Christmas Eve celebration launches 'Black Christmas Day' in Kandhamal District, India

January 02, 2008

On the afternoon of December 24, 2007, many Christians in the Kandhamal District of India were preparing for their usual Christmas festivities. A quarrel broke out after a group of people approached one of the tents voicing their disapproval of the decorations being used for the Christmas celebration. A scuffle ensued which escalated into open fire on the Christians, resulting in gunshot wounds to three of them. However, it is believed that this was a strategy instigated by a radical Hindu guru: the "quarrel" quickly and methodically erupted into a widespread campaign of terror against Christians throughout the entire Kandhamal District of Orissa State.

Loss of house and relatives

Churches, businesses, orphanages, schools and homes have been completely destroyed. Some were bombed. Crosses were torn down and churches desecrated. In just one of the district villages, over 400 homes were broken into and looted. Tables, chairs, sound systems and equipment of all kinds burned while police stood by – as spectators to the torchings.

Later on, one of the extremists gave the media this as their "reason" for the attacks: Christians are "using Christmas decorations as a ploy to convert the poor and uneducated to Christianity."

Desperate Christian believers have become refugees in their homeland, as they flee into the jungle areas for survival.

The situation is desperate and their misery is crushing. Urgent help is needed, but they have no recourse from normal channels. Christian Aid has already heard from at least four different ministries in the surrounding areas expressing their alarm. Each one of them reports on death, destruction and terror. "The time has come for the Christian world to extend its love and assistance," says Pastor Nayak, representing one ministry.

Church equipment is burned, including a motorbike of Balliguda Baptist Church.

The total impact of this persecution is not yet known, but it has been widespread and devastating. Over 5,000 people have been affected by the attack. People from all Christian denominations escaped with only the clothing on their backs. We are uncertain of the exact numbers because we keep receiving updates from the various areas, but it is believed between at least eight and up to 50 lives have been lost so far. Fanatics are demanding Christians recant their faith before returning home. They have not given in, so they continue to suffer. All of their valuable documents, personal belongings, medical supplies, money, or any other kind of meager security has been taken away. Pastor Nayak gives this heartbreaking testimony: "I can only feel despair and helplessness seeing them in this pathetic condition. They have nothing, and they are in shock; it shows in their dark eyes and drawn, haggard faces."

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26

Spiritual encouragement, physical necessities, protection, future plans: where do we start? There is an immediate and very timely need for the bare essentials: clothing, blankets, food, soap and medical assistance for the wounded or infirm. Right now Christian workers are appealing to the authorities for justice. Some believers are undoubtedly facing a spiritual crisis and need our prayers. Restoration of lives, livelihoods, homes, schools, orphanages are (hopefully) on the horizon.

Our Lord has continually used Christian Aid and its supporters to help our brethren in times of need. We continue to trust in Him to provide this help for Pastor Nayak and all the other indigenous workers, as they serve Him. Pray that these Christians will persevere and forgive, and that we all bring glory to His name!