Thursday, April 28, 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
- This Saturday, goons entered a church in Bastar and tried to set the pastor and his pregnant wife on fire
- They allegedly forced people to shout Jai Shri Ram
- Attacks on Christians have been on the rise in Chhattisgarh, often abetted by the administration
- How Christians are being targetted in Chhattisgarh
- The administration's response
- How violence is backed up by discrimination
Hooligans, reportedly carrying pistols, rods and knives, are said to have entered the church on Saturday night and assaulted Pastor Dinbandhu Sameli, his 7-month pregnant wife and daughter Roushni Vidya.
The attackAfter entering the premises, the assailants attacked the pastor and tried to destroy the Holy Bible, furniture and religious material kept inside. They also tried to set the church on fire.
The president of Chhattisgarh's Christian Forum Arun Pannalal says that the attack was carried out by the workers of Bajrang Dal and accused police of "covering up" the incident.
"The church was vandalised by Hindu fundamentalists during prayer meeting on Saturday. Activists wearing bhagwa (saffron) head bands, were forcing Christians to chant 'Jai Shri Ram', then they doused the pastor and his 7 month pregnant wife with petrol. And now the police is trying to protect them," he said.
The officer investigating the case, Abdul Khan, had a totally different view of the case. "Who told you that these people [the attackers] chanted 'Jai Shri Ram'? You go and ask those people these questions.. As far as the investigation is concerned, it's happening and in due time we'll catch the people responsible for this," he said.
Instead police has registered an FIR under sections like 452 (house trespass), 395 (dacoity), 435 (committing mischief by fire and causing damage of Rs 100), 427 (committing mischief and causing damage of Rs 50), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship) and Section 34 (acts done by several people in furtherance of a common intention).
Christians targetedAccording to data compiled by Chhattisgarh Evangelical Foundation, the attacks on Christians are only increasing with time. But many feel that the attacks aren't just physical in nature. That the attacks often seem to be well coordinated and abetted by people in power.
The table below shows the number of incidents of violence against Christians in Chhattisgarh. The data was compiled by the Catholic Secular Forum.
1. In 2013 some villages in Chhattisgarh decided to ban the entry of non-Hindus in their village. By last year, some 150 villages had passed such resolutions. These resolutions were finally taken to the High Court that struck them down as being unconstitutional.
2. Chhattisgarh is one of the 5 states in the country to have passed an anti-conversion law. While banning one's conversion to any other faith, the law has provisions for anyone wanting to return to their 'ancestor's faith' or their 'original religion'. This won't be considered 'conversion' according to the law.
3. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) banned distribution of sweets by Santa Clauses in the area on the occasion of Christmas. It has asked the community to instead refer to the sweets as 'prasad'.
4. It has also forced churches in and around Bastar to display pictures of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati in their schools.
"Physical attacks are not as worrisome as the attitude of this administration. They were privatising and taking over the model schools in the state and giving them over to a particular community group. We had to approach High Court against this and last month got a stay," Pannalal said.
He added that in Korba, Hindu fundamentalists were trying to force a sister to install Saraswati statue.
"When she refused, the collector of the area booked her in a case of disturbing communal harmony. When we approached National Human Rights Commission, they made the same collector the inquiring officer in the case," said Pannalal.
Reverend Rajesh Robin has seen communal attacks and state apathy from up close. He's been part of several protests, one of which was against vandalism of a cemetery. Instead of seeing police action against hooligans, he has been booked under several cases like attempt to murder, kidnapping and seeking ransom. He even had to spend 3 days in jail in connection with one of the cases.
"This year alone we've seen cases of pastors and parishioners being beaten in Bijapur, Narayanpur, Raipur, Madhauta...In Narayanpur they were beaten so badly that they had to be brought to Jagdalpur for treatment. In Jagdalpur we're still better off, but there still is a palpable fear of police and Hindu fundamentalists here."
It is because of incidents like the vandalism of their graveyard that shook the faith of people like Pastor Rajesh in the state.
"So these people recently demolished a wall that was being built around the graveyard. The police did not even register a case. Then these goons came to us and claimed that this graveyard belonged to their faith some 150 years ago. Just like they did in the case of Babri Masjid. So what are we supposed to do now?"
Pastor Surendra Chalki who runs an ashram for children and elderly women in Jagdalpur also suffered a shock recently. An brick and mortar ashram that he was building with the donations he collected from his neighbours, was demolished by the municipality, even though he had secured a nod from his gram sabha. But he's still hopeful.
"When we approached the collector, he told us that the ashram was demolished by mistake. We will hopefully get a clearance from all the authorities and start building the ashram afresh."
Edited by Aditya Menon
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“Where is your Jesus?” the two men demanded; Sameli replied “We believe that he is with us”. When asked “Why don’t you believe in Ram?” husband and wife remained silent.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Now, Bastar church vandalized, pastor & family attacked
The Christian leaders said that the Gems Pentecostal community (Gospel Echoing Missionary Society) of Nabinagar was attacked on April 10 during a peaceful rally titled "Holiness of Holiness", organized by the congregation. The local faithful - about 200 people - "were gathered from April 8 to 10 without provocation - he explains - But on the last day, after the naming ceremony of a group of 30 Christians, about 35 radicals belonging to theBajrang Dal [Hindu nationalists, the young and militant wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, ed] raided the prayer meeting".
Sajan K George also reports that the police immediately rushed to the place, but most agents flanked the molesters. The officers did not want to register the case against the Hindus, while they arrested the pastor on three counts, two of which do not provide for his release on bail. "It is very worrying - he says - that the police are biased against the Christian minority, while the should maintain order and protect citizens."
The attackers first ordered Jebakumar Dhanraj, who organized the convention, to leave the church. Once outside, they beat him. Then they beat other believers and missionaries and the pastor Suresh Lakhra.
The second episode of persecution against Christians occurred on April 5. Extremists of the Bajrang Dal and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu nationalists, ed] stopped another Christian, Deepak, on his way to the village of Chak Budhani to spread the message of God. They took him into a Hindu center, and beat him on his head, legs and neck with chains.
The man was savagely tortured for five hours, with the use of chains, rods, sickles and shoes. The attackers then rubbed alcohol on his bleeding wounds and forced him to undress and to drink urine. They then took his clothes to hide the traces of their crime and wrote a false statement accusing the man of having offered thousands of rupees for forced conversions. The extremists have also tried to make him insult the name of God, with electrical shocks and threatened to throw him on railroad tracks. But the religious man refused and answered: "Kill me, but I will never insult the name of God."
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Thursday, April 07, 2016
Evangelical Fellowship of India releases troubling data for the first three months of 2016. Targeting of Christians increasing in India.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India has registered 55 verified incidents of hate crimes targeting Christians India between January 17 and March 22, 2016 in 16 states throughout the country. This list is a partial list for many incidents are not reported and of the incidents that are reported, many are unverifiable due to the sheer size of the country.
Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 10 incidents, followed by Maharashtra with 7 incidents. This is followed by Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand with 5 each, and by Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Uttarakhand with 4 each. Other states on the tally are Rajasthan (3), Punjab (2), Haryana (1), West Bengal (2), Gujarat (1), Assam (1), Karnataka (1) and Odisha (1).
The Evangelical Fellowship of India has urged the Central Government and the respective State Governments to curb the hate and violence unleashed at the Christian community in India and to secure their fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate their faith and live peacefully as citizens of a free nation.
You can also download a full copy of the report by clicking here.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Political parties and labor unions have joined Christians in demanding that Good Friday be reinstated as a public holiday in India's Madhya Pradesh state.
Church officials and politicians said the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party state government has deliberately not listed the day as a holiday in the official gazette, following its policy of overlooking other religions.
"This shows the government's hatred towards Christians," said K.K. Mishra spokesperson for the state chapter of the opposition Congress Party.
Good Friday was recognized as a statewide holiday until a gazette notification issued on Nov. 26 failed to have it listed as one. Good Friday is a holiday in most of India.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which came to power in the state 13 years ago, has been gradually promoting a Hindu ideology, critics have said.
"It deliberately made Good Friday a working day," Mishra told ucanews.com.
Father Maria Stephen, spokesman for Bhopal Archdiocese, said the government's move is unfortunate and will divide people along "sectarian lines, and eventually destroy peace and harmony."
The decision undermines the spirit of the Indian constitution, which is based on secular principles, the priest said. Such ideas will also sow the seeds of fundamentalism, said Father Stephen. The state government should reconsider the decision, he added.
Communists have also weighed in on the issue. Badal Saroj, state secretary of the Communist Party of India, said Good Friday is not just a Christian holy day. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ provides a message for everyone working for truth and human equality, he said.
The United Forum of Bank Unions said it sent a memorandum to state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to tell him that Good Friday should be a holiday.
However, Anthony DeSa, the state's chief secretary, said no political group or employees union have approached him so far about having Good Friday off.
There are 59 millions Christians in India which has a total population of 1.3 billion people.
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Saturday, March 19, 2016
Persecution of Christians spreading in India; Hindu radicals enjoying immunity, humanitarian groups say
Attacks against Christians in India are increasing alarmingly this year, with about 30 incidents of religiously motivated violence reported in just two months, according to humanitarian groups.
The International Christian Concern (ICC) said at least 26 documented incidents spread across the subcontinent have been culled since Jan. 1. Hindu nationalists are leading the campaign of persecution and attacks on Christians, Fox News reported.
Such persecution cases used to be limited to a particular region or issue. However, the violence has now become more widespread with Hindu radicals enjoying immunity for their actions, ICC said.
"They are wolves in sheep's clothing," Jeff King, president of the ICC told Fox News. "There has been an increase in attacks because these nationalists feel emboldened with [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi in power."
"The government, which came into power with the election of Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has strong Hindu nationalist ties. As a result, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily,'' David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA also told Fox News.
Curry said since 2014 there has been a significant rise in attacks on Christians and Christian communities by radical Hindu forces.
ICC lamented that Indian police usually take no action against the aggressors. One case was when a mob of over 30 radicals "attacked, beat, and dragged" a Catholic priest and three church officials from their car in the village of Ettimadai in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu last Jan. 29.
The men tried to escape from the mob but failed. Police did not intervene, resulting in the hospitalisation of the four men, said the report.
Two weeks earlier, a local pastor and members of his congregation in the Nizamabad district of Telangana state were "savagely beaten" by a mob of 40 Hindu radicals after they allegedly tried to convert Hindus to Christianity.
The attack, which occurred during a Christian prayer gathering, resulted in the hospitalisation of six persons, including a four-year-old girl whose leg was broken, according to locals.
"It was a very scary scene," Pastor Nitin Kumar said. "They tore my cassock and I received blows, punches, [and] kicks from all directions as I was their prime target. [Our] Bibles were snatched from us and were tore and trampled. [Other] believers ran to all directions as they were chased by the mob."
Last Sunday, a Pentecostal church in the Chhattisgarh state was also attacked during prayer services by a mob believed to have been a part of the militant Hindu Bajrang Dal organisation.
Despite the growing atrocities, the administration of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP has yet to publicly condemn the attacks, the humanitarian groups said.
They criticised the Indian government for its refusal to speak out against the atrocities, adding that its silence has encourage radical Hindus to step up their attacks against Christians.
To stop the wave of extreme nationalism, the ICC has brought its campaign to Washington following the rash of outbreaks. Eight U.S. senators and 26 members of Congress have sent a bipartisan letter to Modi requesting that he strongly and publicly condemn the acts of persecution.
But India's leader has yet to respond, according to news reports.
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