Friday, May 30, 2014

Statement by Fr. Cedric Prakash on the allegations made against him by the Goa CM

The allegations made by the Chief Minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar (as reported in some sections of the media today), accusing me of “spreading religious discontent” are extremely mischievous and very unfortunate.

I visited Goa in March 2014 at the invitation of the Catholic Council of Goa and the focus of all my talks was (and which will continue to be) the Constitution of India, the values enshrined in them and the fact that large sections of our people are deprived of their legitimate rights both in Gujarat and in other parts of India.

Article 19 of the Constitution gives me the right of freedom of speech and expression. Apart from focusing on the Constitution, I have been consistent in saying that the Freedom of Religion Law enacted by the Government of Gujarat in 2003 goes against the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution particularly Article 25 which guarantees every single citizen the right to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. It also goes against Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which gives one the right to freely change his religion or belief to another.

Further, I have always questioned the Gujarat model of “development” which only caters to a section of society. There is sufficient research studies and statistical data to prove that what is being flaunted are half-truths and myths; social indicators of large sections of the poor and marginalized very strongly belie the development of Gujarat. It is common knowledge that Gujarat has always been a fairly industrialized State since the early seventies. It is not a “miracle” that has happened in the last ten years or so.

I have never used or abused any religion to create any ‘discontent’. My closest associates and friends belong to all religions and particularly from the majority community. I have always been an advocate for communal harmony and peace but I do so within the framework of justice and human rights for all. I have never attacked or said anything against another’s religious beliefs. That CM Parrikar has compared me with one of his ilk speaks volumes of his mindset and the fact that fascism is gaining more and more ground in the country.

On April 9th 2014, I had already sent out a response to CM Parrikar on some of his earlier allegations against me. There is nothing which I have said which is not true or which cannot be substantiated with concrete data.

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

BJP leader accuses priest of spreading religious discontent, compares him to the extremist Hindu fundamentalist Pramod Muthalik

Panaji: Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar Wednesday accused Gujarat-based Catholic priest and human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash of trying to spread religious and social discontent based on "falsehoods" in Goa before the general election.

Equating the priest with controversial Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, Parrikar, justifying police action against Facebooker Devu Chodankar following his anti-Narendra Modi posts, said action should have been taken against Prakash too.

"Father Cedric Prakash has said much more serious things which were not true," Parrikar said, while addressing a press conference here.

Ahmedabad-based Prakash, a Jesuit priest, made a whirlwind tour of Goa with the support of the Roman Catholic Church in Goa, during which he accused Modi of religious intolerance and attacked the Gujarat model of governance.

He further alleged that in Gujarat every one lived in fear.

"The voice of the media has been throttled and muzzled. People in Gujarat are living in fear. IAS officers are living in fear. The lives of their families have been ruined," Prakash claimed at a meeting at the Grace Church hall in Margao, in south Goa March 20, a few weeks before Goa went to polls.

Parrikar also said that he despised those who "used religion for politics" and clubbed both Prakash, as well as Muthalik, head of the notorious right-wing Sri Rama Sene, in the same bracket. Muthalik has often triggered controversy in the past by attacking patrons of pubs in Mangalore for adopting "Western culture", and exhorting Hindus to arm themselves with swords.

"I count Father Cedric and Pramod Muthalik as the same. People who use religion as a tool for electioneering are dangerous," said Parrikar, whose government is being accused by the opposition as well as civil society of carrying out a witch hunt against Chodankar.

In Goa, where the Catholics account for nearly one-third of the population, Prakash's whirlwind pre-election lecture tour and a circular by the Church imploring voters to cast ballots in favour of a secular candidate did dent the BJP vote tally, even though the party managed to win both the seats from the state in the Lok Sabha election.

Soaurce: IANS

Click here for source

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Indian Christians Under A Narendra Modi Led Government

The controversial track record and role of BJP's (India's right wing, Hindu nationalist opposition party) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, with respect to India's largest minority community namely the Muslims, has been a matter of intense introspection ever since the 2002 Gujarat riots, which saw over 2000 people being killed and lakhs getting displaced. The omissions and commissions of the BJP led state government under the chief-ministership of Narendra Modi came under severe criticism not only from the Supreme Court of India and the apex body for human rights-the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) but also from the then Prime Minister of India and undisputed leader of the BJP, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who described the 2002 riots as a “blot on Indian democracy”! Several intellectuals, liberals and those opposing the idea of communal politics have written, debated and elaborated upon the misgivings, many of them justified, that the Muslim minority community continues to harbor towards Mr. Modi and the BJP.

What hasn't drawn as much attention however, quite unfairly one must add, is the outlook of the BJP, its affiliates and its current poster-boy Mr. Modi towards India's third largest community- the Christians. Come 26th  of May 2014 , India will have a new Prime Minister and it's important to understand what the new government's approach towards Christians could be. This is a question, that can perhaps be answered, based on experiences of BJP  led governments and from an academic research into their ideological moorings.

A Historical Perspective:

The Sangh Parivar or the “family of organizations”, inspired by the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an Indian variant of the Klu Klux Klan, represents the Hindu nationalist movement, whose ultimate aim lies in transforming India into a theocratic Hindu Rashtra or Hindu state. It comprises of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)- which is the political outfit,  Bharatiya Kisan Sangh , literally,  Indian Farmers' Association Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh , i.e. the Indian Labour Association Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or the  All India Students' Forum Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha - Youth wing of BJP, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch which is the  Nativist Awakening Front , the  Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the  World Hindu Council and perhaps the most militant of them all- the Bajrang Dal , whose members have been involved in acts of violence against Muslims in various riots, desecration of churches and most notably the gruesome murder of Australian Christian  missionaryGraham Staines and his two sons.

M S Golwalkar, perhaps the most revered chief of the RSS, who is fondly remembered as “Guruji” (Teacher) by his ideological foot soldiers, reveals the outlook of the Sangh Parivar towards Christians in his second book,  Bunch of Thoughts where he devotes Chapter XII to three "Internal Threats" namely Muslims, Christians and the Communists! He further writes about Indian Muslims and Christians that: "Together with the change in their faith, gone are the spirit of love and devotion for the nation. Nor does it end there. They have also developed a feeling of identification with the enemies of this land. They look to some foreign lands as their holy places.”

Another celebrated figure in the Sangh Parivar narrative is V.D Savarkar. In his book “Hindutva” he groups Indian Muslims and Christians together as ones who do not share "the tie of the common homage we pay to our great civilisation - our Hindu culture." He adds: "Christian and Mohammedan communities who were but very recently Hindus cannot be recognised as Hindus since their adoption of the new cult they had ceased to own Hindu civilisation ( Sanskriti ) as a whole... For though Hindusthan to them is Fatherland, as to any other Hindu, yet it is not to them a Holyland too. Their holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine."

This world view of Indian Christians, who much like Indian Muslims, are perceived as “outsiders” or “foreigners” continues to be the guiding political narrative of the entire Sangh Parivar even today. After one of the worst anti-Christian riots in India in 2008 in the state of Orissa, where the BJP was in power in the state government along with a regional party, VHP-Bajrang Dal activists took the lead in provoking violence that lead to over 75 deaths, thousands being displaced and hundreds of churches being burnt down. Manoj Pradhan, a BJP legislator, was even convicted in 2010 for his role in the riots! Yet , the topmost leadership of the BJP, including its former President Venkaiah Naidu, virtually justified the riots by terming “conversions as the root cause of violence and social disturbances” and saying that a “strong federal law to prevent religious conversion across the country would be brought” if BJP regained power in the general elections expected to be held in 2009!

Unfortunately, Mr.Modi has never come out in public to reject the exclusivist world view of the RSS with respect to Christians in particular and minorities in general. When asked about his views in this regard in a recent interview on ABP news, Modi simply evaded the question.

Christians under Mr.Modi's government in Gujarat

In another television interview in April 2014 , a question was posed to Mr.Modi on what steps he would take to ensure no churches are broken down if he becomes Prime Minister to which he replied, to the utter shock of many, that he had never heard of such incidents taking place! This prompted Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which represents about 45 churches across the country to angrily retort “How can he forget the gruesome attacks on tribal Christians in Gujarat's Dangs district in 1998 during the NDA regime when members of the Right-wing cadres burnt down churches? Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minster, himself had visited the district to take stock of the situation.”

Perhaps this is why when there were several protests in front of City Hall in Ahmedabad about an ancient Christian cemetery being desecrated in Sabarmati no action came about against the perpetrators, suspected to owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar.

Tehmina Arora, an attorney from New Delhi in her recent  Testimony before the Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations in the U.S. House of Representatives speaks about how anti-conversion laws, co-incidentally enacted in the states primarily ruled by the BJP, were being misused often to “target and harass Christians.” She adds “The law in Gujarat state requires that the person seeking to convert to another religion must take prior permission from the district magistrate before any conversion “ceremony” is performed. The Acts, therefore, greatly impinge on the freedom of conscience of a prospective convert, and also on their right to privacy. The law renders the person incapable of taking the final decision with regard to his or her faith, and instead requires approval of the district authority.This is an invasion of the privacy and violation of both international law and the Constitution of India. This is violation of the right to freedom of association, the right to privacy and the freedom of conscience.”

An example of this was evident when in March 2012 the Gujarat High Court, in a significant judgment, restored the marriage license of a Marriage Registrar, which had been wrongfully revoked for formalizing a marriage between a Christian and a Hindu, by the Narendra Modi government, which invoked the notorious Freedom of Religion Act 2003-Gujarat's anti-conversion law.

In the same testimony Tehmina also states “Over the past five years, attacks have been reported across the country, though primarily concentrated in the states where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power and where groups associated with his party have been active. Violence is fuelled primarily by non-state actors who are guided by the Hindutva ideology, which sees India as a Hindu nation, where religious minorities are second class citizens.”

Mr. Modi's personal antipathy towards Christians was most obvious after the 2002 riots when he constantly emphasized on the Christian name of the Chief Election Commissioner James Lyngdoh (who ironically is an atheist) in his speeches for taking a decision to delay elections in Gujarat back then. At a public rally near Vadodara Modi thundered : “Some journalists asked me recently, ‘Has James Michael Lyngdoh come from Italy'' I said I don't have his  janam patri (birth certificate) , I will have to ask Rajiv Gandhi. Then the journalists said, ‘Do they (Lyngdoh and Sonia Gandhi) meet in church?'' I replied, ‘Maybe they do'.”

The 'International Religious Freedom Report 2003' released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US State Department exposed how the Gujarat government had aggressively surveyed Christian families and Christian agencies during the reporting period, allegedly under the orders of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “The survey activities were carried out by police, often in the middle of the night. The survey was first taken up in February, which continued through May” it added. This, even after the Gujarat High Court's ruling in March that such a survey was illegal. Apparently, the survey included questions about the number of converts in the household or parish, the circumstances of conversion, and the sources of funding received from abroad, etc.

In October 2002, Gujarat's senior cabinet minister and a colleague of Narendra Modi, Karsan Patel, publicly threatened 400 tribal children, who were boarders at a Christian school in Subir "to decide whether they want to live as Hindus or die as Christians". No action was taken against him.

It's not surprising then, given the silent persecution of Christians in Gujarat, that their already miniscule population (about 0.56% in 2001) has fallen by 5% in entire decade whilst Modi was at the helm of affairs.

Christians under various BJP led governments

A report compiled in 2011 shows there have been 172 incidents across the country in which Christians have been attacked. Karnataka, under BJP rule back then, topped the list with 47 incidents followed by Odisha, which in 2008 had witnessed anti-Christian violence led by Sangh Parivar groups, witnessed 25 incidents and coming in at third position was another BJP ruled state of Madhya Pradesh with 15 incidents! BJP legislator from Karnataka Prahlad Remani even went to the extent of stating that  “People must remain aware and watchful about the spread of these seeds of Christianity,” and that “Christianity must be weeded out of Karnataka” . The sentiments were echoed by VHP's Pravin Togadia who declared in Ahmedabad that they shall declare Gujarat a “Hindu State” by 2015!

In 2003, the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, printed a vicious attack on Mother Teresa in its special issue written by N.S. Rajaram. The article began by arguing that the Indian government should not send any representative for her beatification ceremony. It then went on to say that all the Church is known for these days is "mass child molestation, homosexual priests and even murders".

Not to be outdone in this quoting the scriptures of hatred against Christians, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Vice-President , Acharya Giriraj Kishore, termed Pope John Paul II as a ‘big dacoit' who was “ changing the demography of India through illegal conversions.”

In its hard-hitting piece titled “An assault on Christians” in July 2000, a leading magazine Frontline reported that “A wave of attacks against Christian evangelists and places of worship through 1998 culminated in the murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons on January 23, 1999 by Dara Singh, a Hindutva fanatic with links to the Sangh Parivar,who had been arrested in that connection. “ It further added that “A second wave of terror against Christian missionaries, that now extended to the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, had culminated in a series of bomb blasts in churches in Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh.”

All of this was happening under the wakeful watch of a BJP led-RSS bred central government in Delhi.

While the BJP off late, under its relatively moderate faces like the chief minister Manohar Parrikar from Goa, does flaunt the fact that it has six Christian elected legislators in a House of 40 members in a state that has almost 30% Christian population, it hardly re-assures those like Pastor Christopher of Hyderabad who reveals to the International Christian Concern that "There have been continuous threats from Hindu radicals,” and how “Christians continue to be treated as second class citizens in this country." Having received several threats over the last 15 years, Pastor Christopher says that he was once threatened by RSS to stop all church activities or else they would "chop him into pieces!"

The influence of the Sangh Parivar in the sphere of communalizing education in state governments run by the BJP is also well known. The one-man committee of academic Francis D'Souza outlined several examples of "saffron tint'' in textbooks from Class V to IX published under the imprint of the Karnataka Textbook Society (KTS) during the BJP regime. Francis D'Souza was shocked to report that it wasn't just History text books but also Science text books that were distorted by unscientific myths perpetrated by the Sangh propaganda machinery.

The Road Ahead

In June 2013, a few months before Narendra Modi was officially anointed as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in what looked like his strongest endorsement for Modi said that “whether somebody likes it or not, Hindutva is the only way to bring about a change in the country. It is where the country's respect lies.” Two months later, in Kolkata, Mohan Bhagwat stressing on the need of “Hindus having an aggressive, nationalistic stand” stated that Modi was the only person who had remained “rooted” in the RSS ideology. Modi, who has been a RSS functionary from a very young age, has revitalized the RSS. According to independent reports, in less than 3 months after his announcement as the BJP's PM candidate over 2000 shakhas (branches) of RSS sprung up all over India. It's clear that the RSS is pinning all its hopes on Modi and even unleashed its entire organizational and propaganda machinery to run his campaign. In return, the RSS expects that their long, unfulfilled agendas would see fruition under a Modi-led government.

A few of the RSS agendas even found their way in the BJP manifesto, with renewed vigour, this time around. This includes their favorite themes of pursuing a uniform civil code in India- which invariably hinges on the plank of stifling non-Hindu religious and cultural freedoms, abolishing Article 370 that gives autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, cow protection, etc. In fact, the manifesto even declared India to be a “natural home for persecuted Hindus” who shall be “welcome to seek refuge here.” So a Nepali Hindu could very well make India his home but if a Keralite Christian with a UK passport was being persecuted, he wouldn't get refuge in India as per the current formulation in the BJP manifesto.

The ultimate agenda of the RSS is to see the creation of a Hindu Rashtra or a Hindu state. This would require the “undoing” of the current Constitutional scheme of “secularism” – an idea which has always been under attack by the Sangh Parivar. The RSS would require a Modi-led government to systematically “harmonize” independent institutions that can pose a challenge to the accomplishment of this goal.

Firstly, the RSS would require a Modi led BJP to get a majority in Parliament so that he can amend the Constitution accordingly. Since, “secularism” is a part of the “basic structure” of the Constitution and has been put out of the bounds of legislative amendment by the Supreme Court in its earlier judgment, the RSS will also need the executive government to ensure, perhaps through amenable appointments, that the Supreme Court goes along with the proposed changes to the Constitution itself. To those who find this to be far-fetched, may I remind you about the “National Commission to review the working of the Constitution” set up by the BJP government under Prime Minister Vajpayee. It's quite another thing that the BJP never ended up getting the majority in Parliament they were expecting to push these agendas through back then!

But this time around, with Modi securing a majority in Lok Sabha, the RSS will seek the completion of its "unfinished agenda". The potential next steps would be, as a senior leader of the BJP who draws all his backing from the RSS -Dr. Subramanian Swamy suggests, to disenfranchise the non-Hindu citizens of India. This would require the “taming” of the Election Commssion of India too, which has co-incidentally been on the radar of the BJP in the last few weeks. Recently, top RSS ideologue told the Hindu newspaper that Modi is expected to deliver on the Ram Temple and the RSS means business when it says that. Once these long cherished goals are attained, it would become easier to facilitate socio-economic and socio-cultural changes that would be needed to transform India into a theocratic Hindu state, ironically modeled on the same exclusivist plank that led to the creation of Pakistan as a “homeland for only Muslims”.

In this mission, the RSS would obviously need a supportive media that does not question its agendas or create roadblocks and hence Narendra Modi's assistance- governmental and otherwise, would be sought to co-opt or intimidate the owners of media groups and intellectuals into playing along with them. Already, we find that many a media organizations, thanks to their varied business interests,prostrating before Narendra Modi, even before he has been sworn in as Prime Minister.

Those who think only Muslims ought to be cautious about Mr.Modi, think again! Evidence suggests that Christians too will have to brace themselves up for a rather challenging period as Modi's "majority government" exhibits "majoritarian symptoms".

Mr. Modi's campaign slogan reads “Good days are near!” Ironically, it is this very lure of a “great days ahead” that blinded Germany into seeing Hitler as their leader and ignoring what he truly represented. One can only hope and pray that India doesn't go down the same path.

Shehzad Poonawalla is a 1st generation, self-made, 26 year old, lawyer-activist engaged in politics and civil rights movement. He is the youngest Additional Private Secretary to Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Govt of India.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dalits allege harassment over participation in church festival

Tiruchi: Over 50 dalit people have complained to Tiruchirapalli district Collector about police harassment following a dispute over their participation in the annual car festival of a church in the Periyavarseeli village.
The villagers came from the neighboring Pokkattakudi Seshasamudram near Lalgudi town on May 13 after police allegedly beat them up over the weekend.
The trouble began on Saturday after a few caste Hindus youths of Periyavarseeli village reportedly told the dalits that they should not participate in the car festival of the Adaikalamatha Church held last week.
The dalits had returned after the incident, but some of them had questioned a youth who visited their village on Sunday. A police constable on patrol, the villagers alleged, had intervened and assaulted the dalits without any enquiry.
“We were just talking to the youth in a friendly manner asking him about the reason for being told to stay away from the festival. But the constable started attacking us. Some of us objected to his action and there was a scuffle. The constable called up his colleagues and 10 to 15 policemen descended on the scene and attacked us indiscriminately,” said N.Mohan, one of the villagers.
However, police claimed there was a scuffle between the two groups necessitating the intervention of a police constable on patrol. The villagers had taken objection to this and attacked him, a senior police officer said.
Cases have been registered against 11 persons in connection with the incident and two have been arrested.

Click here for source

Sunday, May 18, 2014

India's Christians fear rise in persecution under BJP

After the BJP's historic election victory this week, Christians in India have mixed feelings about the future and how the country's new leaders will impact on freedom of religion.

The last week has been a massive turnaround for the once struggling opposition party that suffered defeats in the last two elections.

Taking them to victory was the charismatic Narendra Modi, who International Christian Concern reports has feigned ignorance about past Hindu nationalist attacks on minorities.

There are serious concerns among Christians, with one pastor, Ronald John, telling ICC the "persecution of Christians will increase under the BJP-led government".

"Christians already are gripped with fear and concern over the election results. Hindu nationalist groups will take advantage of the situation and use it to attack churches and members of the Christian community," he said.

CA Daniel, president of the National Congress of Indian Christians, made similar comments to ICC, saying Christians are "not safe" under BJP rule.

"There will be stringent rules and legislation restricting Christians and the exercise of the freedom of faith," he said.

Dr John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, recalled the scale of devastation perpetrated by Hindu radical mobs when they went on the rampage in Kandhamal, Odisha, and Mangalore, Karnataka, in 2007 and 2008 killing over 120 Christians and Dalits. Over 300 churches and more than 6,000 Christian homes were destroyed in the attacks.

"We will have to find out how we can tell the new government [about] our problems and fears, our expectations of a strong secular government, and hold it accountable for its misdeeds whenever it falters in giving [Christians] security and the freedom of faith," he told ICC.

ICC's regional manager William Stark said Christians in India were already experiencing restrictions on the free exercise of their faith.

"Forced conversion laws manipulated to attack Christian pastors and a climate of impunity for perpetrators of violence against Christians has been a hallmark of BJP rule at the state level," he said.

"This must not be allowed to take hold in India's national government. Positive action must be taken to ensure the rights of all of India's citizens, including Christians, are respected and enforced."

Click here for source

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Christian Arrested in Chhattisgarh

Police arrested a Christian on 22 March in Pinakapar, Balod after the Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal falsely accused him and one believer of breaking idols in the local Hindu temple.
Our correspondent, Rev. Akhilesh Edgar reported that the Hindu extremists summoned a follower of Christ, Guman Devdas and one believer to a village council meeting and pressurized them to renounce Christ and further accused them of breaking the Hindu idols.
However, the Christians refused to deny Christ and they also refuted the allegations of breaking the idols.
Thereafter, the extremists went to the police station and demanded the arrest of the Christians. A case was registered against them under Section 295 and 456 of the Indian Penal Code for Injuring or defiling a place of worship and trespass or house breaking respectively.
Devdas was sent to the district jail. However, the other believer has absconded.
The area Church leaders are taking steps to get bail for the Christian. Kindly pray.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pastor Accused of Forceful Conversion, Vehicle Damaged in Karnataka

On 4 May in Bagath Sing Nagar, Davangere, Hindu extremists damaged the vehicle of a pastor after they filed a police complaint against him of forceful conversion.
Our correspondent, Moses Muragavel, Allied Attorney of ADF, India reported that, instigated by the Hindu extremists, Ganga Naik filed a police compliant against his brother Pastor Chandra Naik from Living Hope Gypsy Church of forceful conversion.
The complaint letter was signed up by 25 people to take legal action against Pastor Chandra Naik .Thereafter, First Information Report was filed against Pastor Naik at K T J Nagar police station. The case is pending before the court.
In the meantime, anti-Christian people have pelted stones at Pastor Chandra Naik's Omni Van and partially damaged it.
Speaking to EFI News, Pastor Chandra Naik said, "There was no case of forceful conversion, people come to the church to pray by their own decisions."
The Christian submitted a counter complaint against the extremists at K T J Nagar police station with the help of ADF, India. Moreover, the PSI promised the Christians that he will give police protection on the following Sunday worship meeting.
Kindly pray that Pastor Chandra Naik will be able to minister in the area peacefully.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life a nightmare again for Orissa Christians says Indian churches' leader

Life is becoming a nightmare again for many Christian communities in the Indian state of Orissa, scene of the worst anti-Christian persecution in India's history in 2008, says a national Christian leader.

Life is becoming a nightmare again for many Christian communities in the Indian state of Orissa, scene of the worst anti-Christian persecution in India's history in 2008, says a national Christian leader.

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said that some parts of the state, many Christian families have seen their newly-rebuilt homes destroyed, the Roman Catholic AsiaNews has reported.

Extremists, said to be ultra-nationalist Hindus, have driven many Christians from their villages, forcing them to give up water, property, and other essentials.

George spoke to AsiaNews about new acts of "intimidation and persecution against Christians," noting that the situation has been "made worst by the complicity of local police and administrators."

In August 2008, Christians in Orissa, especially in Kandhamal, 250 kilometres (150 miles) from Bhubaneswar, said they had faced what they describe as orchestrated attacks by Hindu mobs, since the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in August.

A Maoist leader was reported to have claimed responsibility for the killing but some Hindu groups said it was a Christian conspiracy, as the 85-year-old slain monk had been campaigning against conversion to Christianity in Kandhamal, where he was based.

More than half the 100 000 Christians in Kandhamal were left homeless as a result of the extremists roaming villages, and trying forcibly to convert Christians to Hinduism, whilst looting and torching Christian houses.

George said on May 3, that the Global Council of Indian Christians wants the government to treat the victims of anti-Christian pogroms in Orissa the same way as it has treated survivors of the riots between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.

GCIC president George said he wants the government to give "the same concessions to those who suffered from [anti-Christian] pogroms."

In particular, he cited "the children and dependents of victims of anti-Christian violence that occurred in the district of Kandhamal (Orissa) in 2008."

"Besides suffering persecution on religious grounds, these people belong to the most marginalised groups in society since most of them are Dalits [who were once classified as 'untouchables' under the caste system] and tribals," Sajan explained.

The Christian leader said that what happened in Kandhamal in August 2008, "is without a doubt the most painful and terrible chapter in the history of India. Innocent Christians were brutally targeted and mercilessly killed. Their homes, places of worship and places of work were destroyed. The wounds of that terrible tragedy cannot be easily erased."

Click here for source

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Defeat communal forces, elect ‘secular politicians’: Andhra Pradesh church body to Christians

Hyderabad: Bishops and church heads in Andhra Pradesh have asked all Christians to vote for secular leaders in the upcoming May 7 elections in Seemandhra.
The Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches has issued a ‘Pastoral Letter’ urging voters to elect leaders who are secular, sincere and free from crime and corruption and communalism.
The letter would be read on Sunday, in all the churches in Seemandhra. The religious body, however, has not named any politicians.
Christians, though in minority, form an important part of voters in Andhra Pradesh.
“We need to elect leaders who are close to people and respond to their needs; who strive for social justice and equality of the marginalised groups like the tribals and Dalits especially Dalit Christians and protect the rights of the minorities; who are determined to advance an inclusive economy that supports the poor especially to (sic) the unorganized labourers and marginal farmers by ensuring their basic human rights to food, water, shelter, health, education and employment; who strive to ensure the safety and security of women and children and their essential rights to life and livelihood; who lay focus on youth for ensuring their holistic development with character building, critical education and life skills; who make every effort to curb corruption and bring about good governance with peoples’ plans and decentralized, transparent, accountable and responsible administration; and who endeavour to protect the environment with sustainable development and (to) safeguard the rights of Tribal and Local communities over land, water and forests,” the letter says.
 “We are deeply concerned about the pressing needs of our Christian Community in State,” the letter goes on. “Our State records one of the highest numbers of atrocities committed on Christians and pastors. During the recent months these attacks have increased in some districts. Organized mob attacks are taking place on Christians during their worship.”

Click here for source

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Ostracised, Christians in Orissa again see their homes destroyed and water wells poisoned

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Daily life is becoming a nightmare again for many Christian communities in the state of Orissa (Odisha), scene of the worst anti-Christian pogrom in India's history in 2008, this according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). In some parts of the state, many Christian families have seen their newly-rebuilt homes destroyed. Many of them have also been driven out of their villages, forced to give up water, property, and other essentials.

George, who spoke to AsiaNews about new acts of "intimidation and persecution against Christians," said that the situation has been "made worst by the complicity of local police and administrators." One of the latest episodes occurred during the week before Easter in the village of Budruka.

Here, a local Christian, Praful Digal, had his house destroyed by a fire set by a group of Hindu extremists. His original home had been destroyed during the violence of 2008. Later, with government compensation money, he was able to rebuild. Now he lost it again.

After he and his family filed a complaint with the local police, Sudershan Mallick, Mallick and Pabitra Mallik Nageswar were arrested in connection with the fire. However, on 25 April, the three were released.

Things are even worse for three Dalit Christian families - Manasida Barla, Masid das Lugun, and Lodha Barla - and their 16 members. They live in an area inhabited by tribal people where Naxalite (Maoist) insurgents are very active.

In the name of religion, they were driven out of their village by the hundred or so Hindu families that live there. The latter also took away what they had "because they were believers and followers of Christ."

The neighbours threw garbage and other waste in the well used by the Christian families in order to deny them water; they also banned them from mixing and speaking with other residents, or take part in any community programmes and initiatives.

"In addition to this kind of torture, some Hindu extremists are threatening to strike the families' names off a government list for land allotment, to seize the land they already own and tear down their homes," Sajan George said.

"How will these families survive without water, now that hot weather is approaching with temperatures that can reach the mid-40s Celsius.

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Christians in Orissa suffer abuse and intimidation

Christians in Orissa who survived the violence in 2008 cannot find peace and are still victims of abuse and intimidation, Catholic priest Fr Ajay Kumar Singh, stated this week. Fr Singh, who received an award for his work among the victims of the 2008 pogroms in Kandhamal in Orissa, said that recently the police arrested and then released three people accused of having destroyed the home of a Christian family who survived the massacres of 2008.
Praful Digal, a Catholic from the village of Budruka, had rebuilt his home thanks to aid received by the government for the reconstruction. Radical Hindu groups attacked the new house, razed it to the ground. Fr Pradosh Kumar Nayak, Rector of the Minor Seminary of St Paul in Balliguda near Budruka confirmed that the attack had taken place. After the family filed a complaint, the police arrested Sudershan Mallick, Pabitra Mallick and Mallick Nageswar, but the three were inexplicably released.
Fr Nayak pointed put that this is the third house the Digal family have built over the past six years. Hindu radicals have demolished all of them.
"The last demolition shows that these groups are strong and determined to keep Christians out of the country. Christians continue to lead a terrible life in Kandhamal district" Fr Nayak said.
The Digal family was among the 834 whose homes was destroyed in the first round of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal which took place in December 2007. The family took courage, returned to the village and rebuilt the house, which was again destroyed in the violence in August 2008. After years of exile, in recent months and after having received compensation from the government, the Digal decided to return to their village again and start a normal life. But this new attack has shattered their hopes.
Fr Singh said : "The State has failed to protect and guarantee the basic rights to Christian citizens in Orissa".
Source: Fides