The Fiery Rise of Hindu Fundamentalism

After a missionary and his two sons are martyred, Christians in India press for greater religious freedom.
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Every year for the past two decades, veteran missionary Graham Staines of Australia conducted five-day open-air "jungle camps" in villages of the eastern Indian state of Orissa, teaching, preaching, and singing to Santal tribal members.

After one such meeting on January 23 in Manoharpur, a village 600 miles southeast of New Delhi, the 58-year-old Staines and his two sons, 10-year-old Philips and 7-year-old Timothy, were murdered. They had been sleeping in a vehicle parked outside a local church when militant Hindus, allegedly from the Bajrang Dal group, doused the vehicle with gasoline and set it afire.

"My husband and sons tried to get out of the burning vehicle, but were stopped by the attackers," Staines's wife, Gladys, recounts. As the flames engulfed the vehicle, the mob danced and some shouted, "Justice has been done; the Christians have been cremated in Hindu fashion." The mob kept would-be rescuers at bay for more than an hour until making sure the missionary and his sons had died.

Police arrested 53 people in connection with the killings. Staines, secretary of the Evangelical Missionary Society, an independent missionary organization based in Brisbane, had been operating a hospital and clinic for lepers in India for 34 years. Two days after the murders, lepers dug the graves for the family while Gladys Staines consoled them as they wept.

"God has given me peace, and I have never questioned his wisdom in allowing this tragedy," Gladys Staines said after the tragedy. "These people are my people and I hope to stay here."

UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK: Indian President K. R. Narayanan denounced the "barbarous killing" of Staines and indicated it is not representative of his country's behavior. "That someone who has spent years caring ...

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