Victims of Indian Bible college beating recover

ORISSA, India — Calm has returned to the Gospel for Asia Bible college in Orissa, India, exactly one week after students were assaulted and the buildings ransacked in an attack led by hundreds of anti-Christian extremists. The peaceful resolution to the volatile situation came March 7, after a meeting of Bible college administrators, about 20 representatives from the village and B.K. Luke, who oversees GFA's work in Orissa.

"One week ago they were hitting us and now they are shaking our hands and hugging us," Luke said.

Gospel for Asia leaders in the area report the attack was spearheaded by a handful of anti-Christian extremists who took advantage of a land-use issue involving the Bible college and the village.

The rest of the student body and staff remained inside the dormitories. Local and reserve police arrived on the scene, but found it difficult to control the crowd, and the situation remained tense.

The attackers also disconnected the electricity and ransacked the campus, destroying the roofs of many of the school buildings.

Gospel for Asia has had workers in Orissa since 1993, and their ministry has included Compassion Services relief and reconstruction work following the 1999 cyclone. The Bible college is one of 54 operated by GFA throughout South Asia.

The attack on the Orissa Bible college came just 10 days after another group of Hindu extremists attacked five Bible college students in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Two of those students were critically injured in the attack.

"We are asking Christians around the world to pray for complete restoration of the injured students and their campus," Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan said.

"And let us also pray for these attackers," he said. "In all religions there are extremists, and this case is one example of that. They, too need to know the love of God in a real and personal way."

The Bible college is located next to a river and wedged between a large rice paddy and a gated brick factory. Before the Bible college was built, villagers routinely walked across the undeveloped land to access the river. Once the Bible college was constructed, villagers simply carved out a path through the campus to access the river. They sometimes drove tractors and other motorized vehicles through the college campus. The noise from these vehicles disturbed students and their teachers as they tried to study.

Bible college officials petitioned the local court for permission to close the unofficial trail to outside traffic, and the court ruled in favor of the college. Villagers could still access the river, but they had to go around the college and the brick factory.

Local law enforcement officials have determined that the Bajrang Dal, a youth organization affiliated with a Hindu extremist organization, exaggerated the effects of the ruling and incited the villagers to attack the school.

Dozens of students were injured in the Feb. 28 attack, and several of the buildings on the campus were ransacked. The extremists demanded that the school be closed and that all GFA work in Orissa be stopped.

Five people from the school—four male students and one female staff member—are still hospitalized as a result of injuries. One of the male students was injured when someone slammed a brick into his chest. He is still in critical condition. The injured woman—the girls' dormitory director—is recovering from a head injury.

At the conclusion of the March 7 meeting, the college agreed to designate a pathway near the perimeter of the campus that would allow people to access the river. The villagers agreed to limit the pathway to foot traffic only and not drive motorized vehicles through the campus.

EP News

Published, March 2007