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Like many people in the eastern India state of Orissa, Nikhil Kumar Kanodia knew an attack on Christians was imminent. But unlike others, Kanodia was a police superintendent. When he declared that Hindu attacks on Christians in his district of Kandhamal would be prosecuted, he was immediately transferred. Soon afterward, Kandhamal became the epicenter of massive anti-Christian violence. Nationalist Hindus have killed, raped, and otherwise assaulted Christians, burned Christian schools, churches, and houses, and left tens of thousands homeless.

Nina Shea, vice chair for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the attacks are essentially pogroms "to rid the state of the Christian minority." The World Christian Database says active Christians make up about 3.3 percent of the state's population.

Christians are often warned by fliers or friends when an attack is being staged, said Sam Paul, secretary of public affairs at All India Christian Council. Still, some are unable to get out of their homes or flee to the jungle for safety. Paul told CT he had the names of 36 people killed in the violence by mid-September. Since then, there have been several more fatalities throughout India. The Times of London called it "the worst anti-Christian violence in India since Independence [in 1947]."

Militant Hindus also attacked Christians in other states, particularly Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand.

Orissa made international headlines on Christmas Eve 2007 for a similar string of attacks on Christians, as well as 10 years ago, when Australian missionary Graham Staines and his children were burned to death in their car.

Anti-Christian violence "could happen anytime, anywhere" in India, said Stephen ...

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November 2008

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