The pope today condemned anti-Christian violence in India where at least eight people have been killed by Hindu mobs attacking churches.
During his weekly audience at the Vatican, the pope said he was “profoundly saddened” by news of the attacks on Christian communities in eastern India.
“I firmly condemn any attack on human life,” he said. “I express spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in faith who are being so harshly tested.”
The pope also called “deplorable” the killing of a Hindu leader. Hard-line Hindus have blamed that death on Christian militants, setting off the latest violence in India’s Orissa state.
The pope urged religious leaders and local authorities to “work together to re-establish between the members of the various communities the peaceful coexistence and the harmony that have always marked Indian society.”
The violence began as Hindu hard-liners set a Christian orphanage on fire on Monday, killing a woman teacher and seriously injuring a priest.
Four people were killed later that day, including two burned alive when rioters set fire to thatched huts. Four more people died yesterday in gun battle between rival groups in the village of Barakhama.
Hinduism is the main religion in India, and relations with the country’s religious minorities – such as Christians, who account for 2.5% of the country’s 1.1 billion people, and Muslims, who make up 14% – are usually peaceful.
However, Hindu nationalists often accuse Christian missionaries of luring poor people away through bribes or coercion, which churches deny.