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1 Oct, 2008 10:08

Deadly religious clashes claim at least 25 lives

Violent clashes between the Hindu and Christian communities in the east of India have left at least 25 people dead. Trouble started after a Hindu missionary was allegedly killed by Christians, but the Indian Catholic Chu

Many villages are deserted with many having fled their homes. The murder of a Hindu missionary working for the poor in the region and who opposed the conversion of Hindus to Christianity is said to have sparked the violence.

Hindu organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, alleges Christians murdered the missionary. They also oppose the religious conversion of tribal dwellers to Christianity by inducement. It’s an issue that’s been simmering for a long time.

“The Christians deny involvement in the kind of conversion the VHP alleges. They tell us that we are converting people by allurement, by fraudulent means and forceful conversion,” said Father Dominic Emmanuel, Spokesman Catholic Church.
The Viswa Hindu Parishad claims that’s untrue.
“My challenge is you cannot bring even a single Christian in India who has converted to the Christian faith by understanding the theology of Christianity,” said Surendra Kumar Jain, All-India Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Even though security forces have been deployed to maintain peace, the situation remains tense in the village of Orissa. Many villagers fear going back to their homes. Some don't even have homes to go back to.

The tension between the communal factions has even spilled over to the southern state of Karnatika. About a dozen churches have been stoned and vandalised. The Christian community is now protesting in India’s capital city, New Delhi.

This seven-day long sit-in has had speakers from various communities demanding a stop to the violence and action against the perpetrators. The demonstration will end on October 2, which marks the birth of the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and the message they hope to convey is Mahatma Gandhi's doctrine of non-violence and inter-communal harmony.