Four Christian homes set on fire in Kandhamal: report

According to a recent report from the International Christian Concern (ICC), radical Hindu nationalists set fire to four Christian homes in Odisha's Kandhamal District after the Christians refused to recant their faith.

As a punishment for refusing to renounce their beliefs, Ladamila village officials barred Christians from accessing the community well earlier this month.

The Christians, on the other hand, remained faithful to their religion and continued to draw water from the community well.

While attempting to use the village well, a crowd of radicals assaulted and abused the Christian women.

The crowd brutally attacked Christians in their houses in Ladamila as tensions rose.

One of the victims* told ICC that on September 17, around 7:30, the crowd stormed into their homes and started beating them.

“A crowd was outside our home, and we were really scared. We ran into the jungle to save our lives,” said the victim.

According to the victim, all four families that escaped the village later gathered in the forest and went together to prevent any adverse situations. They eventually took refuge at a chapel in a neighbouring community.

On September 23, six days after the families departed Ladamila, extremists set fire to the four properties owned by the fleeing Christian families.

“This is very concerning, as it brings back memories of the 2008 riots against Christians,” one of the local bishops told ICC.

“I am saddened by what happened to these four families and the consequences they have had to face for their faith. I hope this can be resolved and contained to the village level,” the bishop added.

Currently, the families are homeless and under police protection. According to the report, the event is being investigated by the local government administration.

The attack on the four families in Kandhamal has “deeply concerned” William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia.

“This truly brings back memories of the 2008 riots in Kandhamal that left dozens of Christians murdered and thousands more displaced,” he said.

“Local authorities must act against the perpetrators of this violence. No one should be denied access to necessities like clean water because of their faith. No one should be rendered homeless because they refuse to recant what they believe. If authorities fail to act, similar incidents of anti-Christian violence will likely be reported as perpetrators know they will enjoy near complete impunity when persecuting Christians,” Stark added.

On 25 August 2008, radical Hindus attacked the poor Christian minorities of Kandhamal, accusing them of murdering Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, despite the fact that Maoist guerillas in the region claimed responsibility for the death. For months, radicals organized a series of riots that killed around 100 people, wounded hundreds, damaged 300 churches and 6,000 houses, and displaced 50,000 people. Many more died of starvation and snakebites while sheltering in nearby forests.

*The name of the victim is concealed for security reasons.