Monday, February 28, 2005
Friday, February 25, 2005
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The coffin of Father Mark Barnes, a Christian missionary, which was found missing under mysterious circumstances, a few hours after his burial at St Mary School premises was found at the secluded cemetery in Gumtala on 17 February 2005 by his supporters.
The development has sparked off a major controversy once again. The community stands divided over the issue of burial, which has become a matter of concern for the ruling party, as Father Mark had great following in the Ajnala constituency.
This is for the first time unidentified people vandalised the coffin of one of the most respected Christian missionaries who had devoted his entire life to the downtrodden people of the border belt.
Earlier, his sister Anne Waikling had sided with his supporters who wanted his burial at the school premises. The burial took place after the sunset on 16 February 2005 in the presence of a large number of his followers and top officials.
A little later the supporters of Father Mark found the coffin in the cemetery in dramatic circumstances. The local administration and members of the Christian community remained tight-lipped. However, certain followers said a few policemen who were guarding the burial site were also found ‘missing’ after the incident.
Sister Angela who resides at the premises of St Mary’s School said they had gone to sleep about 11 pm. When she woke up the following morning, the grave was found vandalised and dug up, she said.
Gurwariam Singh, SDM, visited the spot but refused to make any comment. However the Jalandhar diocese smelt foul play about the reported burial. In a press release the diocese said, “His body was officially handed over to the representatives of the dioceses and the body was prepared in full priestly and liturgical attire. We do want to give the highest honour to Father Mark as a Catholic priest which he always was and his funeral rites to be conducted by His Excellency Rt Rev Dr Symphorian Keeprath, Bishop of Jalandhar diocese, accompanied by all priests who loved him and worked with him and with the people whom he served in the border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur.”
A group of people praying inside a family at Klapana near Oachira in Kollam, Kerala was attacked by activists belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on 22 February 2005.
The believers belonging to the Church of God was attacked by a group of 30 people. They barged into the house when the prayer was on and attacked the believers. In the attack a few believers were injured. The police arrested the attackers, some of whom allegedly belonged the BJP as well. The injured were admitted to a local hospital.
Christian groups in India plan to march on the country's parliament on Thursday in protest against the killing of two pastors and half a dozen attacks on church targets in recent weeks.
Christian groups in India plan to march on the country's parliament on Thursday in protest against the killing of two pastors and half a dozen attacks on church targets in recent weeks. Many say the recent murders highlight a growing trend of violence against Christians in India’s southern states.
"It looks like we are facing a new cycle of violence," said Church of North India Bishop D. K Sahu, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, which groups 29 Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
In the last few weeks, the number of reported attacks against Christians across different denominations has escalated throughout the country.
According to reports, the recent wave of violence began Jan. 30, when Hindu activists forced their way into a large Christian gathering after hundreds of worshippers had come from towns and villages in India’s Uttar Pradesh state to take part in a prayer rally. The activists reportedly charged that rallies such as the prayer rally were aimed at conversions and that Christians lure the people with gifts of land, money, food and clothes.
In another reported incident of violence, the body of 25-year-old Pastor Narayan was found on Feb. 11 in a small town in Mysore district, Karnataka state. Sajan K. George, national convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told Compass News that the official report of the autopsy suggested it was a case of suicide. However, George suspects Hindu extremists were responsible for Narayan’s death and that their sympathizers are engaged in a cover-up.
“The body was taken for autopsy and before the official report was produced, the doctors said he was obviously brutally murdered,” George told Compass. “The body had broken ribs and teeth and injuries in the naval area.”However, George said, “by the time the report came out, the body had already been cremated.”
During a recent interview with AsiaNews, Bishop Percival Fernandez—Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India—said the recent wave of violence against Christians in India is part "of a plan led by fundamentalist groups." "Practically all of these incidents of violence against Christians are masterminded by fundamentalist groups,” Fernandez told the Italy-based news agency on Feb. 16.
In the most recent reported incident, activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal beat and robbed a group of 280 Christian students on Feb. 19 while the group was on its way to Emmanuel Mission’s graduation ceremony in Kota, India.
According to Compass, the attackers, led by Deputy Mayor Ravindra Singh Nirbhay of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also beat and robbed Emmanuel Mission students and drivers who had come to meet the guests arriving at the railway station from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Several victims sustained serious injuries. The attackers also damaged mission buses sent to receive the visitors.Last week, six evangelical theology students were forcibly abducted and beaten on Feb. 13 in Kerala by activists of the RSS. On Friday, Gospel for Asia reported that police had arrested the five RSS men involved in the attack after a raid conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police.
Formed even before India's independence, the RSS serves as the armed wing of the BJP—the Hindu nationalist party that has been accused of being hostile to religious minorities. Sources say that RSS leaders call for "national reconstruction" and seek to establish "uncompromising devotion" to a purely Hindu nation.
Copyright © 2004 The Christian Post.
State to bar religious conversion
By Narayan Bareth BBC News, Jaipur
The hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad welcomed the moveThe government in India's western state of Rajasthan says it is to introduce a law banning religious conversion.
The state has a very small Christian population of 0.11%.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
NEW DEHLI, February 22 (Compass) -- Activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal beat and robbed 280 Christian students on February 19 while the group was on its way to Emmanuel Mission’s graduation ceremony in Kota, India. The 2:30 a.m. attack occurred as the travelers disembarked from a train carrying them to Kota, Rajasthan state, for the February 23 to 27 event. Afterward, local police rounded up the students and kept them in custody at a local police station until the following evening. Alleging that Emmanuel Mission had lured the visiting students to Kota with promises of a bicycle and 250 rupees ($5.70) in exchange for converting to Christianity, police officials forced the students to return home. No attackers were arrested. At press time, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists are threatening to shut down the graduation ceremony, which annually attracts 5,000 Christian visitors to the city.
Indian Hindus Attack Christian Students in Rajasthan
Beatings, thefts disrupt graduation ceremony.
by Vijayesh Lal
NEW DEHLI, February 22 (Compass) -- Activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal beat and robbed a group of 280 Christian students on February 19 while the group was on its way to Emmanuel Mission’s graduation ceremony in Kota, India.
The attackers, led by Deputy Mayor Ravindra Singh Nirbhay of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also beat and robbed Emmanuel Mission students and drivers who had come to meet the guests arriving at the railway station at 2:30 a.m. from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Several victims sustained serious injuries. The attackers also damaged mission buses sent to receive the visitors.
Emmanuel Mission has worked in Kota, Rajasthan state, for several years and is recognized for its services throughout India. The Indian government awarded the “Padma Shri,” one of the highest honors in the country, to mission director Bishop M.A. Thomas.
Since the late 1990s, the RSS and its affiliated organizations have stepped up their campaign against the mission. Their aggression gained momentum after the BJP took over political power in the state.
Emmanuel Mission organizes its five-day graduation ceremony every year in February. Attended by students from the 98 mission centers all over India, the event draws 5,000 people to Emmanuel headquarters in Kota as students collect their diplomas after completing their education.
The RSS and Bajrang Dal, apparently with prior information about the graduation ceremony, used the opportunity to stir up anti-Christian feelings in the area.
According to sources, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists surrounded the Kota railway station in the early hours of February 19 and shouted slogans against Christians. As soon as the Andhra Pradesh students disembarked from the Bangalore-Kota Express, senior BJP leaders led the activists in the attack against them, beating the unsuspecting travelers and snatching their belongings.
The activists also attacked 10 students and chauffeurs from the mission who had come to the station to receive the group. Attackers dragged some of the students to a nearby Ram Temple and beat them severely. A catholic nun traveling on the same train also was beaten.
Afterward, local police rounded up the students and took them to the police station, where they kept the victims in custody until the following evening. No attackers were arrested.
Although few of the visitors from Andhra Pradesh speak the local Hindi language, the police recorded statements from them stating that they were Hindus. The statements allege that Emmanuel Mission had lured them to Kota with promises of a bicycle and 250 rupees ($5.70) in exchange for converting to Christianity.
Neither Bishop Thomas nor anyone else from Emmanuel Mission was allowed to meet the students during their time in police custody. The following evening, officials forcibly sent all the visitors back to Andhra Pradesh and issued statements that the “Hindus” had returned home of their own free will.
At press time, no arrests of RSS or Bajrang Dal activists have been made. When Emmanuel Mission staff wanted to register a First Information Report (F.I.R) of the beating incident with the police, local officers refused. After Bishop Thomas placed a call to authorities in New Delhi, however, local police took the initiative to provide added security at the mission.
The following day, RSS and Bajrang Dal extremists attacked 22 students arriving in Kota from Udaipur, Rajasthan. Following the beating, the group was also detained at the police station and sent back without being allowed contact with Emmanuel Mission representatives. The police apparently recorded the same statement saying that these students were Hindus and had been promised 250 rupees to convert to Christianity.
Bishop Thomas vigorously denied the allegations of forced conversions. “Do you think they would convert for 250 rupees and a bicycle?” he said.
Thomas told Compass that RSS and Bajrang Dal leaders spread rumors throughout the media saying that the graduation ceremony had been cancelled, hoping to reduce attendance. BJP leaders also held a march in front of Emmanuel Mission headquarters demanding that the ceremony be cancelled.
At press time, the situation in Kota remains tense. Emmanuel Mission has announced that graduation ceremonies will go ahead as scheduled, despite the indifference of local authorities to their security needs. Meanwhile, Hindu activists have vowed that they will not allow the mission to hold the graduation ceremony.
Copyright 2005 Compass Direct
Monday, February 21, 2005
Brother Gilbert Raj (32), the Missions India missionary at Rajkadia in Orissa has been killed under mysterious circumstances. He was in charge of the Missions India Balabhavan.
Br Gilbert who was returning from school in the afternoon along with the students was confronted by some persons and taken away, according to the students of the Balabhavan. His wife Gigi Gilbert and the other missionaries, on finding that he has not returned, lodged a complaint in the local police station.
An investigation led to the detection of his dead body lying in a local workshop. The latest reports suggest that one of his friends named Anna @ Prakash may be linked to the incident.
The slain missionary has been serving the Lord in Orissa, the graveyard of Christian missionaries for a long period of 13 years. He is a native of Perayam, near Meenmutty in Trivandrum, Kerala.His wife Gigi is a native of Rajapuram in Idukki .
State convenor calls for Crime Branch inquiry into murder in Dhenkanal
BHUBANESWAR, FEB 20 The murder of a 14-year-old girl in Dhenkanal district of Orissa recently took a new twist today with the Bajrang Dal alleging that she had been killed as her parents had refused to embrace Christianity.
The mutilated body of Jyotirmayee Bez, who was reported missing from her school on Wednesday last week, was found on a railway track the next day. The police had registered a case the same day.
State Bajrang Dal convenor Subash Chouhan demanded that the Crime Branch inquire into the girl’s murder. He claimed that the family had been asked by some Christian families in his village to convert to Christianity.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Dilawar, in a statement, said the "government would not tolerate any effort of religious conversion by allurement or force and will not hesitate in taking stern action against guilty persons".
Monday, February 14, 2005
BIS-Kolkata, 13 Feb -- The Police arrested Salesian Fr Luciano Colussi, the Vicar General of Krishnagar diocese Saturday, 12 Feb morning. Police arriving in their jeep at the Bishop's House Krishnagar, some 110 kms north of Kolkata, adjacent to the leading Don Bosco institution in Nadia District summarily arrested the Italian born Indian citizen and took him to Krishnagar police station in the police jeep despite appeals from priests at the Bishop's House to bring Fr Colussi to the police station in their own car... It was about 11.30 am. After the intervention from the Sisters of Mary Immaculate (SMI) Fr. Luciano was released as soon as the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) demanded the release of the senior priest. Fr Luciano returned to the bishop's house in a cycle rickshaw in the early afternoon.
By evening, the Christians hearing the arrest of the Vicar General collected and marched towards the bungalow of the Superintendent of Police (SP) despite the futile efforts of Salesian Bishop Joseph Gomes and priests to restrain the people from doing anything violent. They demanded unconditional apology for the humiliation the police meted out to the 81 year old priest who severed the people of Krishnagar for some 50 years.
As the Police would permit only a delegation of four people to go into the SP's bunglow and submit the memorandum to the SP, the crowd demanded that the SP comes out to meet them. In the ensuing argument the police lathi (baton) charged the crowd and forced them to disperse. In the melee several people were injured and police arrested 11 people and remanded them in custody while two injured persons are hospitalized. The appeal for their bail was denied Sunday 13th Feb, and the next hearing has been fixed for 25th February.
It is further reported that the Police raided Nirmal Nagar para (village) adjacent to the Bishop's House, beat up men and women and even those passing on the road were not spared. It is alleged that the police arrested Fr Luciano Colussi as he had terminated the 11 month contract of Dr. Anirudha Das in the Church owned Daffodil Clinic for the physiotherapy for handicapped located adjacent to Don Bosco High School.
K.P. Yohannan calls for prayer for serious injuries
This morning, six Gospel for Asia Biblical Seminary students were forcibly abducted and beaten for sharing the Gospel. They were taken to a nearby hospital, where they are now recovering from injuries sustained during the attack.
Jaya, Yogendra, Narendra, Himansu, Kiran and Simon were involved in their regular weekly outreach--distributing Gospel literature, preaching and praying for the sick--when they were surrounded by a small group of men that quickly grew into a crowd.
"We are going to talk about God," the men mocked, and began slapping the students around. Several in the group then dragged the brothers into three-wheeled taxicabs and drove them to a secluded house that was the local headquarters for an extremist anti-Christian organization. A crowd of men, some trained in martial arts, awaited them there. They pulled the students out and began beating them.
"There were no less than five to six people beating each brother," reports a GFA field correspondent. The students were repeatedly kicked, punched and slapped, three to the point of unconsciousness. This particular organization is known for its martial arts training, not so much for defense, but for inflicting intense pain and causing internal injury without much external evidence.
At one point, the anti-Christians left the six students alone in a room for about half an hour. Writhing in pain, they feared what would happen next. But at the same time, these young men kept their focus and remembered their calling.
Kiran spoke up: "This is our reward to serve the Lord," he reminded his coworkers. "Let's tell it to the Lord," Himansu encouraged them. They prayed, clinging to God for His strength and grace.
Soon the group returned and dragged the students back into the cabs, drove them to the bus station, pushed them out and left. The six young men were able to get on a bus and return to the seminary, where they were immediately taken to the hospital. They suffered from severe headaches and internal pain. Jaya was diagnosed with a broken left eardrum, in addition to bruising on his face.
"Please pray for these six dear young men," says GFA President K.P. Yohannan, "that they will completely recover from their injuries and remain close to the Lord. I have no doubt that their suffering is not in vain, and He will use their lives to bear much fruit in the days to come.
"My prayer and firm belief is that our brothers' willingness to faithfully represent their Lord Jesus in the face of such hatred and opposition will only serve to give boldness to all our missionaries as they continue to witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ."
Friday, February 11, 2005
Fearing a possible attack on Yesu Darbar by Bajrang Dal activists, the organisers had approached the local police seeking protection. The Hindu activists also informed the police that they would stage only a protest against the darbar. The authorities deployed policemen at the venue to prevent any possible mischief.
In spite of the police presence, the Hindu activists, numbering about 25, stormed the prayer venue and threatened the organisers, accusing them of indulging in conversions. Soon there erupted clashes between them, resulting in injury to a few believers.
|4 February, 2005|| |
|Hindu fundamentalists storm Christian prayer meeting|
|by Nirmala Carvalho|
|Fundamentalists oppose Christian presence in Uttar Pradesh. We shall fight against your conversions, they say. Church promotes human development.|
Lucknow (AsiaNews) – Hindu fundamentalists forced their way into a large Christian prayer meeting on January 30 in Lucknow, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, central India.
Hundreds of worshippers had come from nearby towns and villages to take part in the rally, but, waving saffron flags (saffron being the colour symbolises Hinduism), members of Bajarang Dal, a Hindu fundamentalist group, stormed the premises and interrupted the event.
“These Christian rallies are aimed at conversions,” the activists said. “These Fathers lure the people with gifts of land, money, food and clothes. We strongly protest against such conversions; we are prepared to fight against such tactics of forced conversions”.
Questioned by the police, Rev Rajendra Prasad, a Protestant minister who had organised the event, said: “It is true that I am preaching in the name of Christ, but I am not converting anybody. I neither guarantee, nor promise healing.”
For Reverend Prasad, the motives behind the fundamentalists’ accusations are simple. “These poor villagers come to my conventions because they receive some consolation and are treated with dignity,” he explained. “Why doesn’t the Bajrang Dal do anything to help these marginalised people?” [All] the fundamentalists want [is for them] to remain as a depressed class of society so that they can exploit them”.
As to the accusations of tricking people into conversion, the reverend is adamant. “I only conduct prayer meeting in Christ’s name,” he said. “I repeat: no forced conversions go on. I offer my service to these poor villagers [. . .] free of charge, I demand nothing from them”.
Among Indian Protestant communities, faith healing is a common occurrence. Sita Devi, a local woman who attended the prayer meeting, said that the “Father gave me some oil for massage and now I can walk properly. He says that God is up there and we must pray to him”.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr Albert D’Souza, Catholic Bishop of Lucknow, said that, despite what many fundamentalists believe, the prayer meeting did not have the blessing of the Catholic Church.
“I made it abundantly clear to the media that we were neutral,” the Bishop said. “Questioned by some senior Bajrang Dal activists [. . .] I assured them that the Church was not involved. [But since] the rally was held in the precinct of one of our Churches [. . .] they think that we were the organisers of the event”.
Bishop D’Souza said that relations between the Church and the Uttar Pradesh state authorities were “cordial”. He stressed the need for vigilance against attempts to trick peasants into converting with promises of gifts of food and clothing during mass rallies.
Of a different order is the role the Church plays. It is committed to human development projects such as schools, hospitals and dispensaries.
Still, even these initiatives have come under fundamentalist fire. Ashok Senegar, a Bajarang Dal leader, told AsiaNews that “Christians run a centre called Yeshu Darbar in a place that is even called Christ Nagar. For the past two years, people from the neighbouring villages and towns have been regularly flocking to this place. [. . .] And we will stop these Christian conversion activities”. (NC)
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Thursday, February 03, 2005
by Nirmala Carvalho
Goa (AsiaNews) – "Security problems" and Hindu fundamentalism are preventing Catholics from Goa and Karwar from celebrating today's annual Feast of Our Lady of Springs (Nossa Senhora das Brotas).
The Navy Command is banning the ritual procession "for security reasons because warships are in the vicinity of the church".
Fr Peter Machado, judicial vicar of the diocese of Karwar where the Church is located, told AsiaNews that the Navy's explanation "is just a lame excuse". For all intents and purposes, "this year we have been denied the right to worship in a church which belongs to our ancestors," he said.
The ancient Church of Our Lady of Springs is situated on Anjediva Island off India's western coast, facing the city of Goa, a former Portuguese colony and important Catholic centre.
The church is owned by the government and administered by the Indian Navy which is building military installations all around it.
In July 2004, Rear Admiral S Sinha, Flag Office commanding Goa Area announced the removal of restrictions for the Feast.
Behind the alleged security considerations for the arrival of many faithful in a military zone lies the problem of religious fundamentalism.
Hindu activists are opposed to the Christian presence claiming the island for themselves. Some activists of the Hindu fundamentalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad have threatened to interfere with Catholic celebrations on Anjediva claiming the right to worship there on the grounds that prior to the arrival of the colonisers there was a temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Arya Durga which was then moved to Ankola in Karnataka.
For Father Machado, the question is sensitive and could cause social tensions. "When a place of worship becomes an object of contention, the situation puts at risk the law and order of society".
"When the church and the surrounding property were appropriated by the government of India to build a Naval Base, the Catholic Church was assured that Christians could visit the Church on Feast Days. Today it does not allow it".
The Feast of Our Lady of Springs is celebrated on February 2. It usually involves a solemn mass for some 1,500 pilgrims. "Pilgrims travel by boats [. . .] decorated with flags of different colours [. . .]. The entire atmosphere is festive," Father Machado said..
John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union and member of the National Integration Council, asked Oscar Fernandes, Minister for the state of Goa, to ensure that both central and local governments agree to the celebrations on Anjediva Island.
In the meantime, Father Machado still hopes that despite today's restrictions Christians "will be granted permission for the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on 4th October".
In addition to the main church, the island is also home to smaller church dedicated to the Saint from Assisi and is a destination for pilgrimage.