It all began on the night of August 23. A Hindu holy man in the Indian state of Orissa, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, was murdered. Nobody actually knows who killed him. It might have been Maoist militants or Christian militants or somebody else. Nobody has been apprehended for the crime to date.
Still, that didn't stop the mobs from beginning to take vengeance on those they suspected of complicity. The logical thing for Hindu militants to do was, of course, to destroy an orphanage. Christian and Hindu groups decided that the best way to display their non-violence and adherence to the Golden Rule and generally turn the other cheek was to go out into the streets en masse with guns and bombs and start spilling blood.
Riots grip India's Orissa regionCan't you just hear those angelic choirs singing? Laxmi weeps tears of purest joy over the restraint shown in this situation. And why wouldn't they, when people are doing the work of their deities so well by shooting and bombing and reducing an orphanage (see photo at right) to rubble.
By Sandeep Sahu
Four people have been killed in armed clashes that broke out between Hindus and Christians in the Indian state of Orissa at the weekend.
Now a total of at least eight persons have been killed in the spiralling communal violence sparked by the killing of an eminent Hindu leader.
Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed on Saturday night...
...rival groups attacked each other with guns and bombs...
Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said: "Four bodies were found at the scene of the clash at Barakhama. But the identity of the deceased is yet to be established."
Making a statement on the incident in the State Assembly, Mr Patnaik said a small contingent of police personnel present there had done "its best but could not prevent the violence"...
Two people were burnt to death in Tiangia village in the district after rioters set fire to their houses last night.
One person had been burnt to death at Rupagaon village on Sunday night.
Arson and burning of Christian religious places continued on Tuesday in Kandhamal despite a curfew in all major towns and prohibitory orders in force throughout the district.
Even a Flag March by paramilitary forces did not deter the rioters, who went on a rampage setting fire to churches, vehicles and government facilities.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the woman who was burnt to death in an orphanage in Bargarh district yesterday was a Hindu...
Today, however, things are quieting down a bit. The Pope has taken time off from his frog persecuting duties to issue a statement about the situation. Christians and Hindus, meanwhile, are doing what rival religious factions do best when their adherents get killed. They're blaming one another and coming up with religious justifications for the violence which, it turns out, is largely about true believers from one group converting to the other side. Religion is, after all, all about uniting humanity... so long as the uniting takes place under the banner of a particular religious group.
Catholic schools in India protestThere's a statement bound to instill a feeling of peace and unity. I wonder whom Pope Ratzi means when he refers to "brothers and sisters in faith." Peaceful coexistence? I doubt it ever existed. But there's more.
Eleven people have died after a Hindu leader was killed in the state's Kandhamal district last Saturday.
Authorities said Maoist rebels were behind the killing, but some Hindu groups have accused Christians.
Over 3000 police have been deployed but attacks on churches continue. Hundreds of Christians have fled their homes.
The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence as a "national disgrace".
The Pope too has condemned the violence and the Italian government has also expressed its concerns...
The violence was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI who said he was "profoundly saddened" and called for communities to try to restore "peaceful coexistence
"I firmly condemn any attack on human life," Pope Benedict told a crowd of pilgrims on Wednesday.
"I express spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in faith who are being so harshly tested..."
The BBC's Rahul Tandon in Bhubaneswar says this is a complex issue - Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.That's what it's all about. The death of the holy man, which likely wasn't caused by Christians, is just an excuse to start the blood flowing. At the root of all of this is a religious conflict; one religious sect is somehow pilfering followers from another religious sect. This is all yet another instance of people who believe in sky-ghosts taking matters into their own hands when their impotent, in fact non-existent, deities fail to step in and change things. They justify it in their own minds as their acting as the agents of their gods, of course, because it never occurs to them that a deity that needs the protection of its followers is not one that is worth worship in the first place.
Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.
As the authorities struggle to deal with the present situation, the divide between the two communities grows wider and wider, our correspondent says...
The cure for this kind of madness, the clashing of violent mobs, is one that is simple in principle but, sadly, unlikely to happen in reality. It's this: forget the popes and swamis, the gods and ghosts and homa and communion. Chuck it all. All of the rituals, all of the prayers... it's just a shill to separate humanity into insular little groups and ensure that this kind of violence will plague us forever. Instead, look each other in the eye and exercise the power of empathy with which we have been endowed by four billion years of evolution, that slow process of change over time that has honed us into thinking, feeling, moral beings capable of imagining ourselves in the place of the other. Religion is a fog by which reason becomes obscured, and when reason is veiled then what comes forth is animalism. What word could better describe the events in Orissa? These mobs have stripped off their humanity in favor of what they believe is a service to their deities of choice, a thing that they have placed above the value of human life.
Send all the holy men packing. Just be men (by which I mean human, not one gender). The ritual of violence is justified by the ritual of sacrifice. Ask why the sacrifice of life is ever necessary in religion, why Jesus had to die or why a goat was ever tied to a yupa. When the gods are bloodthirsty, can the followers be otherwise?