Fifty years of development work were wiped out in about 90 seconds during the January 26 earthquake in western India, according to World Vision, the international relief and development agency. Rebuilding could take 20 years.

The temblor, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, killed tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat state, which is less than 1 percent Christian. Ahmedabad, a city of more than 2 million people, was hit hard.

"Buildings four, seven, and 12 stories high collapsed like a house of cards," said Rabindran David Shelley, World Relief's India project manager. "In another area, a hospital collapsed, killing the staff and patients."

Bhuj was a city of about 20,0000 people. "Bhuj looks like it took a direct hit in a nuclear attack," said Sanjay Sojwal of World Vision

One relief worker reports that tensions flared between Hindu and Christian groups doing relief work in the days after the quake. The worker says that Hindu groups were attempting to "be in control so that the glory wouldn't go to the Christians." These Hindus, the source notes, resent the favorable publicity Christians received for their humanitarian work in the wake of the "super cyclone" that hit Orissa state on October 29, 1999, killing 10,000 people.

Right-wing Hinduism is very strong in Gujarat, which is over 89 percent Hindu. Christians have been targeted across India by Hindu extremists for the last several years. In the best-known incident, a Hindu mob in Orissa burned to death Australian missionary Graham Staines and his three sons in January 1999.

The All India Christian Council has pledged prayer, money, and expertise in the rebuilding effort, and many other organizations, both Indian and Western, have joined the effort.

Lance Thollander, ...

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