Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Christian Meeting Threatened in Kota, Rajasthan

Hopegivers Meetings to Be Held Despite Threats

By: John M. Lindner
Special to ASSIST News Service

KOTA, INDIA (ANS) - The fall conventions of Hopegivers in India are going ahead, despite threats by militant Hindus, and local authorities have promised extra security as delegates begin arriving here today.

Sunday, about 250 militant youths massed to oppose the annual pastor's gathering in Kota, a city in the north-Indian state of Rajasthan.

Founder and director Bishop M.A. Thomas told ANS, "These militants have already sent a letter to the city commissioner and local police saying that if the government does not stop our conference, they will."

Bishop Thomas said Rajasthan newspapers on Monday reported the militants were planning a big gathering outside the Hopegivers conference grounds in nearby Raipura, and they would stop every car attempting to enter.

"Today the city official called and asked us to stop the pastors' conference or postpone it," Bishop Thomas said on Monday, "but we told them that is not possible."

Dr. Thomas Samuel, President of Hopegivers International, met with police on Tuesday asking for extra riot police to be detailed to the railway station, intersections and approaches to the conference grounds.

Every fall Hopegivers convenes several meetings for the local church leadership in different parts of India. These meetings always include a major gathering in Kota, where Bishop Thomas founded the ministry in 1960.

Kota has always been a hotbed of anti-Christian terrorism, and militant Hindus tried to halt the graduation of 6,300 Bible school students there last February. Trains and buses were boarded, students from satellite Bible schools coming for graduation were beaten, and hundreds were turned away in the presence of local authorities and police before federal authorities came and quelled the violence.Bishop Thomas' son, Dr. Samuel Thomas, also met opposition as he took two American visitors to a Hopegivers' school in Alwar on Monday. Alwar is where U.M. Dorai Raj became Hopegivers' first martyr in 1966. Being apprised of an imminent attack, Dr. Thomas notified the police chief, who sent 200 officers to the school. Dr. Thomas and his visitors were escorted in and out of the city without incident.

Bishop Thomas said the leadership convention will continue as scheduled October 27-30, and that families of American visitors should not worry. "Every precaution is being taken in lieu of these terrorist threats, evening meetings have been cancelled out of deference for safety, and we are expecting strong police protection."

Hopegivers has planted over 11,000 churches throughout India and maintains international offices in Columbus, Georgia.

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