Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Christmas Celebration turns Sour as Hindu Fundamentalists disrupt Christian Meeting

Believers Charged with spreading communal hatred
By Vijayesh Lal

Sultanpur, UP -- Christmas Celebration on 25th December 2003 in Ramdaspur Village in Sultanpur District of Uttar Pradesh turned sour as Hindutva Fundamentalists and local politicians disrupted a Christian Meeting. According to reports about a 100 believers were meeting in the house of one Dwarka when the police shut down the meeting on the complaint of the Hindu Fundamentalist Groups.

About eight people among the believers were summoned to the police station and charged with spreading communal tension under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Dwarka, the person in whose house the meeting was held was arrested and then let off after a day.

Dwarka is a laborer living in a Harijan (Untouchable) Colony in Ramdaspur Village, Sultanpur District, Uttar Pradesh. About a year ago when his daughter was ill and they had tried every cure for her, he took her to a Christian Pastor named Joshua as the last resort. His daughter recovered as the Pastor prayed in the name of Jesus and Dwarka started to believe in the Good news of Jesus Christ.

He was met with opposition from his family but that did not dissuade him from organizing prayer meetings in his home. When the above incident happened about a 100 people from surrounding villages were gathered in his house for Christmas celebration.

Hindutva Fundamentalists incited the locals and they falsely accused Dwarka of robbing wood to make fire for the celebration. This was just an excuse to get the police involved, because no case was registered for the same. Instead a case was registered with the charge of spreading communal tensions and the main allegation was forced conversions by Dwarka and his family.

Dwarka was arrested and then released. The Police also wanted to arrest Pastor Joshua claiming him to be the person who is responsible for the conversions but they were not able to do so.

The Local media was briefed by the Hindutva Fundamentalists and carried article against Christians in not only that area but in the entire district of Sultanpur. The newspapers also named one Ramprakash (also a believer from a Hindu Background) of forcibly converting people. The papers talked about a Christian conspiracy to convert tribals and Dalits to Christians and warned people against it. The Fundamentalists largely influence the vernacular media and this is not the first time that this has happened in Sultanpur.

At the moment the Police has instructed Dwarka not to conduct any prayer meetings in his home for Christians. Pastor Joshua has been restricted and is not allowed to go anywhere for visits without informing the police. Meanwhile no action has been taken against the Fundamentalists who have falsely but successfully carried out a hate campaign against Christians in the area. Dwarka, Pastor Joshua and Ramprakash have been receiving threats, some of them very severe and they request for prayers from the worldwide body of Christ.

Monday, April 07, 2003

It’s conversion time in Valley

TARIQ MIR Posted: Apr 06, 2003 at 0000 hrs IST SRINAGAR, APRIL 5:

Amid booming guns and endless violence, Kashmir is witnessing a discreet spurt in conversion — from Islam to Christianity. Christian groups are putting the number of neo-converts at over 10,000 and a Sunday Express investigation confirms that conversions have been taking place regularly across the Valley.

At least a dozen Christian missions and churches based in the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have sent evengelists to the Valley and are pumping in money through intermediaries based in New Delhi.

All Saints Church in Sonawar, Srinagar. By Javeed Shah

In the Valley where death and trauma are a way of life, the missionaries are getting immediate attention because they reach out to the poor, needy and those affected by violence. Also, they bring in a lot of money.

Though conversions have not encountered any resistance from Muslim organisations, it has led to tensions between Kashmir’s native Christians — a miniscule community of 650 — and the enthusiastic evangelists.

The native Christians are increasingly getting vocal against the outsiders. ‘‘This type of conversions aren’t good for local Christians who had shared a cordial relationship with Muslims here for centuries. The conversions they are doing are Bibilically wrong. There are umpteen cases in which one person has been baptised thrice within a few months. These so-called evangelists have set up businesses in the garb of Church and social work,’’ says Pastor Leslie Richards, a native protestant living in Braen, Srinagar. ‘‘The converts here do it for monetary reasons and the people who convert them too do it for the same reasons,’’ he adds.

Christianity Today, a magazine, puts the number of Kashmiri Muslims who recently converted to Christianity at thousands. An article, Harassed Kashmiri Christians Reach out to Discreet Muslims, posted on their website reasons: ‘‘Wearied by violence, thousands are interested in the Prince of Peace. They have faith in Jesus but don’t come out. Their number goes into thousands in the rural areas.’’ The estimates pieced together by the evangelists here say the number of converts to Christianity touch 12,000 in the Valley.

The founder of Agape Mission, Pastor Neethi Rajan, a Hindu convert from Chennai, says, ‘‘God spoke to me clearly and asked me to go to Kashmir.’’ Determined to spread the Gospel among Kashmiris, Rajan says as long as people are not exploited, spreading the message of Christ isn’t wrong. ‘‘Thousands of people have accepted Jesus as their saviour and many more are showing interest across Kashmir. There’s nothing wrong in preaching the Gospel,’’ says Rajan.

Asked about the source of funds, Rajan says friends help him out. Insiders, however, say he is linked to Assemblies of God, a US-based mission.

Though many organisations say they are interested in social work and not conversions, an investigation across the Valley confirmed conversions. Among the churches and missions that have set up bases are US-based German Town Baptist Church, US-based Frontiers, a mission with an avowed aim to reproduce churches among unreached Muslim people ( and Assemblies of God. They have funded around a dozen churches and missions in Kashmir.

Two German-based missions, Call of Hope and Overseas Social Service, have a base with over 60 evangelists. Another mission, The Campus Crusade for Christ, with bases in the West has a strong network of evangelists among the students in the Valley.

The Switzerland-based mission, The Good Way, has a base in rural Kashmir. Two Indian missions, National Missionary Intelligencer and Cooperative Outreach of India, too fund evangelists here. The focus of evangelical work is mostly in rural Kashmir and areas bordering Srinagar.

Cooperative Outreach of India (COI), a Delhi-based NGO that works among the lepers and downtrodden in Srinagar, makes no bones about the source of funding. Insiders say COI receives funds from the German Town Baptist Church, one of the wealthiest Protestant churches in Tennesse, US, Frontiers, another US mission and Call of Hope, a mission based in Germany.

The director of the COI, Remesh Landge — who was recently in the Valley to give away sewing machine to lepers — admits that they receive money from Churches overseas. ‘‘We do get some foreign funding from churches and missions overseas. But we don’t use them to convert people. We work to try and help the poor and needy here.’’

He blames the Roman Catholic church for discrediting the image of Christians who work among the poor. ‘‘Our churches and missions don’t have that much of money. Roman Catholics have huge money. It’s they who created controversy in other parts of the country by converting tribals which ended in the sad killing of Graham Staines.’’ adds Landge.

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