On Friday, an open letter to President George W. Bush was delivered to representatives of the Bush administration, calling for action against anti-Christian violence in India. The letter's signatories asked him to urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to pressure regional and local governments to enforce the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.
The letter was signed by 24 prominent Christian leaders, including leaders from historic church bodies such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Coptic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church, as well as mainline Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal charismatic, and traditional African-American bodies. Signatories also included representatives from international religious freedom ministries such as Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs. (See complete list of signatories below.)
Mob violence against Christians has centered on Kandhamal in Orissa state. Approximately 20 percent of those living in Kandhamal are Christian, compared with 2.6 percent in the rest of Orissa. The increase in Christians in this area has exacerbated long-standing tensions between ethnic and religious groups, and Hindu extremist groups have blamed Christians for the 2007 assassination of a Hindu swami, which was in fact perpetrated by Maoists, who claimed responsibility for the killing of a Hindu political worker this past week. Other factors, such as allegations of "aggressive" proselytization by Christians are also used to incite the mob violence. In sharing their faith, Orissa Christians have not broken the law, but have engaged in activity protected by the Indian Constitution and by international conventions.
The anti-Christian violence in Orissa has temporarily subsided, but it ...