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Refugees in the woods - Photo: Morning Star News
Christians driven from their homes.
Photo: Morning Star News

Tribal animists have forced more than 50 Christians to flee their homes and seek shelter in the jungles of Odisha. These believers represent several families that are now stranded without proper shelter, food and water.

The conflict began within the past two months in the village of Sikapai where opposing villagers destroyed the roofs of homes belonging to as many as eight Christian families. Not only had the belongings of the targeted Christians been looted, these victims were also subjected to physical beatings and consequently driven into the jungle. When five Christian families in the nearby village of Kotlanga received similar threats, they remembered what had happened in Sikapai and likewise fled their homes, joining the other displaced families in the jungle.

Similar threats of violence were also made by tribal animists in Chichinga, resulting in two families having to flee their homes for safety. Emboldened by the actions of these anti-Christian mobs, locals in three other villages within the district --- Siripai, Kona and Tongapai --- have also begun oppressing Christians. Although several police complaints were made, the authorities have offered little protection. According to one of the victims, police told them that peace would only come to the area if they denied their Christian faith and returned to the tribal fold.

Village leaders in Sikapai have met with the police but are not prepared to settle the matter. It has been noted that the targeted Christians are not new converts but rather have been Christians for years. The fact that this hostility has suddenly started indicates that someone is responsible for instigating the opposition. To learn more about the persecution facing Christians in India, go to our country report.

Pray that these targeted village believers will receive the provisions and protection they need while trying to survive in the jungle. May God work mightily in the hearts of those opposing them, opening the way for peaceful negotiations so the Christian families can safely return to their homes without having to compromise their faith. Ask the Lord to minister His love, peace and grace among these areas of conflict, and in other troubled communities throughout India, making a way for there to be harmonious relationships between villagers of differing faiths and greater receptivity to the Gospel.