Christian women were harassed and abused by a mob of reportedly 15 radical Hindu nationalists as they attempted to use the village well. Later, the Christian families of Ladamila were brutally attacked in their homes by a mob.
“Around 7:30, the mob burst into our homes and started to beat us,” Susanta Diggal, one of the victims, told ICC. “A crowd was outside our home, and we were really scared. We ran into the jungle to save our lives.”
“Later, all four families who fled the village met in the jungle,” Diggal continued. “We walked together to avoid any untoward situation to us.”
In total, the displaced Christian families account for 25 individuals. The families later found shelter at a church in a nearby village. On September 23, six days after the families fled Ladamila, radical Hindu nationalists burned the four homes owned by the displaced Christian families.
“This is very concerning, as it brings back memories of the 2008 riots against Christians,” a local bishop told ICC. “I am saddened by what happened to these four families and the consequences they have had to face for their faith. I hope this can be resolved and contained to the village level.”
The displaced Christian families, now homeless, are currently under police protection. The local government administration is reportedly investigating the incident.
In August 2008, anti-Christian riots swept across the Kandhamal District. Tensions between Christians and radical Hindu nationalists were building for months when the leader of the Hindu nationalists was murdered by Maoists. Christians were wrongfully blamed for the murder. This instigated almost three months of riots in which mobs of radical Hindu nationalists went from village to village burning churches, sacking Christian homes, and murdering Christians. The riots are still considered India’s worst incident of Christian persecution in modern history.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned by the attack on the four families in Kandhamal. This truly brings back memories of the 2008 riots in Kandhamal that left dozens of Christians murdered and thousands more displaced. Local authorities must act against the perpetrators of this violence. No one should be denied access to necessities like clean water because of their faith No one should be rendered homeless because they refuse to recant what they believe. If authorities fail to act, similar incidents of anti-Christian violence will likely be reported as perpetrators know they will enjoy near complete impunity when persecuting Christians.”