Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful came together in large numbers for the high Mass at St. Joseph’s School ground in Bhubaneswar on August 25, recalling the day 10 years ago when violence erupted with untold brutality against the Christians of Kandhamal District, with Hindu extremists blaming them for the August 23 murder of their Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples.
Even though Maoist rebels claimed the assassination, the anti-Christian violence continued unabated for days and months on end.
The violence, considered to be India’s worst against Christians in 300 years, displaced an estimated 56,000 Christians who were forced to flee to the forests where many perished because of hunger and snakebites. Church and social activists reported the destruction of almost 300 churches, convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities. Women and young girls were raped.
At least 91 people died, 38 immediately, 41 from injuries sustained in the violence, and 12 in police action. However, according to government figures, 38 people were killed and two women raped. Scores of people were injured and permanently maimed.