The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.
They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.
“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”
Here in Kandhamal, the district that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall where the Digals worshiped. Today it is a heap of rubble on an empty field, where cows blithely graze.
Across this ghastly terrain lie the singed remains of mud-and-thatch homes. Christian-owned businesses have been systematically attacked. Orange flags (orange is the sacred color of Hinduism) flutter triumphantly above the rooftops of houses and storefronts.
[A] Hindu mob in the village of Nuagaon dragged a Catholic priest and a nun from their residence, tore off much of their clothing and paraded them through the streets.
The nun told the police that she had been raped by four men, a charge the police say was borne out by a medical examination. Yet no one was arrested in the case until five weeks later, after a storm of media coverage.
A few steps from where the nun had been attacked in Nuagaon, five men, their heads freshly shorn, emerged from a soggy tent in a relief camp for Christians fleeing their homes.
The men had also been summoned to a village meeting in late August, where hundreds of their neighbors stood with machetes in hand and issued a firm order: Get your heads shaved and bow down before our gods, or leave this place.
Trembling with fear, Daud Nayak, 56, submitted to a shaving, a Hindu sign of sacrifice. He drank, as instructed, a tumbler of diluted cow dung, considered to be purifying.
In the eyes of his neighbors, he reckoned, he became a Hindu.
In his heart, he said, he could not bear it.
All five men said they fled the next day with their families. They refuse to return.
Monday, October 13, 2008
What Would You Do?
NPR's Morning Edition had a sobering story today about the persecution of Christians in Iraq. You can listen to it here, or you can read a CNN article about the same subject here.
It's not just Iraq where Christians are having a hard time, of course. Most incidents never reach the press and we never hear about them.
Nevertheless, the NY Times, that bastion of liberalism, ran a story yesterday about the persecution of Christians in India. (Last November, I blogged about the hard time Dalits have in India; the NYT story isn't about Dalits, though.) As I read the stories, I found myself wondering what I would do if faced with these situations. What would you do? It's easy to show up at church in America and sing about our loyalty to Jesus and how wonderful it is to be a Christian. The worst opposition we face is usually our own sin and self-preoccupied narcissism. But what if we faced what these Indians face? What would we do? Check these excerpted vignettes, or read the entire story here:
What would you do?