Mild case of Christian-versus-Hindu violence

orissa riotsPlease read the following section of a report from the Catholic News Service, which includes material from a hospital bed interview with Father Thomas Chellen, the 55-year-old director of the Catholic pastoral center at Konjamendi in the Indian state of Orissa:

Following the Aug. 23 murder of a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, by Maoist extremists, Father Chellen said Hindu mobs started attacking Christian centers in Kandhamal, the district where the slain leader was based. ...

"They began our crucifixion parade," said Father Chellen. The gang of about 50 armed Hindus "beat us up and led us like culprits along the road" to the burned pastoral center. "There they tore my shirt and started pulling off the clothes of the nun. When I protested, they beat me hard with iron rods. Later, they took the sister inside (and) raped her while they went on kicking and teasing me, forcing (me) to say vulgar words," said the priest who has cuts, bruises and swollen tissue all over his body and stitches on his face.

"Later both of us, half-naked, were taken to the street, and they ordered me to have sex with the nun in public, saying nuns and priests do it. As I refused, they went on beating me and dragged us to the nearby government office. Sadly, a dozen policemen were watching all this," he said.

Angry at his plea to the police for help, the mob beat the bleeding priest again.

This situation is totally out of control and you can find more reports on the violence at this weblog -- Orissa Burning.

Or you can go read a very, very low-key New York Times report that skated right by me in the online version of the newspaper. Perhaps it was that strong, passionate headline: "Faiths Clash, Displacing Thousands in East India."

There we read the following. Now tell me if you think the Times buried the lede on this one.

At least 3,000 people, most of them Christians, are living in government-run relief camps after days of Christian-versus-Hindu violence in eastern India, government officials said.

The government said that many people were also living in the jungle without any shelter or security because of the tensions, which erupted in violence after a Hindu leader was killed Saturday. At least 10 people, most of them Christians, have been killed since.

Christian community leaders say that at least 1,000 homes of Christians have been set on fire since Monday, rendering more than 5,000 people homeless. Many of those living in the jungle were without food or water, said the Rev. Dibakar Parichha, a priest at the Roman Catholic church in Phulbani, a town in Orissa State. Father Parichha said that about 90 places of worship, including small churches and prayer halls, had been burned down. Local officials said the figure was about 20.

The violence has occurred in Kandhamal, a district in Orissa State that has a history of communal and ethnic clashes. The latest conflict started Saturday night, when unidentified armed men stormed a Hindu school in Kandhamal and killed the Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his followers.

The police suspected that Maoist rebels were responsible. But Hindus blamed Christians.

Now, if you read that this was "Christian-versus-Hindu violence" and then you read that the riots began with the death of a Hindu leader, what would you assume? Let's see, that would be Christians attacking Hindus and a Hindu leader was killed, thus leading to violence in which Hindus responded to the violence against them.

Read the above passage again. Way, way later we find out that the Hindu leader was, apparently, killed by "Maoist rebels." The world does not contain many Catholic nuns and priests who are "Maoist rebels." The Times reports that "police suspected" that Maoists did the deed. Catholic News Service reports this murder as fact.

Instead of offering a hat tip to Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher on this one, let me share a piece of his post on this -- in my opinion -- bizarre little story in our culture's newspaper of record.

Ah, yes, "faiths clash;" what's next for the Times, reporting a gang rape by saying, "Sexes clash"? I've noticed this over the years when the MSM reports on violence members of other religions inflict on a Christian minority in a faraway land: they tend to present it as Just One of Those Things -- that is, as if there really were no victims, only clashing parties. I noticed it six years ago, when Baptist medical missionaries serving the poor in Shia-controlled Lebanon were murdered by Muslims. The reporting I read framed it as a "faiths clash" deal. You know, Muslims and Christians are fighting, who can say who's right, yadda yadda...

In a way, I think the opening of the Times story is worse than that -- it suggests the exact opposite of what appears to be happening. Again, the story says this is a case of "Christian-versus-Hindu violence."

I will try to keep an eye on this one, seeking reporting that documents the role of the Maoists in triggering this. If there has been violence by Christians, in response, it would be good to see that documented, too.

However, I will end with a final quote from the Catholic News Service report:

Asked about the how the nun coped with the trauma, Father Chellen said: "We had no option and were simply following their commands. We resisted as much as we could. This is like being tortured for Christ."

Photo: From the World Prout Assembly website, a photo from earlier riots in the region.

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