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Indian Christians Still Under Fear and Persecution

September 24, 2008 Story

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Christians in India, particularly those in the Orissa State, continue to live under fear and persecution. Christian groups and denominations are extending their assistance to the affected churches voicing their concern to the government. Rev. Terhuja Zhabu, General Secretary of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council and the officers of the Asia Pacific Baptist Aid have visited the Bengal-Bihar-Orissa Baptist Churches’ Association (BOBBCA) assessing the situation and organizing assistance to the victims. Rev. Samaresh Nayak, Acting General Secretary of BOBBCA asked American Baptist churches to remember the churches and the country as they strive to find a peaceful solution. Rev. Samaresh also requested International Ministries to share the updates from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (see the following).

International Ministries (IM) supports the evangelism, leaders training and medical programs of BOBBCA. IM Global Consultant Rev. Dan Buttry visited the Association soon after the outbreak of the persecutions. Click here to read related news release.


September 24, 2008

Tension in Orissa's Kandahmal area after fresh clashes
Sit-in (Dharna) organised in Chennai for Orissa Christans
 

September 24, 2008: On Tuesday, more than 1,000 people, mostly women, surrounded a police station in Raikia town, about 280 km from Bhubaneswar, demanding the release of two people who had been arrested the previous day on charges of rioting.

The mob pelted stones forcing police and troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to hit people with batons and then open fire, a police official said. One person was killed and 25 people, including many policemen, were injured.

The ripples continued till Wednesday as authorities tried to send more forces to the area but could not.

"After the incident, mobs have blocked roads at several places by placing huge wooden logs. This has made it impossible for the force to reach the areas," said a district police control room official.

EFI Correspondent, Rev. James Kaiser reports from Chennai: A Dharna (sit-in) to express solidarity with the Orissa Christians was organised in St. George’s Anglo Indian School Ground on September 21, 2008 from 3 PM to 8.30 PM.

More than 30 thousand Christians representing different denomination and churches came together with their hearts joined in prayerful accord for the Orissa Christians. The Bishops of all mainline churches comprising of CSI, ECI, Catholic, and several church heads including United evangelical Lutheran Church, Good Samaritan Church, Tamil Baptist, Telugu Baptist, New Life AG, Salvation army, Maranatha, Advent Church, Apostolic Faith Tabernacle, The Pentecostals, Independent Churches, Calvary Community Church, Madras Pentecostal Assembly, Methodist, Trinity full Gospel, Church of God, Power House Church, Jehovah shamah, along with a big number of Independent pastors took part in the Dharna(Sit-in).

To the press and the media all the Bishops in a unanimous voice called for a ban on the Hindu fanatic groups and asked the Government for tough measures against this hooliganism that has been perpetrated in the name of God.

On September 30 all the clergy will go on fasting & prayer in front of the Govt. guest house, Chepauk.

September 23, 2008

Dharna by Former PM and Janata Dal (S) President H.D.Deve Gowda
Archbishop Bernard Moras snubs CM ; Incidents in Uttarakhand, Haryana and UP

September 23, 2008: Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) President Shri H D Deve Gowda along with other senior party leaders and representatives of different religious groups staged a sit-in (Dharna) at the Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi, Rajghat, on the afternoon of September 23, 2008 from 12.00 noon to 3 p.m.

The sit-in was in protest against the ongoing anti-Christian violence in Karnataka, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Kerela and other parts of the country by Sangh Parivar activists.

Shri Deve Gowda has been demanding an immediate ban on Bajrang Dal, an extremist arm of Sangh Parivar, and imposition of President’s Rule in Karnataka in the wake of the atrocities and attacks on minorities and their institutions.

In a letter to the Prime minister of India, Shri Deve Gowda wrote, “Karnataka has today emerged as the worst terror and communal hub among all the southern states.”

Seeking a ban on Bajrang Dal he wrote: “Violence and attacks on innocent people, irrespective of their religious beliefs, have to be condemned in all its manifestations. Terrorists of all hues and shades are undoubtedly merchants of death and one cannot be excluded just because he chants ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and holds the tricolor even while mercilessly tearing apart Mother India’s secular fabric and causing irreparable damage to her unity, as in Orissa and Karnataka, and territorial integrity as in Jammu and Kashmir. It’s time the Government calls a spade a spade acts decisively against organizations such as the Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sena, another Hindutva militia, which has perpetrated senseless violence against minorities in Karnataka recently.

Shri Deve Gowda urges the people of the state not to fall prey to the Goebbelsian propaganda of the Sangh Parivar on alleged fraudulent conversions, cow slaughter etc. “Rumor mongering is their forte and riots their favorite pastime. Let us together work to protect and preserve our cosmopolitan character and Karnataka’s reputation as a land of peace. Let all secular forces stop fighting each other and unitedly confront this biggest enemy,” the statement concluded.

Bangalore (Karnataka): On the afternoon of September 22, 2008, The Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa along with his cabinet Ministers called on Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore. The Archbishop responded: "Sir, we thank you for coming to the Bishop's House, but the whole church in Karnataka is hurt. I am telling you publicly that we are very hurt. Tell me, will you keep quiet if the garbha gudi (sanctum sanctorum) of a temple is destroyed? For us, the Blessed Sacrament is the living body of Christ and we are ready to shed our blood for it. We can't tell you how much we are hurt because the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed," an emotional Archbishop told Yeddyurappa and his Cabinet ministers when they called on him.

The Archbishop, then handed over a memorandum seeking a change in judicial probe ordered by the state government - it should be headed by a sitting judge of the high court or a retired judge of apex court, but not a retired judge of the high court (as decided by the government) in order to instill confidence among Christians. "Action should be taken immediately and should not be passed off as mere minor incidents of theft and burglary where there is no loss of life or damage is minimal as stated by the Police Commissioner (Shankar M Bidari) of Bangalore, thus trivializing the matter and diverting the attention of people," the memorandum read.

Besides, the Archbishop sought the release of Christians arrested or detained (post the September 14th attack on churches) and scrapping of cases filed against them.

Dehra Dun (Uttarakhand): In a bizarre incident that led to scare amongst Christians in Uttarakhand, a Christian Catholic priest and a women volunteer were found murdered in their ‘ashram’ in Chotta Rampur village near Herbertpur in Vikasnagar tehsil of Dehra Dun district today.

According to Harish Verma, circle officer of the police, Sadhu Astey (56), a Catholic preacher and his disciple, Mercy (32), were found strangulated to death in “Samarpanalaya”, an ashram run by them.

Sadhu Astey, a priest and healer was a respected man in the entire area and was running a prayer hall. The dead bodies have been brought to Dehra Dun for postmortem.

It was the fourth attack on Christian missionaries in Dehra Dun district in the past few months.

Gonda (Uttar Pradesh): Bishop Simon reports: Pastor Sunil Rana is arrested in Gonda District of Uttar Pradesh on false grounds of forceful conversion and is in police custody. He was supposed to be released today morning by 8:00 a.m., but his bail was rejected by the Chief Inspector and the case has been forwarded to the SDM (Sub-District Magistrate) Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.

Ambala (Haryana): Bishop Simon reports: Police have warned of attacks on the offices and staff and workers of Believers’ Church in the state of Haryana. On the morning of September 22, around 20 people were seen moving in suspiciously in three vehicles around the State office of the Church. As a result 20 policemen were deployed around the Church office.

The timing of this incident has come when the party meeting of Bajrang Dal activists comprising of cadres from all over Haryana is taking place in the city of Ambala.

Evangelical Fellowship of India request your prayers for the protection of Christians in the BJP run States. Also we request you to pray for authorities to take substantial action against the oppressors of the Minorities.

EFI also requests prayers that more secular leaders like our former PM, Shri. H D Deve Gowda shall come forward for the civil liberties in India.

September 22, 2008

Situation Far from Calm in Kandhmal, Orissa
Churches Attacked in Karnataka, Kerela ; Christians Implicated in Punjab

September 22, 2008: Contrary to the Orissa government's claim that the situation in riot hit Kandhama district is returning to normalcy, there were reports of arson, kidnapping and torching of 10 houses in Gochhapada police area on Sunday, September 21.

On September 20, 2008 thirty three year old Ishwar Digal, from the Gatringia village in Tikabali block, Kandhamal was waylaid as he and his wife Bhumi were coming back to their relief camp in Phulbani town, about 250km from here, through a forest.

Digal had gone to visit his ailing father who is paralyzed. Around 8.30pm the activists came to Digal's house and threatened him to convert to Hinduism and went away. Sensing danger Digal along with his wife managed to escape in the cover of the night.

Unfortunately the fundamentalists were able to catch hold of them and hacked him to death. His wife however managed to flee and went to Sarangada police station where the case has been registered. The CRPF and the police are trying to recover the body.

Bangalore (Karnataka): Three churches in Bangalore and one in Kodagu district were targeted by miscreants on Sunday morning in Karnataka September 21, 2008.

According to reports, the culprits broke open the rear door of St James Church in the early hours using a metal rod, and desecrated the Blessed Sacrament, scattered the sacred bread, forced open the cupboards, ransacked the prayer hall, and decamped with two gold-plated crowns (worth around Rs 17,000). They also emptied the offering box which contained around Rs 1,000.

In the second incident that occurred at Raja Rajeswari Nagar at around 8.15 am the saffron outfit pelted stones at the Holy Name of Jesus Church damaging the glass-panes and desecrating a statue.

True Gospel church located at Bhuvanahalli village in Devanahalli, Bangalore had also come under attack by the Hindutva radicals during early morning hours. This incident happened at about 3.30 am on September 21. The Hindu radicals barged inside the church and broke all the window glass, roof sheets and other furniture. The miscreants then again after the worship service was over pelted stones at the boundary wall and damaged it.

In Kodagu, a Brethren Church near Nellihudikeri in Siddapura was vandalized at midnight 12.30 am on September 20. The miscreants barged into the church and broke the glass panes further damaging the other furniture. Pastor Samuel is ministering this church since 6 years. The church has a congregation of 35 believers. The evangelists were taken to Siddapura Police station for enquiry and were charged under Sections 149,143,295 and 448 of Indian Penal Code. Siddapura is 28 Kms away from Madikere. The evangelists belong to Free to Kids Ministry based in H D Kote.

Kochi (Kerela): Two churches, that stand on adjoining compounds one of them among the oldest in India, were vandalized by unidentified people in the early hours of Sunday on September 21 at Akapparambu in Nedumbassery panchayat, about 35 km from Kochi city, Kerala.

According to reports, a seven-foot statue of Christ in the cemetery of the 467-year-old Garvasis and Prothasis Church, belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church denomination, was broken and the pedestal was knocked off.

The Mar Sabore, a Syrian Cathedral Church, which was adjacent to it was also desecrated. It was the cleaning employee at the cathedral who first noticed that the holy chamber in which the sandalwood cot of St. Paulose Mar Athanasius Valiya Thirumentni was kept was damaged.

Fr. Paulose Arackaparambil, vicar at the cathedral church while talking to the media stated that the glass windows must have been smashed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The cathedral, said to have been built in 825 A.D., is one of the ancient churches of the Jacobites.

Bhatinda (Punjab): Until recently, members of BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and VHP would either attack Christians directly or use the media to accuse the Christians of Conversion. But since the formation of the coalition government between Akali Dal (B) & BJP in Punjab, they have started using some of the members of the Sikh Community against Christians.

On September 10th 2008, Police arrested a local evangelist Bahadur Giri along with two Christians Daljeet and Malkait Singh under Section 295A on charges of burning the Sikh Holy Scriptures. After 5 days of police custody the three were bailed out on September 15th, but a case has been registered against them in the court.

On September 16th 2008, another Christian convert Balkaran Singh was arrested under the above mentioned charges without any proof whatsoever. Later he was released on bail.

Around 30 pastors from different districts of Punjab met the District Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police of District Bathinda and submitted a memorandum stating Cases of Christians being falsely implicated.

EFI requests prayers for the Christians in above mentioned States to remain firm in their faith.