CLAIM

Buddhist extremists in India plan to burn down 200 churches and kill 200 missionaries within 24 hours.

FALSE

RATING

FALSE

ORIGIN

A breathless warning about endangered Christian missionaries and churches in India has been circulating on the Internet since late February 2010:

Urgent prayer request! Please pray for all the churches in India. Buddhist extremists in India burned down 20 churches last night. Tonight they plan to destroy 200 churches in the province of Olisabang. They plan to kill 200 missionaries within 24 hours. Right now all Christians are hiding in small villages. Please pray for them and send this mail to Christians you know worldwide. Please ask God to have mercy on our brothers and sisters in India . Please pray for them and commit this matter to our Almighty and Victorious Lord.

Those of the faithful concerned for their overseas brethren should breathe a bit more easily: this particular tale is a hoax. It’s several years old now, and even at the time it was current there were no reports out of India of Buddhist extremists on the rampage with twenty Christian churches left burning in their wake. Christians living in India who were asked about this rumor were non-plussed, as they certainly hadn’t taken to hiding in small villages out of fear of marauding Buddhists.

Rev. Samuel Stephens of the India Gospel League (IGL) attested that this message was false, writing that:

If this were true, I would have been one among the first few to receive such information because of the presence of our extensive network of pastors and church planters spread over a good part of the country. I am led to believe that this message is a deliberate, planned and mischievous attempt by Hindu extremists to damage the good relationship between Buddhists and Christians. It is intentionally sent out to create animosity between these two groups.

As for the rest of this tale, as far as we can tell no place on Earth (let alone just India) is named Olisabang, as a city, province, territory, or anything else. Also, the Republic of India is composed of 28 states and 7 union territories — it doesn’t have provinces.

Buddhist extremist groups are prevalent in Sri Lanka, but not India. There are few Buddhists in India, almost too few to count, which should immediately make any tale about Buddhists on the warpath in India suspect. Approximately 80.5% of India’s population is Hindu, 13.4% Muslim, 2.3% Christian, and 1.9% Sikh.

Violent attacks on Christians occurred in India around the time of this warning, but they were carried out by Hindu extremists in 2008 in the Indian state of Orissa. Many Christian families in that area were forced to abandon their faith in exchange for their safety. Churches and houses were burned, and at least thirty Christians lost their lives. The 2008 wave of violence was touched off by the killing of a charismatic Hindu preacher known as Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Although police blamed Maoist guerrillas for the swami’s killing, Hindu radicals held Christians responsible for his death.

Sources:

Hodge, Amanda.   “Catholics Fear Hindu ‘Taliban.'”
    The Australian.   27 April 2009   (World; p. 11).

Sengupta, Somini.   “Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert or Flee.”
    The New York Times.   13 October 2008   (p. A1).