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Associated Press

The 'sheer scale' of anti-Christian violence

Religion | Persecution takes no break during elections or financial crisis

Issue: "Not over till it's over," Nov. 1, 2008

India

Massive waves of violence against Christians in India's Orissa State have continued with surprisingly little intervention from authorities. An influential Christian, Dushahan Majhi, was killed and his body maimed when Hindu extremists raided his village on Oct. 3, according to Compass Direct News. The mob then killed at least one more believer in the village. Attacks on another village left one man dead and several injured from ax wounds.

More than 50 Christians have been killed (although some estimates are much higher) and 18,000 injured since the violence began in late August when Hindu extremists blamed Christians for the death of Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati. Maoist militants have since admitted to the murder, but the rampages continue. More than 300 villages have been purged of their Christian residents, and 70,000 believers are now homeless. With winter in sight, those who are hiding in the jungle risk starvation, but many who return to their villages are covered with petrol and lit on fire if they refuse to convert to Hinduism. "The sheer scale of the ongoing anti-Christian violence in Orissa and the reluctance of federal, state and local authorities to act and protect the Christians is a serious and deeply disturbing development in Indian society," Barnabas Fund International Director Patrick Sookhdeo said.

Turkey

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More details emerged during the 12th hearing in the trial of 18 men accused of murdering three Christians in Malatya, Turkey on April 18, 2007. The suspected ringleader, Emre Gunaydin, claimed that local journalist Verol Bulent Aral promised him "state support" for the murders of Tilmann Geske, Necati Aydin, and Ugur Yuksel, according to Compass Direct News. Aral also testified during the hearing and has been linked to the Ergenekon gang, a clandestine ultra-nationalist group that is currently under investigation for its connection to recent murders.

Plaintiff lawyer Orhan Kamal Cengiz says there is a "very dark, complex, sophisticated web of relations" behind the murders: "We are stuck. Everyone sees that some of the witnesses are not witnesses at all." The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21.

Pakistan

A 55-year-old Pakistani pastor and his family have been threatened and attacked numerous times by police in the Punjab province during the past several months. Pastor Christopher Manzer has received multiple death threats from the uncle of a Muslim man who blames Manzer for his divorce and the deaths of his ex-wife and unborn baby. Medical reports say the two died from a botched abortion. The pastor had counseled the woman after she returned to her father and expressed regret for converting to Islam. The woman subsequently returned to her Christian faith. "I'm a Christian Pastor, and in Pakistan you know it is a trend to hurt the Christians," Manzer told Compass Direct News. "Most Christians are suffering very much."

Since the tragedy, Manzer has endured five rounds of beatings by local police who have also verbally harassed his wife and four children. Christian friends have bribed the police to end each of the attacks and are concerned about their financial resources drying up.

Kyrgyzstan

A draft religious law being considered by Kyrgyzstan's parliament has passed its first reading. The process has been shrouded in secrecy, but one local politician told Forum 18 that the draft law includes a ban on un-registered religious activity, a ban on proselytism, and a ban on the free distribution of literature. Local leaders say they have organized public meetings to address concerns about the new law, but religious communities claim they haven't been invited. The final reading of the law could take place in October.

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