December 15, 2008
'Great apprehension' over Christmas season violence
India's Christians anxious about new attacks on churches during Christmas.
We are ten days away from Christmas Day 2008 and India's Christians confess to being more than a little worried over the outbreak of new violence.
The Christmas season 2007 was the occasion for widespread attacks on Christians inside India. Last week, church leaders met with India's minister of Home Affairs:
Fr Joseph Babu, spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of India, expressed "great apprehension" in a meeting Wednesday between a Catholic Church delegation and Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram over a possible repeat this year of last year's anti-Christian violence during Christmas celebrations. In response Union Home Affairs minister reassured the delegation that the state would ensure protection for Christians and their property in Orissa.
Attacks against churches and the murder of Christians is not a problem limited to Orissa. Case in point: on Tuesday the All Indian Christian Council (AICC) released a report on anti-Christian violence in the state of Karnataka.
In light of the terrorism in Mumbai and the extensive attacks in Orissa, Christians cannot presume that a) the government can protect lives; or, b) there is no group currently planning a fresh attack on churches or Christian villlages.
This afternoon, I received an email from a Christian leader (living elsewhere in Asia) who expects to be visiting family inside India during the next three weeks or so.
I asked him about church leaders and their preparation; and he replied:
"They are taking precautions, but the poor and innocent always suffer. Church leaders can't do much against organized mobs that are supported tacitly by the government and police."
This kind of comment is not idle speculation. There is clear indication that in some areas the police in India look the other way when mobs target Christians, their homes, or churches.
Praying for peace on earth and good will toward men is no idle petition to all-mighty God.