Friday, December 26, 2008

A peaceful but sombre Christmas for Christians in Kandhamal.

Despite concerns that Christmas in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, India would be marred with the anti-Christian violence that has been a hallmark of the area since late August, Christmas passed quietly, though sombrely.  Midnight services took place in at least 60 churches in the district and while there were reports of a few roadblocks being set up, they were reportedly taken down quickly by police. Authorities had promised increased security for Christian worshippers in order to avoid a repeat of the violence that took place a year ago in Orissa and a resurgence of the attacks that have become commonplace in recent months. More than 5,000 security men were deployed and a helicopter was used for surveillance.

Since the attacks started in August, the majority of Christians in Kandhamal have either fled the region or are living in squalid refugee camps with virtually nothing.  Believers also wanted to make sure not to incite their Hindu neighbours. Christmas celebrations, hence, were much more subdued than what is normal. 

We thank God that Christmas passed peacefully for believers in Kandhamal and that authorities took their responsibilities to protect their citizens seriously. We are also grateful that there seem to have not been any significant attacks of believers in either Pakistan or Indonesia, two other countries we were monitoring more closely this year. Please pray for Christians in China's Anhui province, Henan province and Xinjiang Autonomous Region where ChinaAid reports authorities launched a series of raids on house churches during the week leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve in Henan province, nine Christian women were arrested during a nativity play and are still being held by police.

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