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