BHUBANESWAR, India – One woman was killed and more than a dozen people injured, some critically, after religious clashes in Orissa between Hindus and Christians, officials said.
Violence broke out at a village in Orissa’s Kandhamal district after Hindus attacked Christians, setting fire to their houses and burning a church, according to the chief administrator of the district Krishan Kumar.
One woman was seriously injured in the clashes and died on her way to the hospital, police said. “She was stabbed to death and there were several injury marks,” S. Praveen Kumar, a senior police officer said.
The violence followed a string of attacks on Christians in three states which has left at least 33 people dead and dozens of churches damaged in the last month. Christians have responded with some violence in Orissa.
The clashes were sparked by the issue of religious conversion in Orissa’s poor tribal region, home to many Christian missionary groups. Hindus have opposed the Christian missionaries’ conversion of lower-caste Hindus.
Religious clashes have also been reported in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka which are both headed by a Hindu-nationalist governments.
Clashes first erupted in Orissa last month after the killing of a Hindu leader linked to the main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Police suspected Maoist rebels but many Hindus in the region blamed Christians.
More than 3,700 federal police have already been deployed in the area.
The attacks on Christians in India have been condemned by Pope Benedict, and Roman Catholic bishops have urged the European Union to treat persecution of Christians as a humanitarian emergency.
But violence has continued, especially in Kandhamal where thousands of Christians now live in government camps because their homes are destroyed or they are too fearful to return.
India does not have a long history of attacks on minority Christians, but intolerance has risen in the past two decades with a revival of Hindu nationalism.
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