Monday, February 28, 2005

Rss against forceful religion conversion : Joshi

[India News]: Kota, Feb 27 :
Rashtriya Dharma Prasar Pramukh of the Rashtriya Sawaym Sevak Sangh (RSS) Mohan Joshi today said his organisation was dead against forceful religion coversion by any community.Citing the recently held missionaries' annual meeting of Emmanuel Missionary International (EMI), he alleged to reporters that the Christian missionaries offered all sorts of inducement to poor people to get converted to Christianity.The government should curb it with strong hand, he demanded.Meanwhile, the state intelligence agencies are probing reports about the presence of foreigners who attended the five day EMI function, the official sources said. Pti

Friday, February 25, 2005

Saffron outfits suspend protest against Christian meet:

[India News]: Kota (Raj), Feb 24 : Three saffron outfits - Bajrang Dal, VHP and Hindu Jagaran Manch - which held violent protests against a Christian meet near here, today announced suspension of their agitation in view of the organisers' assurance that no religious conversion would take place during the function.
"We have decided to suspend our agitation against the meet after getting assurance from the Emmanuel Mission that there will be no (no) religious conversion or baptism during the five-day bible graduation function being attended by more than 3,000 people from various parts of the country," Kota Mahanagar VHP chief Khuspal Singh said.
The breakthrough was achieved after the mission authorities extended invitation to a delegation of the saffron outfits to attend the five-day function that began at Raipura, 10 km from here yesterday, and see for themselves that no conversion was taking place in the meet.
The Chairman of Emmanuel Bible Institute Samiti M A Thomas had also given an undertaking to the administration that the ongoing meet would not be used for conversion or baptism of people, Singh said.
However, the VHP leader hastened to add that suspension of their protest did not mean that that they would not oppose religious conversion.
"We shall be sending our representatives to the meet daily to keep a vigil on the activities at the function," he added.
Denying any role of Sangh Parivar activists in yesterday's violence outside the mission's headquarters, Singh said "miscreants" were responsible for pelting stones on police which resorted to lathicharge to quell the violent mob.

NCM to visit Kota for inquiry into Emmanuel Mission incident

NCM to visit Kota for inquiry into Emmanuel Mission incident
[India News]: New Delhi, Feb 24 : The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is sending a team for an on-the-spot enquiry of the reported dispute between the Christian community and certain groups regarding the entry of students in a missionary-run society in Kota, Rajasthan.
It has been decided to send a team consisting of NCM members Gen A M Sethna and V V Augustine for inquiry and to meet the different groups and the local administration, the Commission said in a release here today.The NCM team will reach Kota on February 25 for a one-day inquiry and will also try to resolve the issue.It has been reported that students coming from Andhra Pradesh another places were allegedly not allowed to enter the Emmanuel Mission Society and were forcibly returned by saffron outfits with the plea that they were brought for conversion.
Amidst police lathicharge on violent protests by saffron outfits and heavy security, a five-day function of the Emmannuel Mission Society began near Kota yesterday after it gave an undertaking to authorities that there would be no religious conversion or baptism ceremony.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Father Marks grave vandalised, body found elsewhere

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.”

Prayer group attacked in Kerala

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.

Indian Christians Plan Demonstration in Response to Escalating Violence

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.

Rajasthan to Ban Religious Conversions

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.
It follows tension between Hindus and a Christian mission holding its annual convention in Kota, 250km (155 miles) from the state capital, Jaipur.
The state home minister warned foreign delegates their tourist visas did not allow them to attend such a function.
The mission's chief, MA Thomas, said Hindu activists had humiliated and beaten up some of the delegates.
Hindu activists from groups such as the Bajrang Dal and the World Hindu Council, or Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), say the Kota convention, which began on Wednesday, is being used for conversion to Christianity.
The activists have set up checkpoints on roads leading to the mission, stopping delegates who are coming from all over India and abroad.
The state government, run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said there were more than 60 foreigners at the Kota mission, mainly from the US, who had come on tourist visas and had no right to participate in such functions.
On Wednesday, police used force to disperse Hindu activists who were trying to enter the mission premises.
Six people, including three policemen, were injured in the incident.
State home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, said the Christian mission had not divulged its programme to the administration. "We will not allow anyone to convert poor and illiterate people," he said.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad welcomed the state government's move. But the opposition Congress Party said the government was inciting its members to oppose the mission's work
The state has a very small Christian population of 0.11%.
State governments in India do have the power to introduce anti-conversion laws. The southern state of Tamil Nadu had similar legislation but it was scrapped amid political controversy and opposition from religious minorities.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Indian Evangelist's Battered Body Found in Karnataka

DELHI, February 22 (Compass) -- On February 11, the body of 25-year-old Christian evangelist Pastor Narayan was found in the small town of Channapatana in Karnataka state, India. Doctors who performed an autopsy said Narayan had been brutally murdered -- the corpse had broken ribs and teeth and injuries to the abdomen. However, "the official report of the autopsy suggested it was a case of suicide," Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Compass. George suspects Hindu extremists were responsible for Narayan's death and that their sympathizers are engaged in a cover-up. A fact-finding mission to the district revealed that attacks on minority Christians have been going on for years and several churches have been destroyed. George has demanded that the government conduct an official inquiry through the Central Bureau of Investigation.
DELHI, February 22 (Compass) -- The suspected murder of a Christian evangelist in Karnataka, India, highlights a growing trend of violence against Christians in the relatively peaceful southern state.
On February 11, the body of 25-year-old Pastor Narayan was found in a small town in Mysore district, Karnataka state.
"His body was found in his home town, Channapatana, which is about 20 kilometers south of the capital city of Bangalore," Sajan K. George, national convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told Compass. "The body was taken for autopsy and before the official report was produced, the doctors said he was obviously brutally murdered. The body had broken ribs and teeth and injuries in the naval area."
However, "the official report of the autopsy suggested it was a case of suicide," George added. "And by the time the report came out, the body had already been cremated." George suspects Hindu extremists were responsible for Narayan's death and that their sympathizers are engaged in a cover-up. "Why was his body cremated in such a hurry?" George pointed out.
Narayan became a Christian four years ago. He received theological training in Rajasthan before moving back to Karnataka to work as an independent evangelist. George said local villagers were supporting the suicide story, and Pastor Narayan's family, who is Hindu, refused to file a First Information Report with the police.
"Three people went on a fact-finding mission and found out that Pastor Narayan had no known enemies. Nor was he a threat to anyone," George explained. "However they found that an attack on the minority community of Christians has been going on in Mysore district for some years, in which several churches have been destroyed."
The attack on Narayan coincided with spiritual meetings held in Mysore from February 9 to 11 by an Indian guru named Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, popularly known as "Amma" (mother). The guru is a known supporter of the "reconversion" of Christians carried out by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council.)
On behalf of the GCIC, George has demanded that the government conduct an official inquiry through the Central Bureau of Investigation. The GCIC had already urged the state government in September 2004 to protect the Christian community from the actions of Hindu extremists, particularly in Hubli, Udupi, Anaekal and Mysore districts. They also asked that the perpetrators of communal crimes be punished, the United News of India reported.
This previous appeal stemmed from two separate incidents in September: the arrest of three Christian priests in Hubli, who were accused of forced conversion; and an attack on 400 members of the New Life church in Udupi. More recently, some Hindu residents objected violently when the Congress-led state government gave permission for American evangelist Benny Hinn to hold a three-day event called "Festival of Blessings" in Bangalore in late January. Several buses carrying people to the event were vandalized, and there were unconfirmed reports of a pastor's vehicle being set afire outside the venue.
According to census figures, Christians account for less than two percent of the total population of 52.7 million in Karnataka, while Hindus comprise more than 85 percent. Meanwhile, activists from the Hindu fundamentalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) violently attacked six seminary students in neighboring Kerala state on February 13, Asia News reported.
The seminary students had traveled to Mannar township as part of a Christian outreach program. Witnesses saw the RSS activists forcing the students to board an auto rickshaw. The students were then taken outside the town and beaten severely. All six students required hospital treatment.
Kerala has one of the highest concentrations of Christians in India at 19.3 percent of the population. However, the number of anti-Christian incidents has increased in Kerala and other southern states in recent months.
In response to the rising trend of such incidents, Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced on February 10 that law enforcement agencies were keeping a close eye on the situation.
Copyright 2005 Compass Direct

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

NCM blames it on conversion

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has expressed apprehension over the religious conversion taking place in various parts of the country. An expert committee of the NCM, which went into the details of the increase in the percentage of Christians in various parts of the country, has highlighted the case of Gujarat in this regard.
In Gujarat the growth could not be explained by a ''natural increase'', the report prepared by the committee says. ''Are Christians from other states of India migrating in large numbers to Gujarat? If not, conversion seems to be the dominant factor,'' says Prof Ashish Bose while making a presentation about the committee report before Christian leaders.
Against the national growth rate of 22.6 per cent by Christians, Nagaland reports 69.2 per cent growth, while it is 56.3 per cent in Gujarat, 34.8 per cent in Orissa, 42.1 per cent in Meghalaya, 32.5 per cent in Chattisgarh, 34.3 per cent in West Bengal, 30.0 per cent in Punjab and 30.7 per cent in Mizoram, the panel said. Kerala, which accounts for the largest share of Christians in the country, has registered 7.8 per cent growth.
The committee does not rule out the possibility of Muslims who have illegally migrated from Bangladesh reporting their religion as Christianity, ''guided by survival strategy and adverse economic conditions.'' Also tribals listed under other religions in the past census have this time opted to register as Christians.
"Our analysis data on religion in the North-East leads to some intriguing questions about the role of illegal migration and also the role of conversion to Christianity. In Tripura, for example, during 1991-2001, the Hindu population grew by 15 per cent while the Christian population grew by 121 per cent. There is no evidence that there is large-scale migration of Christians from Bangladesh. This will make conversion a dominant factor explaining the high growth rate figures of Christians,'' the report says.
While analysing the data on Assam, the report said ''the possibility of some forced conversion to Christianity by militant groups cannot be ruled out''. Although Christians are spread mainly in eight States, 50 per cent of them lived in four States -- Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Despite the high growth rate, the North-East accounts for just 25 per cent of the country's total Christian population.
Besides Prof Bose, the expert committee members are Prof PM Kulkarni of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Prof Mari Bhat of the Institute of Economic Growth and Prof TK Roy, former director of the International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai.
To probe attack on evangelists
NCM will take up the attack on six trainee evangelists, allegedly by RSS cadre, at Budhannur in Alappuzha district recently. According to NCM member VV Augustine, he has heard only press reports about the incident and he would go there to find out the facts and take action, if needed. The RSS men allegedly beat up the Evangelists of the Believers Church after taking them to a distant place. Most of the injured were from the North and Eastern parts of the country.

Evangelists attacked

By Our Staff Reporter
KOLLAM, FEB. 21. Tension prevails in the Klapana area of Karunagapally near here following the attack on a group of Christian missionaries this night.
The police said that activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were behind the attack and that two RSS activists had been arrested in this connection. A strong police posse has been deployed in the area.
The missionaries were from the Church of God. Four of them, including a woman, have been wounded in the attack and admitted to Karunagapally taluk hospital. They were identified as P.G. Mathew (50), S. John, Mary John and Wilson (33). The police gave the identity of the arrested RSS activists as Shaji and Kiran. The evangelists were attacked by a gang of thirty members.
Tension had been brewing in the tsunami affected areas of Alapad following widespread allegations by the Sangh Parivar that Christian missionaries were engaged in conversion activities at these areas.

Hindutva Activists Attack Christian Students in Rajasthan

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 .

Bible students sent back after violent protests

JAIPUR, FEB. 20 . All the 275 people from Andhra Pradesh, who arrived at the Kota railway station in southern Rajasthan to attend a Bible course of the Emmanuel Mission, were sent back on late Saturday night without being allowed to attend the ceremony after violent protests by the activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal. The Sangh Parivar workers alleged that they had been brought for religious conversion.
The State Social Welfare Minister, Madan Dilwar, has ordered an inquiry into the allegation regarding the Emmanuel Mission indulging in conversion activities and sent four senior officials of his department to Kota for holding a detailed probe. The team arrived in Kota this evening.
The Bible graduation course of the Mission is scheduled to be held from February 23 to 27. Hundreds of people reached Kota today to attend the curriculum reportedly without any protest by the Sangh Parivar activists. However, eight persons were injured on Saturday when the activists manhandled them and prevented them from proceeding to their destination in the town.
The passengers who disembarked from the Bangalore-Jaipur Express train at the early hours on Saturday were kept confined to the railway station premises by the Government Railway Police for the whole day and were sent off in late night by the Kota-Beena train. The Emmanuel Mission has claimed that they were forced to alight from the train on the way and their whereabouts were not known.
"We have no information on where the poor students are languishing at present. The district administration, far from ensuring their safety, has told us that it is not responsible for the security of any of the participants in our course," Bishop Samuel Thomas, president of the Emmanuel Ministries International, told The Hindu over phone.
Bishop Thomas, denying the charge that the people from Andhra Pradesh had been brought for conversion, said they were beaten up by the Bajrang Dal activists, while police refused to register the Mission's complaint on their behalf despite being approached at least a dozen times. On the other hand, criminal cases have been registered against the Mission's functionaries.
"This is a classic case of victims being branded as aggressors. The inquiry ordered by the State Government is another instance of the continuing harassment. Those who bashed up innocent students are roaming freely in the town and threatening our people," Bishop Thomas said.
However, Mr. Dilawar said the State Government would take appropriate action after receiving the report of officials and "would not hesitate in taking stern action against religious conversion by coercion or allurement". "The inquiry team will look into all aspects of functioning of the Mission, its religious activities and its sources of funds," he told The Hindu today.

Conversion to blame for girls death: Bajrang Dal

Conversion to blame for girls death: Bajrang Dal

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.
The parents of Jyotirmayee, Alekh and Jashoda Bez, at a news conference, claimed these people had visited their house asking them to change their faith as it would fetch them lot of money and help them in getting their daughter married. On their refusal to convert, they claimed, they were threatened.
Chouhan said a fact-finding team of the Bajrang Dal had visited the murder victims village near Dhenkanal town.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

Thousands of Dalit Christians "Reconverted" to Hinduism in India,Hindu Group says

Saturday, 19 February 2005
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Indian Church officials on Saturday, February 19, dismissed reports that a militant Hindugroup "reconverted" thousands of India's most impoverished Christiansback to Hinduism, as an attempt "to instigate" religious tensions.
The World Hindu Council, known locally as Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP), said its followers were responsible for the "reconversion" ofup to 5000 'Dalit' Christians from 14 churches in two key districtsof the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, local media reported.The churches were transferred into Hindu schools for Dalit childrenand former Catholic priests became teachers after they changed theircross tattoo for a Hindu sign, news reports said.
Krishna Prabhakar Upadhyaya, district editor of a regional Hindidaily, told BosNewsLife he obtained a list of "a total of 4096 Christians" who he claimed "reconverted" during a Hindu-ceremony lastSunday, February 13. The event reportedly took place after VHP-activists spread out to 26 villages of the Etah and Firozabad districts of Uttar Pradesh.
However "the VHP's claims about the reconversions" of Dalits "arefalse," a Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Agra in troubled Uttar Pradesh told BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity. "They [theVHP] are merely doing this to instigate tensions between Hindus andChristians. We should ignore such incidents," he said.
Father J. Logo of the regional Bishop House claimed he had not heard of the incident. "We have no information about the reconversions [ofDalits], it might be a rumor," he added.The term Dalit refers to the estimated 240 million "Untouchables" orthe "Outcastes" in the subcontinent of India, who have traditionallyoccupied the lowest place in the complicated caste system ofHinduism. Human rights groups call them "a people broken, forgottenand exploited," as many of them work in the fields or carry out slavework for the much richer men and women of the "higher caste."
There has been a growing Christian movement among the mainly Hindu Dalits, and militants are known to have attacked churches and Christians, human rights watchdogs say. Local authorities ordered aninquiry into the alleged February mass conversions to see if Dalits were forced to accept the Hindu religion, India's national dailyTribune reported. The VHP has denied that it used forceto "reconvert" Dalit Christians.
"The Dalit Christians are disillusioned with Christianity," after they gave up their "Hindu heritage" the Pioneer newspaper quoted VHP Secretary Mohan Joshi as saying. He reportedly said that theDalit "Christians had been misled by Christian missionaries intoaccepting Christianity through lucrative offers of financial securityand social equality."Christians comprise less than one percent of the over 166 million population of Uttar Pradesh, according to estimates.
The latest tensions came just days after India's Supreme Court decided to study the legal implications of denying job, education quotas and socialbenefits to Dalit Christians. Under a quota system at least 15 percent of jobs and educational placements have been reserved for members of lower castes includingDalit Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, but Dalit Christians and Muslimswere excluded.
"We hope that the Supreme Court will soon finally end a historic injustice that was done in 1950 to the Dalits professing the Christian Faith," said John Dayal, president of the All IndiaCatholic Union. "Whenever the Supreme Court gives its final judgment recognizing the cruel and debilitating inequities and injuries of the3,000 year old caste system" it will "cross all boundaries of religion, region and ethnicity in India..." he added in a statement received by BosNewsLife.

GFA Student Attackers Arrested

Police have arrested five men involved in last Sunday's attack against six Biblical Seminary students in India’s Kerala State. Gospel for Asia—the mission agency that the students are members of—reported Friday that the attackers were arrested after a raid conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police.
According to the Hindustan Times, those arrested were affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an armed militant Hindu group hostile to Christianity and other religious minorities. Formed even before India's independence, its leaders call for "national reconstruction" and seek to establish "uncompromising devotion" to a purely Hindu nation.
In the weeks before the attack on Feb. 13, the RSS men in Kerala’s Thiruvalla Municipality had reportedly warned the seminary students to stop witnessing in the area where they went as part of a regular weekly outreach.
“The seminary students had been regularly visiting a community of laborers on previous weekends, praying for the sick, caring for the needy, sharing the love of Christ and offering hope,” GFA reported. “Seventy percent of the family problems in this community are directly related to poverty, drug use and alcohol addiction. As a result of their regular visits and compassionate outreach, people's hearts were beginning to respond.”
"The ministry there was bringing fruitful results due to our students' continuous visits," according to a GFA field correspondent.
When the students arrived at a bus stop last Sunday, a gang of men began abusing and assaulting them before pushing them into auto rickshaws (three-wheeled taxis) and driving them to a secluded location, where they were repeatedly beaten. All the students suffered from internal pain and headaches, some severe. One was diagnosed with a broken left eardrum and facial bruising.
"Their heads are still hurting from getting hit so hard," said one GFA pastor who visited them there. "The brother whose eardrum was broken is doing better. He has lost about 30 percent of his hearing in that ear, but it should come back as his ear heals."
GFA reported that the students are recovering from their injuries in a local hospital. They are expected to return to the seminary later this week.
Meanwhile, the Chennai Online news service reports that India's National Commission of Minorities (NCM) will investigate the attacks in response to the arrests.

Conversion charges: probe ordered against Christian mission

Jaipur, Feb 19 : Rajasthan government today ordered an inquiry into the allegation that a Christian mission brought 250 children to Kota from outside the state for converting them to Christianity, an official spokesman said here today.
Ordering the inquiry into the case, Social Welfare Minister Madan Dilawar has rushed a team of four senior officials to Kota to hold a detailed probe, the spokesman said.
The minister ordered the inquiry after receiving reports that local people were protesting against bringing of the children, described as orphans, by Immanual Mission, allegedly promising them Rs 250 each and food, he said.
The officials of social welfare department would start inquiry into the matter from tomorrow itself despite being a Sunday, he added.
The children were brought to Kota by train this morning by the mission people, the Spokesman said.
The government would take action after receiving report of the team of officials, he said.
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".
Doubting credentials of the mission he alleged that several cases were still pending in various police stations in Kota against Immanual mission including a case of encroaching upon forest land falsely showing it as burial ground.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Police Arrest Vicar General of Krishnagar Diocese

Police Arrest Vicar General of Krishnagar Diocese
CM Paul

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.

Extremists Attack, Beat Six GFA Students

Extremists Attack, Beat Six GFA Students
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

Yesu Darbar attacked in Uttar Pradesh

A group of Hindu activists, carrying lethal weapons, barged into Yesu Darbar near Varanasi on 30 January 2005 and attacked the believers who were participating in the prayer service. The police arrested the intruders and brought the situation under control.

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.

Fundamentalists oppose Christian presence in Uttar Pradesh.

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

Catholic Village in India Under Fundamentalist Siege

Bishop of Amravati Calls the Situation "Very Serious"
AMRAVATI, India, FEB. 7, 2005 ( Hindu fundamentalists are subjecting the people of a Catholic village to threats and attacks, says a bishop in the state of Maharashtra. Rajura is the only Catholic village in Amravati, one of the six divisions of Maharashtra with an independent municipal administration.
The Catholics, all tribals, are descendants of migrants from Madhya Pradesh; their families have been in the village for centuries. They now live in fear for their lives, if they do not reconvert to the Hinduism of their ancestors. "All the people in the village are Catholics, very poor, illiterate, mainly agricultural laborers, but very faithful to the religion," Bishop Edwin Colaço told AsiaNews.
"A few days ago, a Munni, or Hindu holy man, from Ayodhya ... held a huge religious meeting here; it was well attended" by Hindus, the bishop said. "The saffron-clad, spear-bearing Munni attacked the Catholic Church and denounced the missionaries," he said. "He launched into a tirade against the Adivasi [tribals] of Rajura, alleging that missionaries had originally converted them by force, and said that it was his mission to reconvert them to Hinduism." Bishop Colaço, 67, believes that the event was "very well planned by the Hindu Religious Convention.
The Munni had done his homework well and knew the place. ... He urged Hindu villagers to 'kill the Christian Adivasi with swords.'" The group "drove into the Christian village in jeeps, carrying swords and shouting fanatical Hindu slogans. But they found only women, since the men were away at work," the bishop said. "They threatened to kill the women if they did not follow them to the Hindu meeting. The terrified women were then huddled into the jeeps and forcibly brought before the Munni," continued Bishop Colaço.
The prelate said that the "situation is very serious. The Munni has threatened the people of neighboring villages, saying they would be ostracized and would be fined 10,000 rupees if they maintained any contact with tribal Christians." For Bishop Colaço of Amravati, "this is a violation of human rights. Christian Adivasi are poor and illiterate and depend on Hindus for employment. If they are ostracized, they will be denied their means of livelihood. Worse still, many Adivasi have daughters and sisters married to Hindu men and living in other villages. Now the fundamentalists have forbidden any contact with their families."
Bishop Colaço said he wrote the Union Home Minister and the chief minister of Maharashtra asking them to investigate the escalating violence against Christians in Amravati. He also approached the Indian bishops' conference requesting that it intervene.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hindu fundamentalists prevent Catholic celebration on Anjediva Island

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Church of Our Lady of Springs is located on an island claimed by Hindus. The Indian Navy has bans a traditional boat pilgrimage by Goa and Karwar Christians.

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.