Monday, April 28, 2008

1700 convert to Hinduism

The muddy Gavdevi ground at Shimpoli in Borivli (West) was sprinkled with saffron and green on Sunday.

In the presence of Narendra Maharaj, chief of the Ramanandcharya Peeth of Nanij in the Konkan, hundreds of men and women, most of them tribals, converted to Hinduism.

This is the first such event in the city, and part of the peeth’s massive re-conversion movement started two years ago.

Women were clad in green and men wore white dhotis, while the volunteers donned saffron.

Those who converted included recently married couples and families from the tribal interiors of Thane and Nashik district.

Many men had their heads shaved for the ceremony. Items for the mass ceremony were placed on banana leaves. A four-hour long sacred ritual was carried out to “purify” them, after which they were accepted as Hindus.

The rituals included the panch gagan snan, bhasma snan and amrut snan. They then took an oath never to abandon Hinduism.

Narendra Maharaj alleged Christian missionaries ventured into rural areas and lured them with financial help and other benefits to convert them.

As the tribals were mostly illiterate, they got converted easily, he said. The Sadguru Narendra Maharaj Sansthan claims to have brought 42,220 people back into the Hindu fold till date, including Sunday’s 1,793 people.

According to Narendra Maharaj, Hindus are declining in number and sooner or later will be rendered a minority.

“There is no other nation that embraces Hinduism; we have no place to go, unlike Christians and Muslims,” he said. “Nepal was the only country that supported Hinduism, but now the Maoists have taken over and declared it a non-religious country.”

He said he opposed votebank politics and condemned the state’s move to take over temples.

He also alleged the state’s anti-superstition law adversely affected Hindus the most.

Asked how the Sansthan ensured a better life for poor tribals, he said: “We are not a rich institution but we do our best by providing them with domestic flour mills, LPG burners and cylinders, some utensils and even employment. We assist them in realising that Hinduism is the greatest religion and induce pride and self respect within them.”

Christian leader and vice-president of the state Minority Commission Abraham Mathai had earlier called the charges of forced conversion baseless and said there was not a single incident that proved any Christian missionary had converted anybody by force or inducement.

“If the Hindu fundamentalists are true in their claims how does the official Christian population of the country remain stagnant at 2.5 per cent — the figure registered in the 1947 census and thereafter,” Mathai said.

Click here for source

1,800 Christian tribals convert to Hinduism in Mumbai

Mumbai, April 27: Around 1,800 Christian tribals on Sunday re-converted to Hinduism in the presence of spiritual leader Swami Narendracharya at suburban Borivali.
Talking to the media on the occasion, Narendracharya, popularly known as Narendra Maharaj, claimed so far he had reconverted 42,220 people, mostly from tribal areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Maharashtra, into Hinduism. It includes 1793 people who underwent reconversion rituals today.
About his drive, Maharaj said it was deplorable that Hindus had to be reconverted to Hinduism. He said he was not opposed to anybody practising any other religion, but the missionaries were "luring and misleading" the ordinary Hindus to convert them.
"An anti-conversion law is needed.....Nobody should be converted, whatsoever be his religion."
He said Hindus were being "marginalised" because they don't have any patrons. "We need to build a pressure group so that our interests are guarded."
Maharaj was critical of the BJP and Shiv Sena. "BJP and Shiv Sena talk about Hindutva, but once they get votes they don't do anything."
He, however, hailed Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for their pro-Hindu stance.
He criticised the saffron parties for not opposing the proposed anti-superstition bill (in Maharashtra) and the bill which contemplates government taking over the administration of Hindu temples, in the assembly.
Saying it had become fashionable to abuse Hinduism, he criticised the Sethusamudram Project. "Where is the need to demolish the Ram Setu? It is being done to take revenge for demolition of Babri Masjid," he said.
Bureau Report

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Look Who's Talking: Advani Woos Christians

New Delhi, April 26: After trying to persuade Muslims to back Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), former deputy prime minister L. K. Advani today asked Indian Christian community to back his party. The BJP is trying desperately to persuade one and all before the forthcoming general elections to be held next year. Christians can play an important role in states like Kerala and north eastern states.

Christian community has been at the receiving end in states where BJP is in power including Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa. Christian institutions have been constant targets of BJP’s sister concerns like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and RSS.

Advani today said, “Those who call the BJP ‘communal’, ‘anti-minorities’ and ‘anti-Christian’ are spreading falsehood for their own ulterior motives. Let me make it very clear that we respect Christianity, we revere Jesus Christ for his message of universal peace, love and brotherhood, and we deeply value the contribution of our Christian brethren both to India’s freedom struggle and to India’s nation-building in the post-Independence era.”

Advani said this while speaking as the chief guest at a function in Kottayam (Kerala) today to celebrate the Navathy — 91st birthday — of Rt. Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Valia Metropolitan of Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. He said on the occasion: “I am indeed blessed that I have come to pay tributes to His Holiness who embodies faith, love, happiness, experience, compassion, wisdom and, above all, boundless enthusiasm.”

Advani recalled that when Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee formed the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (predecessor to the BJP) in 1951, he appointed Barrister V.K. John as the chief of the Jana Sangh in Madras province. Barrister John, incidentally, was a classmate of Dr. Mookerjee in Calcutta.

“The same propaganda was also heard at the time. Barrister John was asked: ‘How can you, a Christian, accept to be an office-bearer of a communal party?’ His answer was forthright: ‘I know Dr. S.P. Mookerjee very well. He cannot be the president of a communal party.’”

Giving the examples of how the BJP backed a Christian PC Alexander to be its presidential nominee in 2002, Advani said, “Dr. Alexander was never known for his proximity to the BJP. Rather, he had served as the Principal Secretary under two Congress Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.”

Advani also called for expanding inter-faith dialogue to promote the tradition of mutual tolerance and respect, peaceful coexistence, national solidarity and common endeavor for common good. “I believe that every faith has something valuable to offer and we should have an open mind to absorb the best in every faith.”

Conversion law violation is a criminal offense

GANDHINAGAR: From now on, anyone wishing to convert will have to tell the government why they were doing it and for how long they had been following the religion which they were renouncing, failing which, they will be declared offenders and prosecuted under criminal laws.

Forced conversion could land those responsible a three-year jail term. This clause is contained in the rules of the anti-conversion law which came into effect on April 1.

The new law is called Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, and took five years to be implemented because of the failure of the state government to come up with rules on the kind of information to be provided when applying for permission to convert to any religion.

The Bill confirms that Jainism and Buddhism are not sub-sects of Hinduism. The rules have been published in the Gujarat government gazette.

The rules make it obligatory for a priest seeking to convert someone from one religion to another to take prior permission of the district magistrate in order to avoid police action.

The priest, in fact, will have to sign a detailed form providing personal information on the person whom she/he wishes to convert, whether the one sought to be converted is a minor, a member of Scheduled Caste
or Tribe, her/his marital status, occupation and monthly income.

Anyone willing to convert will have to apply to the district magistrate a month before the rituals and give details on the place of conversion, time and reason.

After getting converted, the person will have to obligatorily provide information within 10 days on the rites to the district magistrate, reason for conversion, the name of the priest who has carried out the ritual and full details of the persons who took part in the ceremony.

The district magistrate will have to send a quarterly report to the government listing the number of applications for prior permission, comparative statistics of the earlier quarter, reasons for granting or not granting permission, number of conversions, and number of actions against offenders.

Click here for source

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Christian arrested in Jabalpur

Pappu Tekchand Burman alias Vijay ( 40) was denounced by Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sena in February, but no action was taken by them at the time. On the night of 24th April 2008, thre was a knock on the door at 12:00 midnight and police took Vijay from his residence near Timber factory Bhonga Dwar Kajarwara Jabalpur to the police station accusing him of converting people.

He was let off at 1:00am and returned home.Again, on 25th April, the Police arrived at his home and and took Vijay to the Police station and laid charges on him under Section 3 (4)and 295. The former is for conversion and the latter 295 is that he "demoralise or criticize other god goddesses".

Vijay was taken from the Sadar Cant police station to the Civil Court were his bail plea was rejected. He was then lodged in Subhash Chandra Bose Jail. The pastor and believers and the GCIC representative Rajesh are all trying for his bail. Pray for his early release.

From GCIC Website

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sanction to prosecute VHP activists refused

JAIPUR: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Rajasthan has refused sanction to prosecute 14 Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists, accused of attacking a Christian priest here a year ago. It has ordered the closure of police investigation while asking the trial court to accept a previous charge sheet as valid.

A gang of 20 VHP activists, led by its Jaipur unit general secretary Virendra Singh Ravana, allegedly attacked Pastor Walter Masih in his prayer room – situated barely one km away from the Chief Minister’s official residence here – on April 29 last and ransacked his house. The priest was allegedly thrashed with lathis and rods and left profusely bleeding. Police arrested 14 accused and registered a case against them under six sections of the Indian Penal Code, relating to rioting, causing hurt, house trespass and causing damage.

The prosecution filed a charge sheet against the accused in the trial court in August 2007, but informed the court that the charge sheet was incomplete as the probe under some other charges was pending. Police added IPC Sections 153-A (hate speech), 295-A (insulting a religion or religious beliefs) and 505(3) (offensive statements made at a place of worship) to the charges against the accused during investigation and sought the State government’s sanction for prosecution as required by Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Meanwhile, the accused were released on bail by the Rajasthan High Court after its denial, first by the trial court and later by the Sessions Court, on the basis of prima facie evidence produced against them. The case in the court of Judicial Magistrate No. 16, Jaipur city, has since been pending for arguments on charges.

The in-charge of Sodala police station has now informed the trial court that the State government has refused sanction for prosecution of the accused under the new IPC sections and the investigation in the case has been closed in compliance with an order of the Superintendent of Police. Police have requested the court to treat the previous charge sheet as final and valid even though the government’s order has not specified any ground for denial of sanction. Interestingly, the District Magistrate is empowered to give sanction under Sec. 505(3) without referring it to the government, while the latter’s sanction is needed for prosecution under Sec. 153-A and 295-A.

Civil rights groups here on Sunday registered a strong protest against the government’s decision, saying it was “patently illegal” and aimed at protecting the criminal elements of the VHP by ensuring that they faced trial under mild sections of IPC. They accused the BJP-led government of pursuing a policy to intimidate religious minorities. People’s Union for Civil Liberties State president Prem Krishna Sharma told journalists that this “fascist approach” of the ruling BJP was dangerous in view of the Assembly elections due this year. “With the elections coming nearer, there are clear indications that the BJP will openly threaten the minorities and give a free hand to its rank and file to attack them.”

While Pastor Walter Masih demanded justice, the activist groups pointed out that the government had followed a “communal pattern” by giving prompt sanction in a case against Father Thomas of Emmanuel Mission in 2006 and withdrawing the case against VHP leader Praveen Togadia in 2007. The government also withdrew in 2004 more than 250 criminal cases, in which several Ministers were involved.

PUCL lawyer A.K. Jain said the activists would take recourse to the Right to Information Act to demand that the government spell out reasons for denying sanction to prosecute the VHP activists and lodge a complaint with the Governor S.K. Singh. The civil rights activists will also organise a rally on the issue before the case comes up in the court for the next hearing on April 25.

(The Hindu 21/4/08)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

“We will burn you like Graham Staines”

by Gospel for Asia

Two young women from a Gospel for Asia Bible college were chased and threatened by 70 anti-Christian extremists after conducting a worship service in Orissa, India. Chunile Wyn and Preeja Sushan are student missionaries serving their internship in Orissa.

On Sunday, the extremists entered the building where the women were worshipping with 15 other believers. The radicals carried sticks and stones, but all the Christians escaped the church unharmed.

However, Chunile and Preeja were still in the building, and the anti-Christians surrounded them and shouted threats.

“We will burn you alive like Graham Staines and his children!” they shouted at the women. Graham Staines, an Austrailian missionary in Orissa, was burned to death in 1999. Religious extremists set fire to the vehicle Staines and his two young sons were sleeping in, killing them all.

The extremists eventually let the women out of the church, but then chased them through the streets until the girls found a phone booth. Chunile and Preeja called their Bible college, and a pastor came to protect them. By the time he arrived, the extremist crowd had dispersed, leaving only threats that the women must never come back to their village.

Chunile and Preeja request prayer that they can continue their internship without fear. They also ask for prayer that the anti-Christians will realize Christ’s love for them and stop hindering the Gospel. Also lift up the district pastor in this area, that he will be able to stand strong and encourage the local believers.

© Assist News Service

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Monday, April 07, 2008

The Church needs no lesson in Nationalism

T’PURAM: The Christian Church in Kerala need not be taught nationalism by anyone, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said on Sunday.
He was inaugurating an all-faith meeting convened to mark the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church’s St Mary Queen of Peace Pro- Cathedral at Palayam here.
There are few communities that have cultivated a sense of nationalism like the Christians in the state.
No one need to teach them nationalism, he said, referring to the recent attack on Christian educational institutions by Left students’ organisations.
There is no justification for the revengeful attacks on Christian organisations supported by the government.
The Left students’ organisations are competing with one other to launch attacks on Christian institutions. Such acts are unconstitutional and insulting, Vayalar Ravi said.
Catholicos Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, the head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, presided over the function. Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma delivered the keynote address.