When We Fail Both Christ and Gandhi

Forgive us, O God, for we do not know what we do.

The death toll in the continuing anti-Christian violence in Orissa state rose to 50 as India celebrated the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation and champion of peace.

Gandhi led the first non-violent independence movement just over three score years ago. And while the notion of ahimsa (non-violence) existed in ancient Hindu tradition, Gandhi revived it inspired partly by what he read in the Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi made non-violence a viable political force and understood that unlike pacificity, non-violence was active and paradoxical – one had to be violently non-violent, not passive at all. How far have the politics fallen?

I can’t say how far, but we have some idea as to how much:

Some 20 people have been killed, 50,000 displaced and 4,000 homes have been destroyed over the last ten days, as a result of the “worst ever communal riots against Christians,” according to a report by the Forum. Of those who have fled their villages, some 13,000 are living in nine relief camps run by the government. Some 200 villages were affected, with hundreds of churches burnt down.

How is it that we as Christians and Hindus can enter into violence with one another? Christians are accused of murdering a Hindu priest (it was denied of course, which in addition to the immorality of that, it defies common sense as they’re outnumbered 9 to 1 based on national demographics) and Hindus are burning churches and homes in retaliation, even though local Christian groups have condemned the killing. Have Hindus done the same? Why in the world do we even call ourselves Christians or Hindus if we are to commit these acts of violence? This doesn’t signal to me that our beliefs cause or condone violence, but that we have little faith at all. Or perhaps that politics can do many things under the banner of religion, but if we were to live up to our faith we would look more like Jesus and Gandhi than what is happening now.

May the people of Orissa have peace. May the righteous rest tonight. May the killing stop.

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