Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hopegivers President Samuel Thomas Arrested In New Delhi

Columbus, Georgia (March 16, 2006) - President Samuel Thomas, humanitarian leader of the Hopegivers International children's charity, was arrested in New Delhi today by a dozen men claiming to be police officers from the provincial capital of Kota, Rajasthan. The arrest was made at about 12 noon (10:30 pm EST) outside the office of the Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court where Dr. Thomas was meeting with his attorney to discuss anticipatory bail before surrendering himself to authorities.

Other reports from Kota say that the officers, led by Police Superintendent Bhim Ganj Mandi, delivered the leader to the Kota jail at about 9:00 am EST.

Dr. Sajan George of the Global Council of Indian Christians based in Bangalore called on the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi to take "appropriate action" to ensure the safety and well being of Dr. Thomas whose life has been threatened by Hindutva extremists. The radicals want to end India’s secular government and make it a Hindu state.

Michael Glenn, Executive Director of Hopegivers International, called upon Christians around the world to pray and work for Dr. Thomas'; safety. He also said that letters of protest to Indian government leaders are very effective and that contributions are also needed. Click here to give to the emergency Legal Defense Fund.

"We need to pray and work for the release of Dr. Thomas, the other Indian staff and the children in Kota," he said.

Meanwhile local anti-Christian hate groups continued the 25th day of the siege against the 2,500 orphans and abandoned children protected at the Emmanuel Hope Home in Kota, Rajasthan. The orphanage is supported by Hopegivers International based in Columbus, Georgia, as well as from donations from the Indian churches and the general public.

Thousands of Christians around the world are praying for the persecuted Christians in Rajasthan and sending letters and faxes to the Indian government in New Delhi asking for emergency protection of the children and staff of the Hopegivers schools and orphanages in Rajasthan.

Local government bureaucracies in Kota, which have been politicized by Hindu extremist groups, have taken a series of illegal actions in the last month to prevent Hopegivers and Rajasthani Christian leaders from offering protection to abandoned children, educational and medical services.

"Of course," said Dr. Samuel Thomas in a recent e-mail, "none of these actions are legal. The terrorists and hate groups have taken the law into their own hands and sadly, we have lost confidence in the local government to control them."

Lawyers for Dr. Thomas and Founder Bishop M. A. Thomas are appealing to the High Court in Rajasthan's capital of Jaipur to set bond for the staff being held without charge in Kota jails. Bishop Thomas began a church in Kota in 1960.

"The Thomas' need to remain free so that they can lead a defense of the social welfare work in Rajasthan which includes 65 schools and 13 orphanages," said Hopegivers spokesman Dr. Bill Bray in a recent news interview.

"There is real physical danger if the Thomas' remain in Kota at this time," said Dr. Bray. "Terrorists are threatening their lives daily."

Rajasthan newspapers have repeatedly quoted terrorist leaders offering a reward of $26,000 to paramilitary groups who will capture and behead either of the Christian leaders. "Saffron gangs" invaded the homes of family and friends of the Thomas’ on Monday, searching for the two Christian leaders.

To counter the well-organized campaign of terror, slander, frivolous lawsuits and intimidation, Hopegivers has started the Legal Defense Fund in an effort to cope with the illegal actions of the local government and the onslaught of civil and human rights violations that are occurring in the state of Rajasthan. Hopegivers is also working with the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi to speed up an investigation from the central government and asking the prime minister and president of India to intervene for the sake of the children and to protect the lives of non-Hindus all over India.

"We are asking friends of human rights to fax and write letters today asking for investigators to begin checking into what is going on in Kota," said Executive Director Mike Glenn.

Emmanuel Ministries has been based in Kota since 1960 and has operated social services there without regard to caste or creed since 1973, especially to Dalits, the so-called untouchable caste of Hinduism.

Last week, with the open encouragement of Madan Dilawar, Rajasthan’s minister of social welfare, representatives from Hindu extremist organizations Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal extended their month-long campaign of terror against Emmanuel and Hopegivers International who care for more than 20,000 orphaned or abandoned children throughout India and Africa.

On February 20, the police revoked without due process or hearing, all the operating licenses of Hopegivers-supported bookstores, churches, the hospital and leprosy or HIV-AIDS outreaches, orphanages, printing presses, schools and other institutions.

Threats were also made to cut off electricity and water to the facilities. Although the orphanage in Kota has a well for drinking water, sanitation would become a problem if the terrorists make good on their threats. Meanwhile, there are adequate food and water supplies.

All bank accounts were frozen and the business administrators of the mission and orphanage were arrested and held without bail when police investigations began February 20. As a result, the hospital, orphanages and schools here and throughout the state are operating on a cash basis and are relying efforts to collect emergency funds from India and overseas.
Mr. Dilawar is reported in local newspapers to have issued an order to remove all pastors from Emmanuel Churches and take over all of Hopegivers' schools and orphanages throughout Rajasthan. He has suggested that the private properties be seized and sold by the state.

When asked about what should happen to the 2,500 children of the orphanage, Rajasthan's government along with other militant groups have taken the position to simply let them go back to the streets they were rescued from. Hopegivers has offered to bus the orphans to some of their other 86 orphanages throughout India, but local government and police have refused to provide security.