In spite of month of persecution, Christians, like the people shown here in Orissa, were able to celebrate Christmas peacefully.

Despite months of ongoing attacks and dire threats that Christmas would be disrupted by violence, Christians in Orissa, India, were able to peacefully celebrate Christ’s birth. Gospel for Asia leaders in Orissa report that both the state government and India’s federal government stepped in to make sure that Christians could enjoy the holiday safely.

GFA correspondents in the state reported that midnight church services were conducted under the watchful eyes of government-supplied security guards. And the more than 10,000 Christians living in relief camps were also able to celebrate.

In Bhubaneswar and Berhampur, more than 500 people came out to savor Christmas dinner together. The GFA correspondent said there was a warm feeling of belonging and family solidarity at the gatherings.

The peaceful celebrations were a pleasant surprise to the Christians, who have been the target of extremists groups since August. The violence started shortly after a prominent Hindu leader was murdered. Although Maoist rebel groups claim responsibility for his murder, the man’s followers used his death as an excuse to go on a rampage against Christians. Since then an estimated 500 people have died, and thousands of others are homeless after the extremists burned down their homes. Dozens of churches and prayer halls were also destroyed.

A well-known extremist group had threatened to attack churches who conducted services on Christmas. Another radical group had organized and promoted an illegal strike on Christmas day, but they later pulled back on their plans.

The missionaries in Orissa ask for continued prayer for their situation. They are concerned that when the security forces leave the area, the radical groups will resume their assault on Christians.