Saturday, March 29, 2014

Police in India rebuke, file case against Christians fleeing Hindu extremist attack

A police station official in India’s Jharkhand state this month reviled Christians who sought protection after Hindu extremists beat and threatened to kill them for refusing to convert to Hinduism, area church leaders said.

Accusing Christian leaders of forcible conversion, the Hindu extremists earlier this month attempted to forcibly convert several church members after disrupting a home worship service, beating them and parading them half-naked through the street, area pastor Rampath Nath told Morning Star News.

Police subsequently registered a case of forcible conversion against four Christians, he said.

Virender Singh, the police official at the station in Patratu Thana, Ramgarh District, verbally abused the Christians who fled their homes, rebuked them and sent them away without taking their complaint after the Hindu extremists beat them on two consecutive days, stripped off their clothes and chased them from Pali village, Nath said.

Some 10 Hindu extremists stormed into the March 4 worship meeting at the house of pastor Tilas Bedia at 7 p.m. and began beating the Christians, including the pastor’s 60-year-old mother, Christian leaders said.

“The extremists asked the Christians why they are following Christ when they should be worshipping their tribal god and threatened to kill them if they continued to follow Christ,” Nath said. “They left after they told the Christians that they will teach them a lesson the next day.”

On March 5 at about 11 a.m. a mob of extremists appeared, led by Suresh Upadia, leader of the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, and village head Rohan Bedia. They dragged several Christians from their homes to the compound of the village head, who summoned a public meeting.

“The extremists dragged about 15 people who come to our prayer meetings,” said Jodhan Bedia, a pastor at the church. “They let us stand in the middle and started to verbally abuse us for following Christ, for being low-caste, and warned us to convert back to Hinduism or face harm.”

Several terrified church members denied they were Christians, pastors said.

“They ran off after saying they were Hindus,” Tilas Bedia said, “and two teenage girls who did not deny Christ were forcefully ‘converted’ back to Hinduism.”

Manita Kumari, 16, and Meenu Kumari, 17, refused to renounce Christ, he said.

“The extremists slapped them, verbally abused them for their faith in Christ, threatening them that they will never find a husband if they remain Christians, and forced them to worship Hindu idols at the spot,” he said.

The extremists continued to mock and beat Tilas Bedia, and his brother, Chandra Bedia, as well as the latter’s family; they also beat Jodhan Bedia.

“We told the extremists that we are ready to leave our house, but we cannot leave Christ,” Tilas Bedia said.

The Hindu nationalists slapped and kicked the Christians and struck them with their hands, slippers and clubs. The mother of Tilas and Chandra Bedia fell to the ground from the beating, spraining her ankle as her face swelled up from the blows, they said.

The extremists then dragged Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia and another Christian leader along a road, paraded them half-naked as they jeered and beat them, and dragged them to the outskirts of the village.

“They forced us to sign on a blank paper and told us that we will be cut into pieces if we ever return to the village,” Tilas Bedia said. “They said, ‘Those who worship Jesus cannot stay in the village.’”

The three Christians, who converted to Christianity about four years ago, sustained bruises and marks on their backs, and swelling on their faces and other areas, Nath said.

“On March 10, we received a copy of a First Information Report registered against pastor Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia, pastor Jodhan Bedia and myself by police officer Virender Singh of forceful conversion,” Nath said.

Singh was not available for comment, but Ramgarh Superintendent of Police Shri Ranjit Kumar Singh told Morning Star News that he had received the Christians’ police complaint and had sent a deputy to investigate.

“Nobody can say anything about the faith that a person chose,” the superintendent said. “The Constitution of India has given the right to each individual to follow the faith that he or she likes. Appropriate action will be taken against the culprits.”

The pastors were scheduled to appear before a judge on April 4. Area Christian leaders said there was no instance of forceful conversion by the accused.

Since Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia and Jodhan Bedia began following Christ, their families have been shunned and boycotted and have faced continual threats, Nath said.

“They are not allowed to fetch water from the public well, they are not allowed to walk on the main road and they were prohibited from buying and selling in the village,” Nath said. “They were often beat up and verbally abused and warned to renounce Christ or face harm.”

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

154 cases of anti-Christian violence in 2013 according to EFI

New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka top the list of Indian states in which Christians faced incidents of targeted communal violence in the year 2013, according to data collected by Evangelical Fellowship state offices.
Women, rural pastors and home churches were the main targets of mobs which were often led by members of the Sangh Parivar. Police impunity resulted in most culprits going unpunished, they claimed.

General Secretary the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell and Religious Liberty Commission Secretary Rev. Vijayesh Lal held a presss conference today in Delhi to release the 2013 partial list of violence meted out to the minority Christian community across the country.
As many as 154 incidents of anti-Christian violence were reported in the year, with Andhra Pradesh registering 42 cases, Chhattisgarh 28 and Karnataka 27. Karnataka had been wrecked by extreme violence during August and September 2008 in the wake of the pogrom against Christians in the Kandhamal district of Orissa.
This list does not include large numbers of cases reported from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, which could not be immediately verified as being motivated by religious prejudice. These include at least three cases of murder, including one of a child of a pastor in Rajasthan.
The Evangelical Fellowship also received a very large number of complaints of structural and institutional violence from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat. Most of these pertain to Tribals being deprived of their land f they convert to Christianity. In Gujarat, the computerized registration systems have been so engineered that Tribals have mandatorily to fill their religion as Hindu.
This is in violation of the Constitutional provisions for Scheduled Tribes. The matter is to be taken to the High courts of the respective states. The most shocking aspect of the anti-Christian violence is the targeting of women. This emerging pattern of violence is seen with great concern by the Christian leadership. Christian groups now plan to bring this issue to the notice of national and state political leaders soon.
In one horrendous case on 12th September 2013, a Christian woman, Sanamma, a helper in Anganwadi School was caught by a mob of 40 people when she was inviting children to join the school after the summer break. The mob accused her of forceful conversion, beat her up severely and took her to a temple where they poured water on her as a form of religious cleansing and thereafter applied "kumkum" on her forehead, a sign of Hindu married woman. Local Christians rescued her later and took her to a hospital for treatment.
In another shocking case in Taragoan, Lohandiguda, Hindutva extremist activists forcefully took a Christian widow to the temple and tried to sacrifice her to the idols. Her daughter and relatives rescued the widow.
The Evangelical Fellowship, in association with other Church groups, has consistently demanded that the Central government enact suitable legislation to end communal and targeted violence. We had hoped that Parliament would pass the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in the last session. It did not happen. We hope that the government formed after the 2014 General elections will take it up in earnest.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Three convicted over India nun rape

A court in India has found three people guilty in connection with the rape of a Catholic nun in Orissa state in 2008.
The nun was raped by a Hindu mob in Kandhamal district, days after riots between Hindus and Christian there.
Riots began after a Hindu religious leader was shot dead.
Although left-wing Maoist rebels in the state claimed responsibility for the killing, hard-line Hindu groups blamed the minority Christian community for the death.
More than 30 people were killed in the violence and dozens of churches and Christian institutions were vandalised.
Police had arrested nine people in connection with the rape of the nun. One accused is still being sought.
On Friday, Judge Gyana Ranjan Purohit found Santosh Patnaik guilty of rape, and Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhei guilty of molestation.
Patnaik was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while Digal and Badhei were each sent to prison for 26 months.
Six of the other accused were acquitted by the court in Orissa because of lack of evidence.
The Catholic nun, working with the Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre at Kanjemandi village, alleged that she was dragged out of a Hindu man's house where she had taken shelter along with a 55-year-old priest, Father Thomas Chellantharayil.
She was taken to an abandoned house where she was raped by a mob on 25 August 2008. She also alleged that she was paraded naked through the streets.
Hindu groups in Kandhamal had accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to convert to Christianity.
Christians said lower-caste Hindus converted willingly to escape the Hindu caste system. 

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