Monday, February 23, 2015

Mother Teresa’s aim was conversion, says Bhagwat

The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Monday cast aspersions on the services of Mother Teresa by saying that conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind her service to the poor. 

“Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian,” he said while speaking at a function organised near Bharatpur by NGO Apna Ghar. “The question is not about conversion but if this [conversion] is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he said. “But here [at the NGO], the objective is purely service of poor and helpless people,” Mr Bhagwat added.

He was addressing a gathering on Monday in Bajhera, a village near Bharatpur,, after inaugurating a ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ — homes for helpless women and children run by a non-governmental organisation Apna Ghar.

Mr. Bhagwat had been in Rajasthan for a couple of days and had already attended an RSS meet and delivered a lecture in the memory of Rajput ruler Rana Sanga.
Politicans across the country reacted to Bhagwat's remark.
Click here for source
 

Indian priest kidnapped in Afghanistan released after eight months

Indian Jesuit priest Alexis Prem Kumar who was kidnapped in June 2014 in southern Afghanistan was released and reached New Delhi on February 22 with the intervention of the Indian government.
"Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan," tweeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22nd afternoon as the priest was on a flight to New Delhi.
Prime Minister Modi himself also rang up the family members of the 48-year old priest in Chennai – capital of southern Tamil Nadu state - and broke the ‘good news’ to the family.
"Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity," Modi said in his tweet two and half hours before Fr Kumar landed in New Delhi.
Following the tweet, over three dozen media people, along with a dozen Jesuits and other priests, were at the international airport awaiting Fr Kumar’s arrival.
Based in Afghanistan since 2011 and heading the Jesuit Refugee Program (JRS) there since 2012, Father Kumar was abducted by gunmen on June 2 at a school built and run by the JRS at Sohadat village in Herat province.
The school 
in Sohadat, 
about 30 
kilometres 
from Herat 
city, 
Afghanistan, 
that 
the Jesuit 
Refugee 
Service 
had 
helped 
to build
Rev. 
Alexis 
Prem 
Kumar 
was 
visiting 
the 
school 
when he 
was 
abducted 
June 2.
The school in Sohadat, about 30 kilometres from Herat city, Afghanistan, that the Jesuit Refugee Service had helped to build Rev. Alexis Prem Kumar was visiting the school when he was abducted June 2.
"First of all, I thank God Almighty. I thought I would be never safe. God has saved me," Father Kumar told World Watch Monitor, in an interview at the five star Ashoka Hotel to which he was escorted by government of India officials from the airport. Father Kumar also thanked Prime Minister Modi and the government for "taking lot of efforts for my release and millions who prayed for my release."
"The Prime Minister spoke to me. When he was speaking I felt that the whole of India was welcoming me. I am grateful and thankful to the Jesuit and all others who have worked for my release," Father Kumar said.
Rev. 
Alexis 
Prem 
Kumar 
before the 
abduction.
Rev. Alexis Prem Kumar before the abduction.
"We are thrilled. Words are not enough to describe our feelings," John Joseph, younger brother of Father Kumar, who was flown to Delhi along with his 78-year old widowed father A. S. M. Anthony and sister Elizabeth Rani, a nun of the Congregation of Foyer de Charité and principal of her convent school at Vellur, by the government round midnight, told WWM February 23.
"Our prayers have been heard. God is there," said Joseph, an engineer by profession.
Asked to shed light on his over eight months of captivity, the priest who looked extremely thin and weak declined: "I want to forget everything for some time."
"Anything about Afghanistan or what happened (to me), I am not ready to share now. Please pardon me," pleaded Father Kumar with the media who waited for him at the hotel - when the question was repeated.
Rev. Alexis
after 
being
released 
speaks 
with
the 
media
Rev. Alexis after being released speaks with the media
"I have plenty of stories (to share). But I feel it is not the right time to share all those about the time (I spent in captivity)," reiterated the priest.
However, he pointed out: "Though I had my troubles and hard times, I feel proud that I am an Indian citizen and the country will take care of me."
Father Joy Karayampuram, the JRS South Asia spokesperson, in a press statement thanked Prime Minister Modi and the foreign ministry ‘for securing the safe release’ of Father Kumar.
Hailing from southern Tamil Nadu state, Father Kumar had worked over 12 years in areas of social action and development including Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka and with tribals.
Director of the JRS in India from 2005 to May 2011, he took up assignment with the JRS in Afghanistan in July 2011 and was heading the JRS operations in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped.
JRS has been working in Afghanistan since 2008, accompanying returnees home from exile in Iran and Pakistan and providing education and healthcare services in Bamiyan, Kabul and Herat. In 2013, more than 6,000 disadvantaged people from disadvantaged communities benefitted from these services, according to the JRS.
Asked whether he was frustrated by the kidnapping and captivity, Father Kumar said: "I will continue to work with people who are neglected and who have lost hope wherever I am sent."
Father Alexis had found mention in the Vatican Congregation's report on church workers killed and targeted during 2014. Fides, the Congregation's news agency, said the fate of five abducted priests belonging to religious orders, including Father Kumar, was ‘unknown’.
Though neither the government nor Father Kumar gave any clue regarding the kidnappers or their motive, the Times of India in its report on his release hinted to a ‘burgeoning kidnapping industry in Afghanistan’.
Quoting a ‘top intelligence officer’, the report on February 23 described the priest’s kidnap ‘as part of the conflict economy’ fed by tens of billions of dollars that the international forces and community have pumped into the country since 2001.
"The law and order situation has worsened due to inherent differences within the Unity government of Afghanistan... This has given Taliban and other petty criminals an opportunity to indulge in extortion via kidnapping of foreigners either associated with journalism or aid workers or private civil contractors," the official said, recalling how most abductions ended either in payment of ransom or killing of the hostage. 

Click here for source

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why Mamata’s Trinamool Congress is silent about a VHP ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony in Bengal

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is making unprecedented inroads in the state, are sworn enemies. Yet the Trinamool has been surprisingly quiet about a controversial ceremony in which the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is affiliated to the BJP, tried to convert Christian tribals to Hinduism.

In a video clip (at the end of this article) of the ceremony, which took place on January 28 in Birbhum district, a local VHP functionary, Churka Tudu, claims that about a hundred Christians had undergone “shuddhikaran”, or purification, to become Hindus. Local television channels and newspapers covered the ceremony, which is part of a larger contentious campaign of “ghar wapsi”, or reconversion, that the VHP has launched countrywide after the BJP came to power at the Centre in May 2014.

A Trinamool Congress member filed a first information report on the same day against VHP general secretary Jugal Kishore for making a hate speech at the ceremony and against president Praveen Togadia for making one at a nearby venue on the same day.

Two weeks later, on February 12, Mamata Banerjee addressed a public rally at Rampurhat, near the village where the ceremony took place. There, she said her government would not tolerate forced conversions and that those involved would be brought to book. But the police have still made no arrests.

Municipal elections are due in Rampurhat in April and the BJP has more support there than the Trinamool, going by their vote shares in the general election last year.

If the police had arrested the VHP functionaries, it would have sent a clear signal to the group not to play the Hindutva card in the district. That it has not done so suggests that the Trinamool is anxious about lack of support in the region.

Poll calculations

Officials down the line are trying to play down the incident. “I don’t know the details. I have heard that some people were forcibly converted, but I cannot confirm it,” was all Anarul Hossain, a local Trinamool Congress leader would say.

“Our officials went to the spot and submitted a report to the state government,” said a senior bureaucrat in the district administration who did not wish to be named. “There has been no conversion.”

The Trinamool chief minister Mamata Banerjee has in the past vociferously condemned the BJP’s Hindutva agenda, but she now has other pressures. Her party swept to power in 2011, dislodging a coalition led by the Communist Part of India-Marxist, which had ruled the state for 34 years in a row. But over the past two years, members of her party have become embroiled in a huge chit fund scam involving the Saradha group of companies.

These are the same two years during which the BJP has been on a roll across the country, and is trying to put down roots in West Bengal as well.

Rising tension

Ethnic and religious tension has been growing in the Rampurhat area over the past year.

Hindus are in a majority in the area in the Rampurhat municipal area but it has a large minority of Muslims, who form about a third of the population, and Christians.

The Rampurhat 1 block, which contains 34 tribal villages, has a population of 90,000 people. Of these, about 50,000 tribals follow the Sarna religion, an indigenous tradition, while about 30,000 are Christians, those whose ancestors began converting in the mid-19th century after missionaries began settling in the area, said Sunil Soren from the non-profit group Birbhum Adivasi Unnayan Gaonta. About 10,000 tribals are Hindus, although Soren explained that their practices overlap with the Sarna tradition.

The Trinamool has been assiduously wooing Muslims in this area, yet is worried about further polarising communities, and votes, on religious grounds, said a party member, who did not wish to be named.

Forced conversion?

Unlike Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal does not have an anti-conversion law, but legal action can be taken against forced conversions, although it is often hard to define coercion and even harder to prove it.

VHP leaders said about 3,000 villagers attended the event. But 10 days after the ceremony, when Scroll visited the villages from which the participants came, such as Khormadanga, where the ceremony itself took place, and Boropahari, Khurbona, Narayanpur and Taloan, none of them admitted to attending the programme, suggesting there is fear in the air.

“I was at my in-law’s place,” said one villager. “I had gone to work in the fields,” said another. It was impossible to talk to the tribals without their Hindu neighbours insisting on listening in.

But two families in Loripahari village, which is located in neighbouring Jharkhand state and borders the village where the ceremony took place, admitted that they have been converted to Hinduism. Pani Murmu and Srimati Tudu, said their families had converted to Christianity, the only ones in the villages to do so, and had taken part in the VHP ceremony.

Pani Murmu at her Loripahari homePhoto: Swati Sengupta

“We were Hindus earlier,” said Pani Murmu as she boiled rice in a pot and stirred a broth made from leaves in another vessel, both set on earthen ovens in the courtyard. “But my family members fell ill. Nothing was going well for us. So we converted to Christianity, in search of peace,” Her toddler stood by munching on maize soaked in a cup of water.

The family is among the poorest of the poor in the village. Pani’s husband, who did not want to reveal his name, is already drunk at 10 in the morning. He says he wants money to buy liquor in return for talking about the ceremony. He wants to know why people are interested in what happened. “We will adopt any religion we like,” he said aggressively. “They [the Christians] never built us a house or gave us anything else. So why can’t we opt for a different religion” Then he left the house.

After the police lodged the FIR, the VHP began denying that the ceremony had been a ghar wapsi event. “The police were present at the event, so if conversion had taken place, why didn’t they arrest anybody?” asked Amiya Sarkar, the VHP’s vice president in Birbhum.

Dhanapati Hansda, one of the priests who performed the yagna, the ceremony, also denied it had to do with conversion. “It was simply a bhumi shuddhikaran [purifying the land] for a plot donated by a family to the VHP, where a students’ hostel, meditation hall, goshala [cow shed], temple and a school will be built.”

Dhanapati HansdaPhoto: Swati Sengupta

The VHP might be trying to hush up the event because arrests could backfire. At the same time, it plans to continue with its agenda. “Through our meetings, we have been able to put a check on the conversion of Hindus to Christianity and Islam. In the coming days, the result of our meetings and appeals to people will show,” said VHP’s Amiya Sarkar.

In this video clip, Churka Tudu, a VHP member from Birbhum district in West Bengal, talks to local journalists. The exchange has been translated from Bengali.


Video: Kanchan Dey

How many are Christians here and how many have "come back”?
About a hundred.

What is happening here?
A land that will have goshala, Shiva temple, students’ hostel, playground, etc -- things that will attract people to this place.

What is happening as part of the ghar wapsi and shuddhikaran?
Whatever the rituals are. To clean up the place and people [words unclear here], yajna, all those things that are part of the Hindu shastra for those who are coming back.

Which religion are they "coming back” from?
Christianity.

Why did they adopt Christianity?
They had been lured with promises for education, etc. Now they are coming back on their own.

Click here for source

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Full text of PM Modi's speech on minorities

The full text of Mr. Modi’s speech as it appeared on the Prime Minister’s Office website, is below:

I am delighted to participate in this function to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of two great saints of Kerala – Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Saint Euphresia. The whole country is proud of their recognition. Their elevation was preceded by that of Saint Alphonsa, who also hailed from Kerala.

The life and deeds of Saint Chavara and Saint Euphresia are an inspiration not only to the Christian community, but to humanity as a whole. They are shining examples of dedication to God through selfless service for the betterment of mankind.

Saint Chavara was a man of prayer and also a social reformer. In an era when access to education was limited, he stressed that every church should have a school. He thus opened the doors of education to people from all sections of society.

Few outside Kerala know that he started a Sanskrit school, and also a printing press. His contribution towards women’s empowerment was also noteworthy.

Saint Euphrasia was a mystic who dedicated her life to prayer and devotion to God.

Both these saints dedicated their life to God through service of fellow beings. The ancient Indian saying: “आत्मानो मोक्षार्थम् जगत हितायाचा” – welfare of the world is the way to moksha (salvation) – explains their life.

Friends,

Spiritualism is rooted in India`s heritage. Indian saints and Greek sages had intellectual and spiritual exchanges thousands of years back. India’s openness to new ideas is manifest in the Rig Veda: आनो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides. This philosophy has guided our intellectual discourse since time immemorial. Mother India gave birth to many religious and spiritual streams. Some of them have even travelled beyond Indian borders.

The tradition of welcoming, respecting and honouring all faiths is as old as India itself. As Swami Vivekananda said: We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.

What Swami Vivekananda had said a century ago holds good and will, for ever, not only for this nation but also for this government or for that matter any government in India, run by any political party. This principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths has been a part of India`s ethos for thousands of years. And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had inspired us to dream of a land where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. It is that heaven of freedom we are duty bound to create and preserve. We believe that there is truth in every religion. एकम सत विप्र बहुधा वदन्ति

Friends,

Let me now come to the issue which is central and critical for peace and harmony in the contemporary world. The world is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines. This has become a matter of global concern. In this context the ancient Indian plea of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest in global discourse.

This long felt need and urge for mutually respectful relations led to the interfaith conference on `Faith in Human Rights` at the Hague on tenth December, 2008. This was coincidentally also the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

Religious leaders representing every major world religion – Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Baha`i Faith, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and indigenous religions met, discussed and pledged to uphold the Universal Declaration and of freedom of religion or belief.

In their historic declaration, they defined what constitutes freedom of faith and how it is to be safeguarded.

We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen.

The world is at cross roads which, if not crossed properly, can throw us back to the dark days of bigotry, fanaticism and bloodshed. This harmonious convergence among religions could not be achieved even when the world entered the third millennium. And now it has been. This shows that the rest of the world too is evolving along the lines of ancient India.

Speaking for India, and for my government, I declare that my government stands by every word of the above declaration. My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.

India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. Equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian. We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.

With this commitment, I appeal to all religious groups to act with restraint, mutual respect, and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution and is in line with the Hague Declaration.

Friends,

I have a vision of a Modern India. I have embarked on a huge mission to convert that vision into reality. My mantra is Development – सबका साथ, सबका विकास.

In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud. We can achieve this through unity. Unity strengthens us. Division weakens us. I sincerely request all Indians, and all of you present here to support me in this huge task.

Let the elevation to sainthood of Saint Chavara and Saint Euphrasia, and their noble deeds inspire us:

-to maximize our inner strength
-to use that strength for transforming society through selfless service
-to fulfil our collective vision of a developed and modern India.

THANK YOU.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Press Statement: Nuns, Priest and citizens brutalized in crackdown on peaceful protestors in New Delhi

PRESS STATEMENT
New Delhi, 5th February 2015

India Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh orders Delhi police to probe St Alphonsa Church desecration as hate crime

Earlier, Nuns, Priest and citizens brutalized in crackdown on peaceful protestors in New Delhi

The Home Minister of India, Mr. Rajnath Singh, today ordered the Delhi police to investigate as a hate crime the desecration earlier this week of the St Alphonsa Church in the Vasant Kunj area of South Delhi.

Mr. Singh’s assurance of adding relevant sections of the Indian penal Code to the probe came in a meeting with Christian leaders in his office after the Delhi police had brutalized women, Nuns, men and priests who were protesting the government apathy. They had demanded the government of India take urgent steps to assure the community of their security following a large number of attacks in various parts of the country, peaking during the Christmas reason. The National capital territory saw desecration and vandalizing in five Catholic churches since 1 December 2014.

Responding to the delegation’s fears that police and administrative apathy was encouraging non-state actors in persecuting the community, Mr. Rajnath Singh said the government would not discriminate on the basis of relgion, caste or community.

The delegation consisted of senior members who were also among those arrested in the aggressive police crackdown at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi. Members of the delegation were  Fr Sebastian Susai, Vicar General, Delhi Archdiocese, Dr. John Dayal, Member, NIC, Govt. of India, Past President, All India Catholic Union, Mr. Jenis Francis, Advocate, President, FACAAD, Mr. A C Michael, Past Member, Delhi Minorities Commission, Mr. Vijayesh Lal, Director, Religious Liberty Commission – EFI, Fr Maria Susai, Parish Priest, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Fr Dominic Emmanuel, svd, and Mrs. Nisha Samuel. The arrested persons were released later in the afternoon. Police Commissioner Mr. Bassi also met the delegation later in the evening assuring security for  churches.
The community says it has lost faith in Delhi police which has failed to solve the conspiracy that has led to the vandalism, arson and desecration of churches. Instead of probing the crimes, the police consistently tried to minimize them. Despite detailed complaints, the effort has been to list them as minor thefts or short circuits.

The Christian community had come out in large numbers on 2nd December 2014 and had marched to the Delhi police headquarters after the St Sebastian Catholic Church, in East Delhi’s Dilshad Garden, was gutted in a fire he previous night. The police promised a through investigation, but more than two months on, has not announced any progress in the case.

The latest incident that shocked the community was the  desecration of the Holy Communion by persons who broke into the St. Alphonsa’s Church in Vasant Kunj on 2nd March 2015. The Parish priest pointed out that the attempt was to injured religious feelings of the community as nothing of substance was stolen from the church. Three donation boxes and other precious things were left untouched. The local police, apparently under orders of the senior officers, registered a case of theft.

Community representatives from all localities of the national capital gathered at the sacred Heart Cathedral at Gole Dak-khana and marched to the residence of Union Home Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh before they were stopped by the police. In a  memorandum to the Home Minister, community representatives  listed the five recent attacks in churches:

  1. St Sebastian Church, Dilshad Garden [ 1 December 2014]:  The entire inferior burnt. Police action was promised. No information on the progress made by Delhi police.
  2. Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Jasola [3 December 2014] Window smashed by rock during Holy Mass services, glass pieces on altar:  Police silent
  3. Church of Resurrection, Rohini, [3 January 2015] Crib with statues burnt to ashes. Effort to pass it off as short circuit
  4. Our Lady of Grace, Vikaspuri, [14 January, 2015]  Grotto attacked. CCTV  captures images of vandals. Police arrest three men, claim they did it as a drunken prank.
  5. St. Alphonsa’s Church, Vasant Kunj [ 2 February 2015 Church broken into, Sacred Host [holy communion] desecrated. Despite detailed complaint, police trying to minimize crime as “theft” and “breaking into residential house”

Elsewhere in the country, the targetted and communal violence continues with its vicious hate campaign, physical violence, police complicity, and State impunity in the persecution of the Christian community in many states of India. Human Rights and Civil Society groups have documented the death of two persons in 2014, killed for their Christian faith. The Persecution data lists 149 cases. An analysis of the data shows Chhattisgarh topping the list with 28 incidents of crime, followed closely by  neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with  18 and Telengana, a  newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with  15 incidents.

Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of the National Democratic alliance headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, came into power on 26 Mary, 2014. The violence peaked between August and October with 56 cases, before zooming up to 25 cases during the Christmas season. The violence has continued well into the New Year 2015, with more Catholic churches in the city targetted as incidents continue in other states. Much of the violence,  54 percent, is of threats, intimidation, coercion, often with the police looking on.  The two cases of death in communal anti Christian violence were reported from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

The memorandum recalled that the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, noted the rise of communalism and the targetting if religious minorities in his address to the Nation on 25th January 2015, the eve of Republic Day. President Mukherjee said “In an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence … We have always reposed our trust in faith-equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic.  The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people's hearts. The Indian Constitution is the holy book of democracy. It is a lodestar for the socio-economic transformation of an India whose civilisation has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. These values, however, need to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance.”

The memorandum demanded that the government take urgent and effective measures to restore the Rule of Law, curb the targetted and communal violence. The guilty must be traced, and action under the law should be taken. Police officers must be held accountable for communal crimes in their jurisdiction. “In Delhi, we demand a Special Investigating team be set up to investigate the five  acts of violence against the catholic Churches, monitored by the High Court of Delhi,” community leaders said.
------
For more information, please contact:

Fr. Savarimuthu  Sankar  9968006616 frsankar@gmail.com
Mr. A C Michael  9999940633 acmichael60@gmail.com
Mr. Vijayesh Lal  9810176973 vijayeshl@gmail.com
Dr. John Dayal 9811021072  john.dayal@gmail.com
Adv. Jenis Francis: 9811064616 jenisfrancis@gmail.com

Text of Memorandum


MEMORANDUM TO MR. RAJNATH SINGH, HOME MINISTER OF INDIA BY THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
New Delhi, 5th February 2015
Mr. Rajnath Singh
Union Minister for Home Affairs
Government of India

Re: Violence against the Christian community, their churches, institutions, and religious men and woman – police inaction and impunity. Demand for Special Investigating team under Delhi High Court supervision to probe desecration and vandalism in five Delhi churches in two months
Dear Sir,
New Delhi, the National Capital, has seen vandalism and desecration of five Catholic churches in just a little over two months. Barring one case, there has been no progress in police investigations.
You will recall we had submitted Memorandums to the Prime Minister and to your office requesting firm and swift action to curb targetted and communal violence against our community in several states since the government took office in May 2014. There has been no action. In fact, the silence of the government leadership and the impunity and inaction by the police and the administration has encouraged non-state actors in their activities against religious minorities.
We specially call your attention to the incidents in Delhi because they take place in sight of the seat of power of the government of India:

  1. St Sebastian Church, Dilshad Garden [ 1 December 2014]:  The entire inferior burnt. Police action was promised. No information on the progress made by Delhi police.
  2. Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Jasola [3 December 2014] Window smashed by rock during Holy Mass services, glass pieces on altar:  Police silent
  3. Church of Resurrection, Rohini, [3 January 2015] Crib with statues burnt to ashes. Effort to pass it off as short circuit
  4. Our Lady of Grace, Vikaspuri, [14 January, 2015]  Grotto attacked. CCTV  captures images of vandals. Police arrest three men, claim they did it as a drunken prank.
  5. St. Alphonsa’s Church, Vasant Kunj [ 2 February 2015 Church broken into, Sacred Host [holy communion] desecrated. Despite detailed complaint, police trying to minimize crime as “theft” and “breaking into residential house”

It is quite clear that the Delhi police has failed to give these crimes the attention they deserve, and is trying to trivialize them.

Elsewhere in the country, the targetted and communal violence continues with its vicious hate campaign, physical violence, police complicity, and State impunity in the persecution of the Christian community in many states of India.
Human Rights and Civil Society groups have documented the death of two persons in 2014, killed for their Christian faith. The Persecution data lists 149 cases. An analysis of the data shows Chhattisgarh topping the list with 28 incidents of crime, followed closely by  neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with  18 and Telengana, a  newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with  15 incidents. Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of the National Democratic alliance headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, came into power on 26 Mary, 2014. The violence first peaked between August and October with 56 cases, before zooming up to 25 cases during the Christmas season. The violence has continued well into the New Year 2015, with more Catholic churches in the city targetted as incidents continue in other states. Much of the violence,  54 percent, is of threats, intimidation, coercion, often with the police looking on. Physical violence constituted a quarter of all cases, 24 per cent], and violence against Christian women, a trend that is increasingly being seen since the carnage in Kandhamal, Odisha, in 2007 and 2008,  was 11 per cent. Breaking of statues and the Cross and other acts of desecration  were recorded in about 8 per cent of the cases, but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions. A disturbing trend was violence against Christians in West Bengal, where though  one case was formally reported, there have been increasing incidents of hate speech and intimidation.

The two cases of death in communal anti Christian violence were reported from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Nimmaka Laxmaya, 50, of Vandidi village , Rayagada, (Orissa) was waylaid and bludgeoned to death in a planned attack on the afternoon of 25th May 2014 in a neighbouring village called Dherubada in Orissa. He was from a neighbouring village called Vandidi. He had attended a prayer meeting and the baptism ceremony of his nine year old son, and was going home when killers caught up with him, strangled him and then smashed his head with a big stone.

The second death was from Andhra Pradesh on 10th January, 2014 Where State police arrested seven of the eight members of the Hindu Vahini group accused of attacking pastor Orucanti Sanjeevi on Jan. 10 at his home in Vikarabad, 64 kilometers (39 miles) from the state capital of Hyderabad. Pastor Sanjeevi, 48, succumbed to his injuries on Jan. 13. “The key member of this module is Gandikota Srinu, alias RK, a full-time member of the Hindu Vahini, and these same people attempted to kill another pastor in Narketpally,” the police said. The Sangh group had stormed his house, and stabbed him.

Police inaction and its failure to arrest the guilty in most cases , its propensity to try to minimise the crime, and in rural areas specially, its open partisanship has almost become the norm.  Police ineptitude in forensic investigations has been seen even in New Delhi where  four of the five cases in the months of December 2014 and January 2015 have seen no progress in the investigations.  In the one case where there were arrested, the Church and the community have  cast doubts on the police version of the motives of the suspects whose images were recorded in the Close Circuit TV cameras  installed in the church.
The President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, noted the rise of communalism and the targetting if religious minorities in his address to the Nation on 25th January 2015, the eve of Republic Day. President Mukherjee said “In an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence … We have always reposed our trust in faith-equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic.  The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people's hearts. The Indian Constitution is the holy book of democracy. It is a lodestar for the socio-economic transformation of an India whose civilisation has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. These values, however, need to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance.”

Mr. Mukherjee touched a point that has worried many among even those who voted for Mr. Modi hoping he would bring abut a change from the corruption and economic coma in which the country had found itself in the last few years.

The Union and State governments have been dismissive of the Christian complaints of targetted violence and persecution, both by political non-State actors and other elements.
We demand that the government take urgent and effective measures to restore the Rule of Law, curb the targetted and communal violence. The guilty must be traced, and action under the law should be taken. Police officers must be held accountable for communal crimes in their jurisdiction.
In Delhi, we demand a Special Investigating team be set up to investigate the five acts of violence against the catholic Churches, monitored by the High Court of Delhi

Thank you

Members of the Christian community of the National Capital

1.    Fr Sebastian Susai, Vicar General, Delhi Archdiocese
2.     Dr. John Dayal, Member, NIC, Govt. of India, Past President, all India Catholic Union
3.    Mr. Jenis Francis, Advocate, President, FACAAD
4.    Mr. A C Michael, Past Member, Delhi Minorities Commission
5.    Mr. Vijayesh Lal, Director, Religious Liberty Commission – EFI
6.    Fr Maria Susai, Parish Priest, sacred Heart Cathedral
7.    Fr Dominic Emmanuel, svd



Sunday, February 01, 2015

Church in Delhi Vandalised 5 Days Before Assembly Elections

New Delhi:  A church was vandalised in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj area today, the fifth such incident since December. This comes just five days before elections in Delhi.

According to the members of St Alphonsa's church, unidentified people jumped in from the main gate wall and broke opened the main gate of the church at around 3 am. They ransacked the sacristy cupboards, opened the tabernacle and took the ciborium and emptied it by putting the hosts on the table, the church members said.

Last month, three people were arrested in a case of vandalising church property in west Delhi's Vikaspuri. The arrests were made on the basis of CCTV footage obtained from the church, the police said. Two out of the three accused are seen on CCTV footage; one man is seen coming to the church window at 4.30 am, and punching at something after a short prayer.

"A clear pattern of orchestrated attacks is emerging as more and more churches are targetted, vandalised and set on fire," Delhi's Archbishop Anil JT Couto said.

But the police said that all the people arrested in connection with the attack did not have any connection with any fringe group.

Earlier in January, a minor fire was reported from a church in Rohini in Outer Delhi. The Christmas crib placed outside the building was completely charred.

In December last year, a church in East Delhi's Dilshad Garden area, the St Sebastian's Church, was burnt down in a fire that the police confirmed was a case of arson. A forensic team found traces of kerosene inside the church premises.

Christian groups had held protests and the matter was raised in Parliament. The Home Minister had ordered a special investigation team to look into the matter.

Click here for source

Saturday, January 31, 2015

India investigates reports of mass ‘reconversion’ of Christians



Reports of a new mass conversion of Christians in India have raised concerns over freedom of worship, days after Barack Obama challenged the country’s record on religious tolerance.

Details of the incident are unclear but it was reported that between 50 and 100 Christians from some of the poorest communities in India were “welcomed back” to Hinduism in a “homecoming ceremony” in a remote area in the eastern state of West Bengal on Wednesday.

A series of attempts by rightwing Hindu groups to hold mass conversion ceremonies have caused controversy in recent months. Conversion is illegal if there is any element of compulsion or bribery.

“The worry is that some kind of coercion is involved. The communities [involved in the recent incidents] are already vulnerable and the campaign seems quite aggressive and the combination is concerning,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Last week the hardline group Vishnu Hindu Parishad (VHP) claimed to have “reconverted” more than 20 Christians in the southern state of Kerala. In December another group conducted a similar ceremony for more than 200 Muslims in the northern city of Agra.

The VHP appears to be behind Wednesday’s ceremony. “We are not committing any sin by bringing back our people to our own religion. This is a service to our country and we will continue with the ghar wapsi [homecomings],” Jugal Kishore, a VHP official involved in the event, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper.

Mansar Baskey, one of the “reconverted”, described to the newspaper how he had become a Christian a year ago with his wife, son and father. “I was told I have committed sin by converting to Christianity. Now, my family and I want to become Hindu again,” Baskey said.

Church authorities told the Indian Express that around 1,000 local people had been baptised in the poverty-stricken and remote area over the last year. Most are from the so-called tribal or adivasi community, among the most deprived in India.

However, other officials from the VHP denied to local reporters any reconversions, saying the ceremony had been to lay a foundation stone for a hostel, healthcare centre and school for the poor. Senior VHP functionaries contacted by the Guardian on Thursday said they were unable to comment.

Officials say an inquiry has been launched into Wednesday’s event. “Initial reports suggest those converted at the VHP rally are BJP workers who were lured. Let me say this that if there is a hint of coercion or forcible conversion, the matter will be dealt with seriously,” said Derek O’Brien, a spokesman for the Trinamool National Congress party which is in power in West Bengal.

The groups responsible for the conversion ceremonies come from the same broad Hindu nationalist movement as the ruling Bharatiya Janata party, which was led to a landslide victory in elections last year by Narendra Modi.

Modi, 64, a former organiser with a revivalist Hindu organisation, has yet to make any public comment on the reconversion ceremonies. However, he has warned members of parliament and ministers not to make statements that might distract from his development agenda, after one member of his government called Indian Muslims “bastard children” last year.

Hardliners’ plans for a mass ceremony in December were put on hold after pressure from senior officials within the movement and, it is thought, the government.

Obama’s words on Tuesday on the rights of religious minorities in the predominantly Hindu country came after three days of carefully choreographed demonstrations of warm relations between the US president and Modi.

“The peace we seek in the world begins in human hearts; it finds its glorious expression when we look beyond any differences in religion or tribe and rejoice in the beauty of every soul,” said Obama, who namechecked prominent Indian Muslims, Sikhs and sportswomen.

“No society is immune from the darkest impulses of men. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith,” he added.

Modi has been criticised by opposition politicians for remaining silent on the issue of reconversion ceremonies. Digvijaya Singh, of the ousted Congress party, thanked Obama on Twitter for “speaking up for the Indian citizen’s rights to profess practice and propagate his religious belief”.

Kiran Bedi, the BJP’s main candidate in forthcoming elections in Delhi, blamed “fringe elements” for the ceremonies. “They are fringes. Fringes have been stopped, they have been given the message. The message has been conveyed in the party leadership’s own style,” Bedi said at the weekend.

Before becoming prime minister, Modi was previously denied a US visa following accusations that he stood by during, or even encouraged, sectarian violence in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed by rioters. Modi has denied any wrongdoing and a supreme court inquiry has found insufficient evidence to support the charges.

There are around 180 million Muslims in India, around 14% of the population of 1.3 billion. The Christian minority is significantly smaller.
 
Click here for source
 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hindunization of Naga Politics: Not to be Tolerated

The Christians in India are children of Ram,” declared Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries. She, a BJP MP of Fatehpur (UP) adopted deceptive tactics in her attempt to misinterpret the identity of non-Hindus including Nagas who belong to the Mongolian race and have nothing to do with Ram historically, culturally or in any other ways. The question of the so-called Ghar Wapsi or “homecoming” conversion melas does not arise in the case of Nagas, including Gaidinliu’s Haraka or the Hindus of Manipur. Her statement is aimed at reviving the unsound idealism of the four varnas of her party’s One Book, One Religion, One Language and One Culture. The polemical attempt to promote the RSS brand of Hinduism through BJP party politics and vice versa is unfair, unacceptable and dangerous.  It is also irrational and obscurantist.

The proposal of renaming Dimapur Airport after Rani Gaidinliu by a BJP MP from Odisha in last Parliament Session seems to be a move in the same direction. The BJP with its outfits such as RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal has been making all sorts of forceful attempts to abolish the secular credentials of India down the ages. It has partially succeeded with Modi at the helm in New Delhi but a culturally and religiously worked out Hindutva monolith cannot last. India will pay a very heavy price for the attempt BJP seems set to make.

It is difficult to understand as to why some Naga politicians talk of honourable political settlement on one hand and advocate BJP rule in Nagaland on the other as not satisfied with the NDA alliance of which BJP happens to be the biggest partner.  We must look into why the Hindu Rastra had to be ruled by Moghuls, British and then the Dynasty for over 800 years. Hinduism with its much hated, notorious track record of caste is horrible and a curse for India. A case in point is the snobbery of high caste towards Dalits who are fellow human beings. The insanity does not go together with nationalism as darkness does not go with light. The severe social drawbacks produced by the Caste System explain why 665 million poor Indians cannot afford lavatories and are compelled to defecate in the open. India is known for the abject poverty, ignorance, and disease-breeding unhygienic living conditions of her poor people.  More often than not, despised and segregated randomly by other civilised countries since hundreds of years of slavery, till today. Mahatma Gandhi was against the evils of the Caste System and he tragically ended up being its victim. A BJP MP’s glorification of his assassin Nathuram Godse is an ugly reflection of the philosophy and doctrine of life advocated by BJP, RSS, VHP or Bajrang Dal.

 We must see where the position of the Nagas would be in the future Hindu Rastra BJP is clearly committed to bring about. A Brahmin tailor was doing alteration of my trousers thinking that I was from Japan. But when I told him of my Naga identity, he threw my trousers out into the street in Pune in 1982. I took the case to the Police then District Court of Pune. Several RSS youth constantly threatened me with dire consequences. They broke most of my window panes at Symbiosis International Hostel, trying to force me to withdraw the case, compelling me to arm myself with an iron rod concealed in a leather cover and a helmet to be ready to accept their wild challenge to fight them physically. The threat went on for about eight months till. The Court case went well, justice was delivered as there was secular character in the country backed by a strong political will of the Government in Delhi. As such caste and other discriminations could be effectively challenged at that point of time. I also received the strong support of several members of the Naga –Maharastrian Association.  
   
 The real challenge of caste discriminations, homecoming conversion and Hinduization of politics may come when BJP will get absolute majority in the the Rajya Sabha in 2016. It will be a crisis as well as an opportunity to purify us Christians to grow deeper in truth, spirituality, love, unselfishness and holiness. The different BJP and Hindutva outfits committed to extremism may not burn us to death as was done to Graham Staines and his two sons in mainland India because the extremists did not like the anti – leprosy Christian mission of mercy the Staines were serving. But they will try to distort our origin, our unique political history and our priceless Christian identity by the excessive use of money for inducement, manipulation of power and unscrupulous interpretation of history and culture to achieve their mission. However these oppressive measures that resurgent RSS brand of Hinduism has started to launch to reconvert we may see they will not be able to weaken the Christianity, rather it will help Christians move forward ever stronger instead. The outfits of BJP or the BJPs are not our enemy, they are our good neighbours, we must love them dearly. We ourselves are our own worst enemy; our downfall lies in our own immoral ways of doing things to solve our problems. This has resulted in random corruption, short-cut methods to achieve power and abuse of power. We need not be terrified by what they may do to fulfil their plans, if our lives demonstrate integrity and character worthy of respect. The time of decision for our stand as Christians is now; choose for yourselves this day who you will serve, as for me and my household we will serve the Lord by obeying Him. Joshua 24:15.

Kuolachalie Seyie,
Hidden Forests, IG Stadium,
Kohima Nagaland