Saturday, December 31, 2005

Indian Catholics Attacked on Way to Christmas Mass

Extremists beat four travelers, including priest, leaving them unconscious.

NEW DELHI, December 30 (Compass) - Hindu extremists launched two attacks on Catholics in the northern state of Rajasthan during the week before Christmas, in one case beating four people until they were unconscious.

On Saturday (December 24), nine members of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked four Catholics, including a priest, in Jambuda, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the district capital of Banswara. Jaisingh Baria, Sunil Minama, and two people identified only as Father Thomas and Santosh were traveling by jeep to attend a Christmas mass in a nearby village.

The attackers had parked their motorbikes just after a curve in the road in Tandi Moti village, waiting for the four to arrive, a parish priest told Compass. After forcing the jeep to stop, the attackers hit Fr. Thomas with an iron rod.

"Then they pulled the other three off the jeep and beat them," said the priest, who identified himself only as Father Alexander. "They also made them strip down to their underwear."

The victims lay unconscious on the road for four hours until a local Christian discovered them at 9:30 p.m.

Fr. Alexander had asked for police protection for the four after villagers warned Fr. Thomas not to attend the Christmas celebration that night.

"Now I’m wondering how the attackers learned of their travel plans," Fr. Alexander said.

RSS members had spread a rumor that the Catholics were carrying two children with them in the jeep in order to sacrifice them as part of their Christmas worship. As this rumor spread, people living in nearby villages came out to join in the beating.

Attackers also broke Fr. Thomas' mobile phone and stole his wallet containing 5,000 rupees ($115), along with a small television and VCD player that were in the jeep.

Fr. Thomas and the other victims have since identified five of the attackers – Kamlesh Tambolia, Rakesh Damor, Bharat Nutt, Harlala Roth and Galjee Khatara – all allegedly members of the RSS.

Inspector Prithvi Singh said he had asked Fr. Thomas to stop by the police station on his way to the mass, but the priest had not done so.

"Why did he go straight to Pattia-Parvali without coming to the police post as I had asked them to?" Singh said.

He added that he had filed charges against the attackers and arrested four of them, though they were released on bail.

In a separate incident on December 23, three men assaulted two nuns, Sister Tessia and Sister Kletty, who were waiting at a bus stop in Ambapara sub-district at around 9 p.m.

"The men came on a motorbike and slapped and verbally abused them," a priest from the Udaipur diocese told Compass. "They also snatched the crosses they were wearing around their necks."

One of the attackers was identified as Motilal Patel, already named in several violent attacks on Christians. Patel had earlier used a sharp weapon to attack three Catholic youths waiting at a bus stand in Banswara on October 21.

The Banswara city police registered a complaint against Patel and arrested him on October 22, but he applied for bail and was released immediately.

Police have yet to arrest Patel in connection with the attack on the two nuns.

Police believe Patel was also involved in the theft of a statue of the Virgin Mary from St. Andrew's Church in Ambapara on December 22.

Inspector Devi Singh told Compass he had registered two separate complaints against Patel, who had gone into hiding – "but we will surely arrest him very soon."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christian Youth Gunned down in Assam

December 21, 2005

India (MNN) -- A 15-year-old member of Gospel for Asia's Believers Church was killed in Assam, India, as tribal violence has erupted again. Vidya Singh and one of his friends were returning to their recently destroyed village to recover some food when they were ambushed and shot.

Speaking from India, Gospel for Asia's founder KP Yohannan says while this was tribal violence, Christians are feeling the impact. "People take advantage of this kind of opportunity to actually go after believers who have left their tribal customs."

Yohannan says this is difficult for GFA. "We have believers in both of these tribes, as a matter of fact. We have very strong work in the Karbi people, including a Bible college. We are very concerned, very troubled that some of our believers are brutally murdered."

GFA Bible college students and missionaries, who converted from these tribal customs, are sharing the Gospel, says Yohannan. They're saying, "Your tribal practices and all this is only destroying you. And again, this is an opportunity used by many of the believers to witness to their neighbors and relatives and people are turning to Christ."

Christians are being asked to pray for the situation that's seen men, women and children killed. Pray for peace and that the church will be protected.

Yohannan says there's a lot of pressure being put on believers in this area of northeast India. "The government officials are telling us, the Christians, you people are the only hope. Please do whatever you can to bring peace to this area, that's a strange thing happening there."

Church attacked, Pastor intimidated in Goa

From our correspondent

Hindu fundamentalists ransacked a church at Ponda in Goa when the worship was going on and dragged its pastor to the local police station alleging that he was disturbing peace in the area. And the police refused to act, leaving the stage to the hooligans to do whatever they wanted.

As usual the church of the New Life Fellowship in Ponda, 40 km from Panaji, the capital of Goa, started the worship on 18 December 2005 with a gathering of about 80 believers. Just after the worship began, about 20 Hindus carrying chains, iron rods and sticks and barged in and started to smash the audio system and other equipment. When some believers tried to protest, they manhandled them and chased all of them out of the church.

The attackers threatened the pastor Rev Cajetan Tellis with dire consequences if he tried to preach in the church again. All this happened after alerting the local police in advance against the fundamentalists who had tried to intimidate him on 11 December 2005. In fact on that day the attackers had brought six policemen to the church who took him to the police station. The in-charge of the police station questioned the pastor but found nothing wrong. Yet he refused to take action against those who took law into their hands. The police arrested six persons for the attack on 18 December 2005 and detained them in the police station.

In a memorandum submitted to Governor SC Jamir, the All India Christian Council (aicc) condemned the attack and sought stringent action against culprits as well as adequate security for all churches in Goa.

"The devious insensitivity of the district administration and the police is a matter of great shame as we profess to be the world's largest secular democracy. These constant efforts by communal fanatics to strike at the heart of India's plurality to eliminate any semblance of diversity with a blatant disregard for the religious rights enshrined in the Constitution of India must be put to a stop. Such a shameful act is unacceptable in a civilized society such as ours in an era of globalisation and is in violation against the provision of the Article 25 of our Constitution and accepted 'Universal Human Rights Convention'. The Christian Council demands that the perpetrators of this crime be arrested and booked under the appropriate sections of the IPC viz. section 153 (A) and 295 (A)," the memorandum said.

The memorandum was signed by aicc president Dr Joseph D'Souza, aicc Maharashtra State General Secretary Dr Abraham Mathai, Goa United Christian Leaders Association Chairman Rev Gerson Coutinho, New Life Fellowship Coordinator Rev Felix Cardozo and Rev Mathew Kurien of the Assemblies of God Church,Goa.

Click Here for Source

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pastor attacked in Hyderabad, police refuse to help

From our correspondent

Hindu activists attacked a pastor in Hyderabad on 3 December 2005 and threatened to kill if he did not stop preaching in the name of Christ.

The pastor Yesupadam of Ashaiah Nagar in Hyderabad works for Believers Church. While conducting a prayer meeting on 3 December, someone called him out. "Thinking someone was calling me for prayer, I went out without informing anyone. I saw seven people at a distance waiting for me. Without suspecting anything I went to meet them. Loke Raj, the leader of the locality, who was among them, first abused me for preaching Christ and then started to beat me."

Realising they were members of the Hindu fundamentalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the pastor sought their permission to inform his people and come back. But they did not give him a chance. Instead they held him by his collar and took him on a scooter to the local police station.

At the police station there were about 20 RSS people waiting for him. They took him to Sub-Inspector Sudershen Reddy. When they said the pastor was converting the people in the locality, the police officer said the Christians had become a big headache. "Then he asked me: `did your mother conceive you through a English man or Telugu man? Are you a Telugu man? Are you an Indian? If you desire to live, stop preaching about Jesus Christ. You know people are killing pastors in the city but still you do not learn anything."

Thereafter in the presence of the police, the RSS men forced a tilak on his forehead. "When I refused, they said if you do not listen, you will be another one on the list of pastors killed. We have a big network and it is easy for us to kill you outside the police station.

One of them Basvanna said, "I will cut off your genitals and ruin your family. I was very thirsty because I was fasting for the last three days. But they did not permit me to drink water. Nor they allowed him to call and inform his people." Finally someone rang up his residence and informed. When they came to the police station, the RSS men did not allow them to come inside."

When another Pastor Karunakar was informed, he came and got him released. "I was taken to the police station at 2 pm and was made to wait there till 10.15 pm. During this time the RSS men were arguing with me inside the police station and tried to beat me. The policemen just watched without doing anything. They threatened to kill me again."

Even the believers who came to the police station were threatened. "If you do not stop praying, we will even kill you. So you better leave the pasturing here and go back," they said. After the pastor was released, Loke Raj again threatened to kill him and take his wife. The pastor and the congregation are in great fear and could not conduct their regular Sunday service.

Click Here for Source

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hindu Extremists Claim Indian Pastor's House

Eviction notice sent to pastor; idol installed on verandah.

NEW DELHI, December 14 (Compass) – Pastor Feroz Masih of the Believers' Church in India (BCI), who had earlier received death and arson threats, was forced to vacate his house in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India, on December 7.

"The administration of Baijnath town had served us an eviction notice, and members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP or World Hindu Council] also installed a Hindu idol on the verandah of our house," Ramesh Masih, the pastor's son, told Compass.

The VHP had earlier assaulted Masih and told him and about 60 members of the BCI that if they did not "re-convert" to Hinduism in a ceremony scheduled for November 20, they would be burned alive and their houses destroyed. (See Compass Direct, "Hindu Extremists Attack Church in Himachal Pradesh, India," November 14.)

Police stepped in and prevented any physical harm to the believers and their homes. (See Compass Direct, "Threat to Burn Christians to Death in India Defused," November 21.)

Local authorities then served an eviction notice on the Masih family on November 30. When Masih pleaded for more time, the eviction date was extended to December 16.

Masih's family did not own the land they were living on, but the Indian government usually affords squatter's rights when a family has lived on the land for at least 20 years.

These rights date back to a Supreme Court decision in 1985, when the court ruled that the right to adequate housing, shelter and livelihood was part of the all-encompassing right to life as outlined in Article 21 of the India Constitution. The court also said new accommodation must be arranged before squatters are evicted.

The Masih family could have fought to stay in their home, but they were intimidated by the VHP.

"On December 2, about 20 VHP members came and created a disturbance outside our house," Masih explained. "They said a large crowd would soon gather at the temple to make trouble for us."

The family locked the house and went to stay with relatives that night. When they returned on November 4, a small group of VHP members who were standing guard outside the house told the family that it no longer belonged to them.

"Instead of arguing, we moved the worship service to another believer's house," Masih said. "However, later that day we heard that the VHP had put an idol on the verandah."

Because of this intimidation, Masih's family was forced to vacate the house even before December 16, he said.

"Otherwise," he said, "we could have taken a stay order from the court, asking the administration to arrange for alternative housing, since we have documented evidence that we have been living in the house for more than 20 years."

Sandeep Kumar, a local official in Baijnath, confirmed that the VHP had installed a Hindu idol on the verandah. "I have ordered that the idol be shifted to the temple next door, and the VHP has agreed to do so," he said.

V.V. Augustine, a member of the National Commission for Minorities, told Compass, "It is extremely unfortunate that the administration evicted the Masih family and allowed the Hindu fundamentalists to occupy the house."

Augustine has asked the chief secretary of the Himachal Pradesh government to intervene, he said. "I also intend to visit the family and the area personally."

Kumar, the Baijnath official, said there was no connection between the VHP death threats and the eviction notice being sent just days afterward.

"It was a coincidence," he said. "Our office cannot be influenced by the VHP or any other organization."

Kumar said his office had serviced eviction notices to Masih since 1991. Masih appealed a notice in 2001 but it was rejected, he added.

"Masih is from Punjab [state] and according to our state law, he cannot buy a property in Himachal Pradesh," Kumar said. "Our office will not provide him with alternative housing."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Catholic families forced to convert

13 December 2005

Catholic families forced to convert

In the village of Roopapali more than 40 Catholic families have had to convert to receive government aid for the poor. "I would have lost my job," says a teacher. "They were threatened," says a catechist.

Raipur (AsiaNews/UCAN) - In the village of Roopapali, about 1,400 kilometres south-east of New Delhi, more than 40 Catholic families had to abandon their faith in favour of Hinduism.

"The sarpanch (village chief) told me that I would not be able to continue doing my work if I remained Christian," said Kaithabai Surjha, kindergarten teacher.

Her husband Hemlal, who is a farmer, said he converted to Hinduism for otherwise he would not get government subsidies for Dalits, the outcaste group at the bottom of India's caste system, after the government decided to freeze financial aid for Catholics.

The couple, who had a Catholic marriage and who had their three children baptised, said they have asked their parish priest "not to visit and not to send catechists to our village."

"They were threatened," said Abraham Narayan, a catechist, who is related to some of the converted families.

Madhu Nag, another catechist who used to visit the village, said that the archdiocese had promoted many initiatives in Roopapali because of its substantial Catholic community. Catholicism, he explained, arrived in the area about 75 years ago when missioners helped locals with food during a drought.

Both catechists noted that local Christians had registered their children at school as Hindus to benefit from government scholarships given to Hindus.

The Indian Constitution guarantees special benefits to underdeveloped Dalit groups, listed as "scheduled castes", to help in their socioeconomic advancement. These benefits include quotas on admissions to educational institutions and seats in legislative bodies.

Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh Dalits are entitled to these benefits at present. Christians and Muslims are excluded on the ground that their religions do not recognise the caste system.

Though all the village's Catholic families renounced Christianity, the Kumar family, who belong to the Mennonite Church, refused to embrace Hinduism.

"We have been Christians for generations," said Moosa Kumar, who has a medical practice in the village.

"We have been ostracized socially, economically and religiously," Gyanendra Kumar, Moosa's son, said. But "we are not afraid of the persecution, because he (Jesus) is with us," he explained, adding that he has decided not to take any government aid reserved for Dalits.

The parish priest, Father Swaminathan, refused to comment on what was happening in the village.

The two catechists said that troubles trouble began when three Christians and one Hindu contested the local election last January for a reserved Dalit seat. The Hindu candidate Rabbi Chowhan threatened to expose his rival Christian candidates for appropriating statutory rights.

After the elections he said he would not allow Christian children to register as Hindus so as to enrol in schools, and would ask the government to investigate Christians who secured jobs or loans under government concessions for Dalit.

The state's ruling pro-Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is investigating Chowhan's complaints.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christians Attacked in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh

New Delhi, December 4, 2005: In two separate incidents in the states of Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, Christians were attacked and harassed while participating in Sunday worship service. At the time of writing this report 2 Pastors are reported to be in police custody.

Raipur Chattisgarh: A Church in Sarora Industrial Area was attacked by Dharma Sena activists. The House Church has been functioning since three years in the home of one, Kanhaiya Lal Sharma. This particular Sunday i.e. the 4th December 2005, two speakers, Masih Das Rai and Anmol Kamble from Raipur had gone to worship with the congregation. The worship started at 10:30 and was almost over when at about 12:00 the Dharma Sena activists attacked.

"25 – 30 people suddenly came and attacked the fellowship which was going on the first floor of the house of Kanhaiya Lal Sharma. As they started beating Masih Das Rai, Anmol Kamble, Kanhaiya Lal Sharma and Ram Vilas Yadav panic spread throughout the congregation of about 30 people for there were many Children present too." Akhilesh Edgar from Milap Mandali told us.

The Dharma Sena had planned this event for long it is learned by us for according to sources they had been threatening the Christians for some time. Edgar also told us that while there were about 30 people beating the Christians, the Dharma Sena had about 200 more people gathered in front of the house so that no one escapes.

"When the Sena activists had beaten the 4 Christians to their satisfaction they tore their clothes and paraded them in the entire area still beating them. While doing this they dragged Ramesh Das Manikpuri from his house and also started to beat him. Manikpuri is a Pastor living in the same area but he was not part of the worship that morning. They also treated him in the same way." Edgar told us further.

By this time some Christian leaders in Raipur had got to know about the incident as some young men had managed to escape and call them from a public phone. Akhilesh Edgar, Arun Pannalal, Rakesh Jaiaj and a few others with them went to Sarora Industrial Area to help. But when they got there the Christians and the attackers could not be found. So they went to the police station of the area instead to report the matter.

It was later learned that the Sena activists took the 5 Christians to a temple where they forced them to bow down to the idols and to shout "Jai Shri Ram". "The Christians flatly refused", Edgar told us, "Masih Das Rai, even went up to the extent of saying, 'you can kill me but I will not bow down to the idol,'" Rai has been attacked and framed by Sena men earlier too.

"The Sena activists had a document with them which they had prepared already. The document stated that the signatory deals in forced and fraudulent conversions and the Sena activists forced the 4 Christians to sign the document. Anmol Kamble and Kanhaiya Lal Sharma signed the document, while M D Rai and Ramesh Das Manikpuri did not." Arun Pannalal of the Chattisgarh Christian Forum informed us.

At about 1:30 in the afternoon the Dharma Sena activists brought the Christians to the Urla police station where the Christian leaders were also present. Out of the 5 Christians only 4 reached the police station, the 5th i.e. Ram Vilas Yadav was let off by the Sena people. M D Rai and Ramesh Das Manikpuri were sent by the police for medical examination as they had received the maximum beating. Anmol Kamble and Kanhaiya Lal Sharma were let off after questioning and were threatened again by the Sena activists as they were returning from the police station.

Last heard M D Rai and Ramesh Das Manikpuri were detained by the police for questioning. No FIR (First Information Report) against the Dharma Sena was filed by the police despite the persistence of Christian leaders present to do so.

The Dharma Sena led by Leela Dhar Chandrakar has been very active against Christians in the recent past.

Bhabhra, Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh:

In another incident in Bhabhra, Jhabua District, Madhya Pradesh, Pastor Anil Mehda working with the Indian Evangelical Team was attacked while conducting Sunday worship service by the fundamentalists.

According to reports received by the Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission, Pastor Mehda was allegedly beaten up and then handed over to the police. The police had registered an FIR (First Information Report) against him under IPC (Indian Penal Code) Sections 151 and 101.

Section 151 states, "Whoever knowingly joins or continues in any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace, after such assembly has been lawfully commanded to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both."

At the time of writing of this report, because of the intervention of concerned people and the Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission, Pastor Mehda was set free although he is still not discharged of the charges against him. He is summoned again to the police station on the 12th December 2005, according to sources from the Indian Evangelical Team.

Nadia church attacked

Statesman News Service

JALALKHALI (Nadia), Dec. 4. - A group of armed men sneaked into the Sadhu Luis Catholic Church at Jalalkhali, Nadia, 10 km from the district headquarters early this morning and burnt a copy of the Holy Bible besides looting a crown of Virgin Mary, a chain and a rosary – all made of silver. The attackers also burnt some Holy Communions which are served among the congregation in the course of Holy Mass, in memory of Christ’s last supper.

The Holy Mass was not held in the church today following the incident. Fr Antony Kariakatyl, one of the priests of the church, said: "It is an unfortunate incident as Christmas is approaching. The nature of the vandalism only proves that the attackers had some ulterior motive. They have not looted any valuable items but burnt a part of the Holy Bible (182 to 250 pages) and some Holy Communions. They might have had an intention to hamper the Christmas programmes."

He added: "The attackers entered the church after breaking open the front door, probably in the wee hours of this morning. They sneaked into the sacristy room and broke open two almirahs. The incident was first noticed by our catechist Mr Sujan Khan when he went to the church for ringing the bell at 5.30 a.m. He then informed the neighbours and me of the matter. I then lodged an FIR with the Kotwali police regarding the matter".

Tension gripped the area soon after news of the attack spread. Locals are clueless about the incident.

It is the second attack on churches in Nadia in the past two years. Earlier, the Maliapota Catholic Church near the Indo-Bangla border in Tehatta PS area was attacked by a group of 40 armed men on the Christmas night of 2002.
The secretary to the bishop, Mr Subhash Barui, said: "It is more an attack on our basic faith rather than on the church. We suspect an ulterior motive." The additional SP, Nadia, Mr Biswarup Ghosh, visited the church and detained a person for interrogation. The SP, Nadia, Mr R Rajasekharan, said: "Though the motive behind the incident is yet to be ascertained, no communal angle is suspected. There was a confrontation between the church authorities and members of a local club over drinking of alcohol on the church premises during Durga puja immersion. The police are looking for a man who is absconding."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christian Workers Attacked in Maharashtra State, India

Extremists put up posters warning Hindus of Christian conversion.

NEW DELHI, December 2 (Compass) - A group of young people attacked three Christians as they distributed Christian literature in the western state of Maharashtra on Saturday (November 26). Two of the three injured were hospitalized.

"It's a miracle that we are alive today," Shaji Samuel, a Christian worker with the Panvel Brethren Church, told Compass. "We were beaten up very badly. I still can't take a deep breath, as I have received numerous internal injuries and my mouth is still hurting."

The attack took place at about 7:15 p.m. behind the State Transport Bus Terminal of Panvel Taluka in Raigad district, near the state capital, Mumbai.

Biju Jacob, 35, said he, Samuel and 30-year-old Reji Paul distributed and sold literature and Bibles at the Panvel bus terminal from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. without incident. When they returned in the evening, he said, "a group of about 30 young people brutally thrashed us."

Paul and Jacob were sitting inside the jeep, and Samuel was standing near the hood, where a stack of literature lay.

"A young man approached Samuel, took a piece of literature and asked him why there was no mention of 330 million Hindu gods in it," Jacob said. "Soon he got furious, and about 30 more young people came and started beating him."

According to Vedas (Hindu scriptures), there are 330 million gods in India.

"When Paul and I got out of the jeep, they started beating us also," Jacob said. "They beat us for about 15 minutes."

The attackers then dragged the three and made them sit in a motorized rickshaw. They asked the driver to take them to the Panvel police station and followed them in their own vehicles.

"As we reached the police station, they [the attackers] alleged that we were converting Hindus," Jacob said. "I told the sub-inspector, S.H. Warenkar, that we were only selling Christian literature without any force."

Warenkar agreed to take the victims to a nearby government hospital, where they were treated for their injuries, he added.

The Panvel Municipal Hospital referred the three to a private hospital for further treatment. En route, however, the police asked at least one of them to report to the station for statements.

Samuel, who bore the brunt of the attack, went to the Thane Lok Hospital, where he was admitted immediately. Paul was able to return to his home.

When Jacob reached the police station, the attackers had given a written complaint to the police accusing him and his associates of conversion.

The police interrogated Jacob until 1:30 a.m.

"On Sunday, I had fever and terrible headache - therefore I went to a hospital and was admitted," Jacob said. "The police had to come to the hospital for further interrogation. I was released on Tuesday. But I still have swelling on my head."

The police, however, did not file charges against the Christians but against the attackers. Anil Madhukar Kalyankar, Kishore Madhukar Kalyankar, Sanjay Yashwant Wahulkar and 25 others were charged with rioting and disturbing the public peace, said the investigating officer, Warenkar.

"The miscreants wanted us to register their complaint against the Christians, but we did not accept it," he said.

Warenkar added that the persons charged were absconding. "The police will arrest them very soon."

The situation is still tense, Samuel said, as the attackers have put up posters on area walls warning Hindus of conversion attempts. "The posters allege that a Christian program is on to convert Hindus in the area," he said.

Samuel said he and the other victims have nothing against the extremists.

"We have forgiven them," he said. "However, it is sad that we were misunderstood, as we were simply distributing Christian literature that talks about love and peace."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Convert from Islam in India Remains on Death List

Unfazed, son of devout Muslim cleric strives to teach seekers the essence of Christ.

CALICUT, India, December 1 (Compass) - The Rev. K.K. Alavi, called "one of the bravest Christians in India," is the son of a staunch Islamic cleric.

Since receiving Christ at age 21, Rev. Alavi has endured at least four attempts on his life. Because of his ministry among Muslims, he receives numerous death threats by phone or by letter. Nearly every day he is assailed in Muslim speeches, newsletters and newspapers. Islamic groups have slapped 11 court cases on him, and last August a gunman shot at his house. He has also noticed two men stalking him lately.

Short with a thickly bearded face, the 53-year-old Alavi disarms others with a serene smile and a high singing voice.

"Last month, a few reporters came to me warning that killers were out to take me down," Alavi said. "All my life I have had threats from fundamentalists. So I wasn't surprised to hear this from reporters who were tipped off by a source with a radical, Indian Islamic group."

Though Muslim extremist organizations deny having any part in the attempts on his life, police officials and intelligence agencies have confirmed their role.

Machetes and Reproach

Higher-ranking police officials have asked Alavi to be cautious as extremist groups have issued warnings about attacks planned against him.

In Manjeri, a predominantly Muslim town in south India, Rev. Alavi pastors an independent Lutheran church, New Hope India Mission. He also oversees a literature program of tracts, booklets and study aides examining Islamic viewpoints on Christianity.

Many such works analyze Quranic arguments in favor of violence, contrasting them with Christianity's peaceful approaches. Rev. Alavi, a graduate from Concordia Seminary in Nagercoil, has written more than 20 books and tracts calling upon Muslims to understand the true essence of the teachings of Jesus.

In an Islamic area where Christianity is considered blasphemy, Rev. Alavi has led at least 50 Muslims - estimates range as high as 200 - to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Each year thousands of inquiries pour in. Working out of his home in Calicut, he meets curious and questioning Muslims asking about Jesus.

The threats on his life began in 1981. "A mob of Sunni Muslims stormed into my property looking for me with machetes," he said. "I ran all the way to the police station. Later I took refuge at the home of a Hindu attorney." The lawyer's family fed him and eventually provided an escort back to his home.

Rev. Alavi is not attacked merely for being a Christian, he said.

"I happened to be the first Muslim in a Muslim town who still converts Muslims in modern times," he said. "They saw clearly that I'm a sort of a bridge for many to walk to Jesus. They could never stand the idea. Hence I happen to be their foremost enemy."

The National Development Front (NDF), a major Indian Islamic group emerging in 1993 following the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque, has launched several public campaigns against Rev. Alavi.

During prayers, Muslim clerics are known to hold up Alavi as a prime example of an enemy of Islam. Rev. Alavi has copies of a collection of audio cassettes - circulated in India and the Middle East - that revile him and his Christian mission.

In 1998, an Islamic group prompted various activists to file 11 charges against Alavi, including rape and fraud.

"All were well-planned and backed by renowned lawyers supported by Islamic groups," he said. "They also produced a woman who claimed I raped her."

Muslim groups announced these crimes throughout the towns of Manjeri, Calicut, Tirur, and others, he said. Posters appeared on walls saying he smuggled arms. These attacks were hard on his family, including his wife Yasmin Alavi, the daughter of Muslim converts, who is very active in extending hospitality to the hundreds of people who come to the Alavi home. The Alavis have three grown children.

"My family was shaken, but I knew the Lord would protect me," he said.

One by one, courts dismissed all charges against Rev. Alavi. Moreover, the Kerala High Court ordered protection for him.

Death Threats

Rev. Alavi still receives many threatening letters from organizations such as Tiger Force and the Islamic Front. His church has been attacked and the cross destroyed.

Police have informed Rev. Alavi of two attempts on his life. No one was aware of the attempts until suspects revealed them while questioned on other charges. Rev. Alavi's outpost among Muslims was once forcefully shut down; the Lutheran church sponsoring his work temporarily moved him to Bangalore to save his life.

A decade ago, a group of Islamic extremists came looking for him while another team was dispatched to murder Chekannur Maulvi, a liberal Muslim teacher who broke with convention and decried Islamic fundamentalism. Maulvi was murdered that day, but Alavi was away from home and thus spared.

"Now, sources have alerted me that I'm second on the hit list prepared by the Muslim fundamentalist NDF," he says.

Last August, while he was still in Manjeri, someone shot at his house in Calicut at around 10 p.m. "The stone wall still carries the mark," he said.

On another occasion, as he was speaking in church, there was a man in the church holding a gun. "But he had to flee when a Lutheran sister tried to talk to him," he said.

Such are the ordeals of a pastor whose widely-published testimony has inspired many Indian Muslims to turn to the path of Jesus. His life story, published in a booklet titled An End of a Search, is translated into 32 languages and circulated in many cities in southern India.

In spite of the dangers, Rev. Avali said he has declined the court-approved security offered to him.

"I can claim security from police wherever I go, but I believe if I do that I'll lose the protection of my guardian angels," said Rev. Alavi, who has been diagnosed with a weak heart. "So I've declined man's support and have turned to God's care and protection. Who can kill me if God's with me?"