Monday, February 18, 2019

Hindus oppose German missionary's statue in Indian parish

Members of a Hindu group are up in arms over a statue of a German Jesuit priest outside an Indian Catholic church, claiming that the missionary worked against local people and honoring him insults tribal sentiments.

The tribal cell of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Feb. 13 petitioned police to remove the bust of Father John Baptist Hoffmann from the compound of Sarwada parish in Khunti district, about 55 kilometers from Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand state.

The petition called on police to remove the statue as it insults local tribal leaders like Birsa Munda, who fought foreigners for tribal rights, tribal cell leader Ram Kumar Pahan told media.

The group claims that in the 19th century Father Hoffmann and the British attacked the civilization and culture of tribals. Having his bust on tribal soil is unacceptable, Pahan said.

They have been protesting the statue intermittently since its installation in December but intensified their action in the second week of February as the country moves closer to a national election before May. Elections in the BJP-ruled state are due in December.

Church leaders say the BJP has deliberately made unfair claims against the missionary to create a controversy to divide tribal people, a major voting bloc in Jharkhand. Dividing tribal votes on religious lines could help the BJP garner non-Christian tribal votes, they say.

“The controversy is a ploy of the ruling BJP to divide tribal people,” said Father Masih Prakash Soy, secretary to Bishop Binay Kandulna of Khunti.

The BJP has “miserably failed to fulfil its promises and meet the aspirations of the people” and has “embarked on a divisive agenda” ahead of both state and national elections, the priest said.

Hindus are angry that a plaque near the statue claims that Father Hoffmann was the main architect of the 1908 Chotanagpur Tenancy Act that the British enacted to restrict the transfer of tribal land to non-tribal people. They claim Birsa Munda’s struggle led to the law.

Father Hoffmann (1857-1928) came to India as a Jesuit novice at the age of 20. As a priest, he worked mostly among the Munda tribal people in the present Jharkhand area and established several measures for their rights including a cooperative society and a bank.
Besides helping to enact laws to protect tribal people, he also contributed to their language and culture by providing a grammar book and a 15-volume encyclopedia on Munda culture and civilization, said Father Xavier Sorang, a Jesuit social worker based in state capital Ranchi.

Most tribal people understand the contributions of the missioner, said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

The bishop said the protest comes from “a small group which is trying to disturb the peace. But people are not foolish … they know who had done what for whom.”

He said the Church should ignore such protests because the intention of these groups is to divide and break society for political gains.

Jharkhand’s tribal population, who form 26 percent of 33 million people in the state, is politically decisive, as are its one million Christians, almost all of them tribal people.

Click here for source

Saturday, February 16, 2019

India 10th Most Dangerous Country to Live in for Christians: Report

London: Political rhetoric and ambiguous interpretations of the Freedom of Religion Acts (or “anti-conversion” laws) are responsible for the high rate of Christian persecution in India, according to the UK-US-based monitoring group Open Doors that publishes an annual World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian.

In 2019, India ranked tenth – a first in the history of the list in over two decades. Dr Matthew Rees who authored the report told The Wire that “India has been going up the list rather steadily for the past five years” and can now be classified as a country with extreme persecution. Approximately 64 million Christians live in India but constitute less than 5% of the total population of 1.3 billion.

This report is based on the data Open Doors collects annually through an extensive survey in 75 countries. Church leaders and other community volunteers administer questionnaires to Christians in their regions and then send the data to Open Doors offices in the Netherlands and North America, where researchers collate it to obtain a quantitative figures for persecution in each country.

The ranks are obtained by analysing the following:

1. Pressure experienced in five spheres of life: private, family, community, national and church;

2. Violence

A country with a score of more than 80 out of 100 is deemed to have extreme persecution. India has 83% persecution points and sits between Iran and Syria on the list. Pakistan ranks fifth. In 2014, India was ranked 28 with 55% persecution points.

Factors determining India’s rank

One of the factors that pushed India higher on the list is the “toxic narrative around this idea of the connection of Hinduism and being Indian,” says Dr Rees, adding that it is visible not just “from the extreme end of the RSS movement, but is also creeping into the language of the elected politicians and officials.”

The report mentions how the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, famously described Christians and Muslims as ‘foreigners of the nation’ in 2017 when he was the Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson and Ashok Singhal, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, declaring the BJP-led alliance in 2014 as the beginning of  a revolution that would turn India entirely Hindu by 2020.

Dr Rees is not hesitant to admit that research findings show that the increase in Christian persecution “is connected to the BJP party.” “When influential people use this language, it filters down to the rest of society and we think that is playing a big part in the mob violence and social ostracism,” he says. The report mentions how Christians in five villages in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra faced mob violence and discrimination in August 2018 where ‘their faith was seen as a threat to that community’s wider Hindu identity’.

“If you are not Hindu, then your Indian identity is questioned, and if your identity as an Indian is questioned then also your right to the constitution is questioned,” explains Dr Rees.

He adds that a “big factor is the Freedom of Religion Act or ‘anti-conversion’ legislation” that is in force in eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand. Data obtained by Open Doors shows that violence against Christians is higher in some of these states.

Open Doors’ data revealed that of the 16,000 violations, religious leaders were often accused of conversion activities when they were taking part in simple religious activities like prayer meetings or even marriages, which mobs would disrupt and report to police as a conversion activity. According to Dr Rees, legislation around ‘anti-conversion’ needs to be better defined.

“We don’t want to accuse the police of always being complicit; there are examples where the police are simply unsure about what to do. But we also have examples of the police taking part in beatings when Christians are taken into custody,” said Dr Rees, highlighting that Indian Christians face double persecution – based on religion and caste/class –  as almost 70% of Christians are Dalits.

Open Doors works with governments in the UK and US to lobby for changes in countries like India through diplomatic channels to highlight the plight of Christians and facilitate changes in laws and policies that protect minority communities. There are two main policy changes that they recommend.

The first is the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims under the purview of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 to offer them additional legal protection and rehabilitation in case of caste-based violence. The second is a review and better interpretation of India’s Freedom of Religion Acts, so that it is neither misused nor misinterpreted.

The UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has shown his support to the Open Doors’ research by launching the World Watch List 2019 in January. He also expressed his shock and disappointment with India. “In countries where we might have hoped there wouldn’t be a serious issue, like India, we know that this is becoming a much bigger issue,” he said.

He has also called for an official review to be conducted by the Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen on how the UK can support Christians worldwide. “I want to make absolutely sure when I am meeting a foreign minister, a prime minister or a president in another country, and there’s an issue concerning religious freedom, and in particular the rights of Christians, I want to make sure that it is absolutely on my list of things that I need to raise,” he said.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not reached out to the High Commission of India in the UK in this regard. The Wire has contacted the FCO to enquire if they have initiated any dialogue with India, but is yet to receive a response.

Click here for source

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Virgin Mary statue torched in attack on Indian Christian community

Christians in India’s Madhya Pradesh state have been left deeply disturbed and worried about future attacks on their community after the statue was found burned and vandalised. And a spokesman for the Diocese of Jhabua, one of the region’s religious administrators, is urging Christians in the area to be calm. Rockey Shah told Asia News: “Investigations are underway.

“We presented a memorandum to the police officer and collector.

“We have asked our people to pray for peace and harmony and not to react aggressively.”

The statue, which depicted the mother of Jesus, was targeted by unknown individuals on February 3 in the town of Bhopal.

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Christians, told Asia News that the burnt statue was in the grotto of the parish of St. Joseph, around 10km from the local archbishop’s home.

In the 2011 census, 0.3 percent of Madhya Pradesh’s 77 million population were registered as Christians. Just under 90 percent were Hindu.

Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have been on the increase in India across the last few years.

Earlier this year Open Doors USA, an organisation which serves persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries, said India was the 10th most difficult place for Christians to practice in the world.

Click here for link

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Christians Injured in Attack on Prayer Meeting in India

Six Christians were severely injured in a recent attack by Hindu radicals on a small prayer gathering in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. The assault took place as about 40 Christians gathered at a pastor’s home in Chapar village, located in the Sultanpur District, last Thursday, February 7.

According to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), 25 Hindu radicals attacked the prayer meeting and subjected the Christians gathered to verbal abuse and physical assault. As a result, Bibles and other church properties were damaged and six Christians needed to seek medical attention. The radicals went on to threaten to kill the Christians if they continued to gather for worship.

Local Christians are attempting to register a First Information Report (FIR) against the radicals, but so far local police have been reluctant to open an investigation.

Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have come under increasing attack in recent years. Hindu radicals often use false reports of forced conversions to Christianity or blasphemy to justify their attacks on Christians. In recent years, local authorities have been more willing to accept these often false narratives.

Click here for source

Friday, February 08, 2019

Hindu Extremists Pressure Convert to File False Charge against Pastor in India, Sources Say

A pastor is facing criminal charges in northern India even though the complainant later denied allegations against the church leader of luring him to convert, sources said.

Police in Rupaidiha village, Uttar Pradesh state on Jan. 28 arrested 40-year-old pastor Dharmendra Singh on a charge of “alluring to convert” and two related charges – outraging religious feelings and promoting enmity. He was released on bail on Jan. 31.

Pastor Singh denied all charges against him, saying members of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal fabricated a story and pressured a new Christian, Ramesh Gautam, to file a false complaint against him.

Gautam said in court on Jan. 30 that the allegations were false, the pastor said.

“He witnessed that his faith is his own choice and nobody has forced him or his family to believe in Jesus,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “‘We have not converted by allurement but have become worshippers of Jesus,’ said Ramesh in the courtroom.”

Pastor Singh leads a church in Nepalganj, Nepal, where he resides just across the India-Nepal border, but he regularly visits the Indian village of Rupaidiha, Bahraich District, to lead the new fellowship there where Gautam worships.

Gautam and other members of his family put their faith in Christ about six months ago after the pastor had prayed for his wife, who is from Nepal, and she was healed, he said.

“Ramesh, his wife and other members of his family believed and started to attend church regularly,” Pastor Singh said. “The entire village began to trouble the Gautam family and made things difficult for them.”

In spite of pressures, Gautam’s wife stood firm before villagers and defended their new-found faith, he said.

The pastor said he was grateful to God for the hardships he and his family have endured from his arrest.

“It is my privilege to suffer for Christ,” he said, adding that he was able to share the message of the saving grace of Christ with a group of 150 prisoners his first day of incarceration.

Later he shared the gospel with smaller groups of prisoners, as he did each day until his release, he said.

“The message of Christ was proclaimed with power amongst the prisoners, and I am delighted that the name of Christ was heard by all 1,300 prisoners,” Pastor Singh said. “I saw that their spirits were crushed, and they had deep loneliness in them.”

Some of the prisoners were convicted murderers and had killed as many as 22 people, and he prayed with and embraced many of them, feeling an anointing and the power of God, he said.

“I am delighted to have gone to the prison and been used by God,” he said. “Now that I have seen them and have been there, I can pray for them with much conviction and burden.”

A native of Delhi who converted to Christianity from Hinduism, the pastor moved to Nepal five years ago and lives there with this wife and three children. He runs a tailoring training center in Nepalganj with his wife and also has been ministering at the Prem Sewa Clinic, a hospital in Rupaidiha, for nearly two years.

Indian and Nepalese nationals may cross the border without restrictions, though there is a customs checkpoint for goods and for those from other countries.

India this year cracked the top 10 on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, ranking 10th, up from 11th the previous year.

Nepal: ‘No Conversion Zone’

In Nepal, the increase in persecution of Christians that began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017 (taking effect in August 2018) continues, with a mob stopping construction of a church building in Kathmandu, the capital, on Jan. 20, another pastor said.

Nearly all districts in Nepal now have roadside signs reading, “No Conversion Zone,” Pastor Sagar Baiju told Morning Star News.

“Local people got together and objected to the construction of a church building – they said that Christians cannot come into their cities and reside here,” Pastor Baiju said.

A local resident of Kathmandu told Morning Star News that Christians commonly face harassment when renting or leasing apartments in the city. When they inquire about availability, they are asked to state their religion, and generally landlords are not willing to rent homes to Christians, the source said.

On Christmas Day, the President of the Hindu Revival Campaign Nepal (Hindu Jagran Abhiyan Nepal), Ram Prasad Upadhyay, led a huge anti-Christian procession and burned Bibles at a highway intersection.

A crowd estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 people shouted slogans such as, “Beat the Christians,” “Throw out Christians” and “Down with Christians” in Bharatpur, Chitwan District. Bharatpur, the fourth largest city in Nepal, is 160 kilometers (almost 100 miles) from Kathmandu.

The procession featured saffron flags and banners with threats printed on them.

“Bharatpur is a prominent city, and we can see a wave moving against Christians,” B.P. Khanal, pastor of The Lord’s Assembly and a social activist, told Morning Star News. “The burning of the Bibles was a symbolic representation of their victory over conversion and Christianity in the country.”

Police did nothing to stop the anti-Christian threats and hate speech, illegal under Nepalese religion laws.

“Leave aside the police taking action against the mob, they were actually there to give protection to the whole procession, safeguarding against any kind of communal tension that could arise,” Pastor Baiju told Morning Star News.

He added that he was shocked to see that no media covered the procession.

Christian leaders filed a request with police to take action against such processions on grounds of hate speech and disrupting the peace in the society, but officials took no action, sources said.

The general secretary of the Nepal Christian Society, along with its president and leaders of the National Churches Fellowship of Nepal (NCFN), went to see the home minister on Dec. 31 and appealed for him to look into the procession and take appropriate action against organizers.

“Though the home minister said good words and assured the delegation of action, no action was taken,” Pastor Khanal said.

The meeting, however, led the home minister to send a proposal to declare Dec. 25, 2019 as a holiday, he said.

“People are traumatized in Chitwan and across the nation,” Pastor Khanal said. “Most of the Christians are afraid to go out and evangelize. Some of the churches are threatened and are afraid to conduct regular worship services.”

Unlike Christmas in 2017, Christmas carols were sung behind closed doors last year, sources said.

“This past Christmas, the majority of carol singing has taken place inside our respective churches,” said one source. “Out of fear, very few have gone door-to-door carolling, and the government is mum; the police are mute spectators.”

Pastor Baiju said he feels that the government is not doing enough to protect the rights of the Christian community, and that radical groups are taking undue advantage of this laxness.

Nepal was ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Click here for source

Saturday, February 02, 2019

UK slams India over Christian raids

British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has publicly named and shamed India over allegedly not doing enough to curb the persecution of Christians.

Hunt’s condemnation of India was couched in a “more in sorrow than in anger” tone when he said: “We know that there are serious and growing issues in China. And also in countries where we might have hoped there wouldn’t be a serious issue, like India, we know that this is becoming a much bigger issue.”

He called a meeting at the foreign office in London on Wednesday where he provided details of the new British government policy announced at the end of last year of standing “shoulder to shoulder” with an estimated 250,000 persecuted Christians in countries around the world.

Hunt said he wanted “to banish any hesitation to look into this issue without fear or favour that may exist because of our imperial history, because of the concerns that some people might have in linking the activities of missionaries in the nineteenth century to misguided imperialism. And all those concerns may have led to a hesitation to really look at this issue properly, and we don’t want that to happen.”

Also present at the packed meeting was the bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, who has been appointed to report to Hunt by Easter with recommendations on robust practical steps Britain should take in defence of Christians.

The bishop backed up Hunt: “This is not about special pleading for Christians but making up a significant deficit. There is a sense, for a number of reasons which the foreign secretary has highlighted — those reasons would certainly include post-colonial guilt — why we have been blind to this issue.”

Hunt, who is a much more cautious politician compared with his predecessor, Boris Johnson, would have thought carefully and taken advice, possibly from the high commission in Delhi, before choosing to name India in so public a forum — and that, too, in the run-up to the general election in India.

Hunt will have been made all too aware his words will not please Narendra Modi, his senior ministers and the Hinduvta movement in India.

On India, the foreign office tries not to put a foot wrong. Last year it was of the opinion that Modi’s return to power was assured. Whether it still takes this view is not known.

Hunt began by recalling: “Last Sunday, many people here will have been going to church, as indeed was the case in the Philippines at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Southern Philippines. And in the middle of that service, a bomb exploded and 20 people were killed and the perpetrators then issued a statement labelling the cathedral as a ‘crusader temple’.

“And this was a very vivid reminder of the terrible truth that freedom of worship is something that cannot only not be taken for granted, but is a growing concern all over the world.”

“And what happened in the Philippines has happened in Egypt. …we know that a number of the countries where this happens are countries that we don’t necessarily talk about. Countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, North Korea, but also in some of the bigger countries.”

One idea is for the UK to try and “build an international coalition of countries that are concerned about this”.

He made it clear that the Christians “who are suffering are some of the poorest people on the planet and they happen to have the faith that I have, that many people here have, and they happen to be suffering very badly for it…. because the evidence is that 80 per cent of all the people who are suffering religious persecution are Christian”.

He went on: “We wanted to do this not just because freedom of worship is a fundamental human right, but because also freedom of worship is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies.

“Where freedom of worship is hampered or prevented, then usually that’s a sign of lots of other things going wrong, and we wanted to make sure that the UK is doing everything to champion the values that we all believe in.”

Friday, February 01, 2019

Church in India’s Chhattisgarh State Vandalized by Radicals

On Sunday, January 27, Calvary Gospel Ministry Church, located in Shantipur village in India’s Chhattisgarh state, was attacked by a mob of suspected Hindu radicals. As a result of the attack, the church was vandalized and several members were left injured.

The attack started at approximately 9:30 a.m. as the regular Sunday service was being led by Pastor Ajay Ravi. Around 30 suspected radicals surrounded the small church and began shouting at the 25 believers who had gathered for worship. According to Pastor Ravi, the radicals accused the Christians of insulting their gods and goddesses.

After some time, the radicals demanded that the Christians come out of the church. When the Christians obeyed, they were assaulted with sticks and fists. Ten Christians, including women, were terribly beaten by the radicals. In addition, two bibles were torn to pieces, three musical instruments were damaged, and a motorbike was destroyed.

When police were called to the scene, they suggested the assaulted Christians come to a compromise with their assailants. When the Christians refused, the police refused to register a complaint on behalf of the Christians and threatened to throw them in jail. To date, no criminal complaint has been registered against the radicals by police in Shantipur village.

I know that I should love my enemies and pray for those who persecute us,” Pastor Ravi told International Christian Concern (ICC). “But God forgives those who confess their sins before him. Unless [the radicals] are convicted of the sin of vandalizing the church, it is not rational to compromise with the persecutors.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hindu Version of Feng Shui Leads to Demolition of Church Building in Southern India

Hard-line Hindus on Jan. 9 tore down a church building in southern India because it was built on the west side of a village, which they said violated Hindu principles of placement and positioning, sources said.

The Vastu Shastra architectural and planning principles, a Hindu version of Feng Shui, were said to oppose the construction late last year of the church building in Narnepadu village, Muppalla Mandal, Guntur District, in Andhra Pradesh state. Saying the building’s placement opposed Hindu beliefs, the village president and her husband called a meeting of Hindus and Christians on Jan. 9.

“That morning the village president’s husband, also a local political leader, telephoned church pastor Koteswara Rao and asked him to be present at the meeting to discuss the matter, but Rao declined the invite as he was pre-occupied with his tasks for the day and said that he can be available the following day,” a Narnepadu-based pastor, Konda Lazarus, told Morning Star News. “This annoyed the leader, and he ordered the tribal men to demolish the church.”

The church had met in a rented shed in the same area in 2017, but tribal and upper-caste Hindus who strongly believe in Vastu Shastra collected more than 100 signatures expressing their objection to Christian worship in the location, Pastor Lazarus said.

“Rao and Christians stopped gathering for prayers,” he said. “Last year, area Christians purchased a piece of land in the same locality hoping to construct a church and gather for prayers regularly. They invited Pastor Rao and, since December 2018, the church started anew.”

The Muppala Mandal Pastors Fellowship of Guntur District encouraged Pastor Rao’s ministry in Narnepadu village, he said.

“There has been opposition, and it had been dealt with peacefully so far as we understand that villagers do not have awareness about our rights, and do not really understand why Christians gather for prayers,” Pastor Lazarus said. “Most of the residents are illiterate and only follow the instructions of the village elders: If the elders think having a church to the west is evil, it is evil. They don’t try to reason beyond that.”

Church leaders filed a complaint with Muppalla police, who told them they would file a First Information Report (FIR) soon, Pastor Lazarus said. A Hindu leader from the area identified only as Devendra, however, has asked the pastor not to register a case and to settle the issue amicably, he said.

“But we could see no sign of confession or acknowledgement of crime among the attackers or the leaders who provoked them,” Pastor Lazarus told Morning Star News. “The discussion hasn’t yielded any positive outcome. Hence, we are hoping the police book a case and conduct a fair investigation.”

India this year cracked the top 10 on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, ranking 10th, up from 11th the previous year.

Bibles Ablaze

Earlier in neighboring Telangana state, radical Hindus stopped a Christian group’s van and set Bibles and gospel tracts on fire, sources said.

In the Kismatpur area southwest of Hyderabad, Christians on Dec. 11 were on their way to meet friends at a construction site after a Christmas-themed outreach of singing and passing out tracts and Bibles, said one of the Christians, veterinarian Noah Gunti.

Realizing their construction worker friends had been sent to another site, they were returning to the main road when a car darted in front of them, nearly hitting the van, he said.

“We stopped, and the person driving the car could see the Bible verses written on the van, and he started abusing us in vulgar language,” Gunti told Morning Star News. “He made some calls, and within a few minutes, about 15 to 20 people had gathered. Then they started beating me and unloaded the van, dumped all the Bibles and Christian literature at one place and lit fire.”

Video of the incident the Hindus circulated on social media does not show how they beat Gunti before setting the Christian literature on fire, the 51-year-old father of three said.

“At least 350 Bibles were burned, but we did not stop,” Gunti said. “That week we continued sharing gospel. We must seek strength from the Lord and must strive to do more work.”

If Christ’s disciples and missionaries throughout history had stopped when they faced persecution, the gospel wouldn’t have reached him or his friends, he said.

“They target us because they are ignorant, they do not know what they are doing,” he said. “Governments cannot protect us from persecution. Any kind of protests or representation to the authorities will not help. We should not be afraid to be used by the Lord, in fact we must be prepared to be persecuted.”

Church Attacked

Also in Telangana state, a Christian’s request to an upper-caste Hindu neighbor that he not dump construction debris at a church site in a suburb of Hyderabad led to a group of radical Hindus attacking a church – and police filing a FIR against the Christians.

The upper-caste Hindu who dumped the construction trash on Hebron Church premises in Jagathgir Gutta had regularly played loud music or Hindu devotional songs during worship services to disturb the Christians, said a 36-year-old church member identified only as Pramod.

When a pastor identified only as Allageshan on Dec. 21 requested the neighbor clear away the debris before a service at the site, the Hindu became furious and beat him, telling him to mind his own business, Pramod said.

“They refused to clean their trash and told the pastor to go complain against them,” Pramod told Morning Star News. “I went to meet my pastor and told him that now that they have become violent, he must inform the police, but he refused to do so.”

As Christian youths went to prepare the building for the evening service, Hindu neighbors followed them on motorbikes, taunting them in vulgar language when they stopped at a tea stall for snacks, he said.

“They mocked the youths, saying, ‘Hey look at these cowards – spineless fellows! We attacked their pastor, but they have no guts to speak up,’” he said.

They drove recklessly around the Christian youths on their motorbikes trying to provoke a fight, he said.

“There was a clash between the groups,” Pramod said. “The youths managed to escape from there and went to church, back to their work of cleaning and unrolling the carpets, making preparations. But they did not share about the attack, and within 10 to 15 minutes, a mob of over 40 Hindu extremists struck the main gate.”

The assailants were shouting vulgarities, he said.

“I rushed to rescue the youths and tried to videotape what was happening,” Pramod told Morning Star News. “But they pinned me down like wrestling champions and bruised my left eye. My phone was taken away, and I was lying there helplessly.”

His father received word that he was beaten and came running from their house four streets away, he said.

“They pushed him, and he too collapsed,” Pramod said. “They were heavily drunk and attacked us like wrestling or boxing champions in rage. I’m sure they must be professionals. I lifted my 62-two-year old father, and we both went to Jagathgir Gutta police station in that condition.”

Police refused to take their complaint, saying the written report was not in the proper format, he said.

“Then, a day later, the area’s circle inspector changed the version, and filed it as a dispute between both parties so they could book cases against me and my dad,” Pramod said. “I was shocked when the inspector told me that he has no other option but to send my dad and me to remand. They booked an FIR against us.”

While the inspector did not follow through on his threat to take them into custody, Jagathgir Gutta police registered case against Pramod and his father, fabricating a charge of “voluntarily causing hurt using dangerous weapons” under Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code, he said.

Open Opposition

On Dec. 31 in Andhra Pradesh state, police stood by as Hindu women knocked down a temporary wall Christians had erected as a barrier against cold winds during a New Year’s Eve service, sources said.

Church members in Kothagudem village, West Godavari District, had returned to their homes at about 8 p.m. and were planning to gather again in an hour, Pastor Shyam Sunder told Morning Star News. The choir was still singing at the site, he said.

“Within about 15 minutes, neighboring Hindu women barged inside and destroyed the wall, right in the presence of police,” Pastor Sunder said. “Yet we continued the prayer service and later filed a complaint in Ungaturu police station.”

Local village leaders and Hindu families said they would cover the costs and pleaded with the Christians not to file a case, he said.

Upper-caste Hindus opposed reconstruction of the aging, original church building last year, applying pressure on authorities to deny permission. A junior civil judge ruled in June that reconstruction could begin and directed opposing parties not to interfere, but a local Hindu official has yet to grant permission for the reconstruction, the pastor said.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

Click here for source