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Where religions of peace aren't

"Where religions of peace aren't" Continued...

Issue: "2008 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 13, 2008

The former pastor from Mumbai, who has asked to remain unnamed due to his involvement in relief work in Orissa, says many families are split between Christians and Maoists. While some Christians have died for their faith, some of the people arrested for the death of Saraswati have Christian names. "Those hot-headed youth who are unable to take the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and who are impatient say, 'We will join the Maoists because the oppression is horrible,'" the pastor said.

Mangalwadi says Christians in India need to define their relationship with Maoists who have been supporting evangelicals there for some time. Frontline evangelists, for example, are escorted into the jungle to show the Jesus film. Halfway through the film, it is stopped for a lecture on Maoism and is then resumed.

But both Mangalwadi and the pastor from Mumbai caution against isolating the Maoists: "We don't want to say that we are anti-Maoist, but that we are anti-violence. We want to embrace the Maoists and say there is a better way of doing things," the pastor said, adding that there is a growing intellectual leaning of Marxists toward Christ.

Close to 15,000 Orissans have fled to other states and are living with friends and relatives. Tens of thousands remain in refugee camps and are beginning the arduous process of registering their losses. Many of those who have lost family members have not been able to produce a body, making paperwork difficult. Undoubtedly, many will need counseling as reports of rapes and horrific stories of torture and murder are brought to light.

Kandhmal, the district hardest hit, remains limited to Christian relief agencies. Much of the relief work is taking place in refugee camps outside this area where Mangalwadi says large amounts of money have been directed for rebuilding homes, distributing food, and providing legal help.

The retired pastor from Mumbai is part of a team that will go into Orissa and help oversee solutions in the form of relief and reconciliation. He believes Christian groups should focus on winning over the Maoists, moving toward reconciliation without compromising the preaching of the gospel and promoting development.

But Mangalwadi cautions that the future may bring more bloodshed if the church doesn't take seriously the call to reconcile, noting suspicions among Hindus that Christians are paying Maoists to kill Hindu leaders. "We need the language of reconciliation that says, 'Yes, you killed 50 of us, but we did kill five of you and we are sorry about our people who killed five of you.'" He says the next round of violence could come as early as Christmas and may be much worse. Maoists gunned down an RSS activist on Nov. 5, causing widespread fear of renewed violence.

Hindu fundamentalists have blamed Christianity's growing strength in India on forced conversions and bribery. Even Gandhi suspected Christians of preying upon the Dalits, the lowest caste, claiming that they lacked the intelligence to fully comprehend theological matters. But the perseverance of Orissa's believers-many of whom are Dalits-tells a different story.

"There are 50,000 people who are living in the jungles rather than going back and becoming Hindus. It goes to show that those Christians were real Christians," the retired pastor from Mumbai said. "They were not bribed, they were not bought by any missionaries. They are Christians and they are able to stand up for their faith. That is something that really speaks to us."

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