VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Tonight on Persecution Watch: Violence Against Christians in India

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Intercessors, Again, we want to lift up two persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice that this year will be the year where they will be set free. And also pray for pastor Wang Yi to be released from Prison.

India

Population: 1.35 billion Christians 65 million

Continued violence against Christians and churches. Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, attacks have increased, and Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences. As a result, Christians have been targeted by Hindu nationalist extremists more and more each year. The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith—including Christianity—is considered non-Indian. Additionally, in some regions of the country, converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination and violence.

Because radical Hindu nationalists view followers of Jesus as alien to the nation, all Christians in India are suffering persecution. Driven by a desire to cleanse their country from Islam and Christianity, nationalists do not shy away from using extensive violence to achieve their goals.

Converts to Christianity from Hinduism bear the brunt of the Christian persecution in India and are constantly under pressure by the state, their community and their families to return to Hinduism (especially via campaigns knows as ghar wapsi, which means “homecoming”). These Christians are often physically assaulted and sometimes killed.

On June 19, 2018, five Christian women (aged 20 to 35) were performing a street play in Jharkhand when they were abducted and then gang raped in a forest. Police stated that the assault was also allegedly filmed on cell phones. On January 20, 2018, the body of Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy in Adaiyalachery (Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu) was found hung from the thatched roof of his house, a week after he complained to police about opposition from radical Hindus.

  •     Pray for Christian converts from Hinduism who are forcefully pressured to return to their national religion.

 

  •    Pray with Christians in India for God’s provision and protection as they preach the gospel in places = the states with anti-conversion laws.

 

  •    Pray for Christian girls placed under house arrest by their families because of their faith. Pray they would be encouraged in their faith and that their families would come to know the Lord.

 

  •    Pray to the Lord that He will exercise His power and bring about a change in government and that they will be open to religious liberty.

 

  •    Pray to the Lord for that pastors and teachers that train the saints will have unhindered acces into India.

 

  •    Pray that Christians Internet messages and websites will reach deep into the Hindu communities and will encourage Christians.

 

  •    Pray to the Lord that the believers will have courage, wisdom and boldness to reach out to Hindu neighbors.

 

  •    Pray to the Lord to give NGOs favor that they will be invisible to the authorities and can continue to provide spiritual and other support to believers.

 

  •     Pray to the Lord that believers will love and forgive their persecutors.

 

  •      Pray that the Lord will build His church by adding daily to the number of believers.

 

Many blessings,

Andy, Prayer Call Moderator, Persecution Watch

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

 

Police in Uttar Pradesh, India, Most Harsh on Christians, Sources Say

 

Pastor taken into custody from house church in Lakhimpur Kheri District-YouTube Morning Star News

India (Morning Star News) – Police in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state work in tandem with Hindu extremists to treat Christians and other religious minorities especially harshly, sources said.

“The UP police force is very different from the rest of India,” Dinanath Jaiswar, a volunteer with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, told Morning Star News. “They are very brash in their dealings with Muslim and Christian minorities, and there have been several cases of violence in police custody, but by God’s grace we have tried our best to reach them on time, and even while in the clutches of the enemy, God protects His people.”

From April 2017 to February 2018, India’s National Human Rights Commission registered 365 cases of judicial and custodial deaths in Uttar Pradesh, according to The Indian Express; the next highest amount was 127 cases in West Bengal state.

“It does not take long for a police officer here to lose his temper and thrash a person in custody,” Jaiswar said.

Most cases reported against police stations in several Uttar Pradesh districts fell under the categories of torture, infliction of injury and grievous hurt, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

“It has become a trend that a batch of Hindu extremists barge inside Christian homes and accuse them of proselytizing Hindus to Christianity,” Jaiswar said. “When Christians deny the accusations and restrain them from disrupting the prayers, they use the police force to take Christians into custody.”

ADF-India personnel in Uttar Pradesh are often called to rush to police stations to try to intervene before any charges are filed, ensure that Christians are safe and work to release them as soon as possible, he added.

“UP’s legal aid team works like a Rapid Action Force,” Jaiswar said. “We aim at immediate release of pastors in custody. If police extend the custody over the night, the next morning they would file the FIR [First Information Report], and the victims will be presented before the judicial magistrate and will be sent to judicial custody.”

Obtaining bail is a lengthier process, but ADF’s Uttar Pradesh Legal Aid Cell strives to arrange for immediate release on personal bonds, he said.

Pastor Surendra Vanwasi of Jeevan Marg Trust was leading Sunday worship at a home church in Karubir village, Mau District on Nov. 17 when police arrived and took him into custody. The station house officer at Chirraiyakot Police Station “was rash and adamant,” Jaiswar said.

“Tens of requests were put before the higher ranked police officials, and only then the SHO agreed to release Pastor Vanwasi,” he said. “In the guise of enquiry police had detained him, but thankfully no charges were filed.”

Similar case of detention was reported in Mirzapur District on the same day. A church leader identified only as Pastor Khaiya from Mizoram state was invited to Uttar Pradesh to deliver a message to a congregation in Mirzapur. By noon, a mob of upper-caste Hindus and Hindu extremists had surrounded the venue, Jaiswar said.

“They slapped Pastor Khaiya and handed him to police,” he said. “When we reached Jamalpur police station, the local believers informed us that Pastor Khaiya was taken to police station like a criminal. It is a Naxalite [Maoist rebel]-belt area, and the police station in Jamalpur is specially equipped to torture Naxal suspects. The police had locked up Khaiya in an underground cell.”

The ADF team used social media and called higher officials in the district in attempts to win immediate release, he said.

“The situation turned tense as the upper-caste leaders and Hindu extremists insisted the police officers level serious allegations of forced religious conversions under stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code,” Jaiswar said. “By later that evening, the SHO had finally agreed to release Pastor Khaiya on personal bail. We were forced to give it in writing that he would not be involved in any conversion activity in future.”

Youth Pastors Jailed

Youth pastors Om Prakash, 23, and Ajay Kumar, 20, were leading a worship service at the home of Kapildev Ram in Daraura village on Nov. 25 when the village president intruded into the house and ordered the Christians to stop, sources said.

“Ram’s sons did not allow the village president and his aides to attack the youth pastors,” the youth workers’ trainer, identified only as Pastor Ramjit, told Morning Star News. “They stood as defense and did not let the person touch the pastors. This made him angry, and he went and brought the police force with him and got the pastors and also Ram arrested.”

The youth ministry sends workers to 30 village house churches in four districts in Uttar Pradesh on weekdays. Leaders had sent Prakash and Kumar to Daraura village on Nov. 25, and the next day Ranipur police registered an FIR against them and Ram alleging promotion of enmity between religious groups, deliberately hurting religious sentiments, inducement by rendering an object of divine displeasure and other charges.

Lower court and District Sessions judges rejected their bail pleas. ADF-India’s attorneys have filed a bail petition in the High Court at Allahabad.

Ranipur Station House Officer Ashok Kumar Yadav noted in the Hindi-language case diary that neighbors were disturbed when the mob formed at Ram’s home.

“Our police team had reached it on time and urged them to disperse immediately,” Yadav wrote. “As our attempts to restore peace in the area had failed, we had to arrest the pastors to bring the situation under control.”

Pastor Ramjit said the youth pastors are facing mistreatment from heavy brutes in the district prison.

“When I visited them last week, they told me that under-trial prisoners in murder cases had put up fight and abused our boys in filthy language,” Pastor Ramji told Morning Star News. “They seem very frightened. Both their marriages have been set for summer, and their fiancées and families have been waiting for their release.”

‘You May Arrest Me’

When a mob of no fewer than 60 Hindu nationalists armed with hockey sticks stormed into a Christian’s home in Ghaziabad city, which straddles both Uttar Pradesh state and Delhi National Capital Region, and beat the homeowner and the pastor leading a Bible study, officers from Loni police station took both Christians into custody.

The assailants also vandalized the homeowner’s furniture, said Sanjay Mcgee of Indian Christian Assembly (Bharatiya Masih Mahasabha).

As it was late at night, Christians feared police would hold pastor Jagdish Marotiya and the homeowner overnight and charge them in the morning, Mcgee said. A Christian leader from the Delhi National Capital Region, Minakshi Singh, rushed to the police station and was there until midnight trying to persuade officers not to be misled by Hindu extremists.

“We had enough evidence of videos and photographs of the destruction the armed men had caused, and I was trying to reason with the officials as to why had not they taken any action against the assailants, and why the victims had been detained,” Singh told Morning Star News. “The argument went on for a very long time, and finally at midnight the police agreed release the Christians.”

In the area, called Bharat Nagar Society, about 25 Christian families refrained from putting stars outside their homes during Christmas season, terrified that they would be identified as Christians and targeted by Hindu fanatics, Mcgee said.

“When I visited the area on Dec. 3 after the attack on the home, there were security guards everywhere, and they stopped us from entering the colony,” he said. “I asked the guards where were they when a resident’s house was vandalized two days before, but they denied the attack. An elderly female member of the home church there told us that police had threatened [the homeowner’s] family not to pursue a case against the assailants.”

Good Shepherd Church in the Trilokpuri area came under attack a week before. On the second day of a three-day convention the church had organized, Nov. 23, more than 100 members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh surrounded the site chanting, “Go back! Go back!” Singh told Morning Star News.

Higher police officials from the Mayur Vihar station reached the venue and ordered that the gathering must cease in order to restore peace, she said.

“As soon as I received this information, I rushed to Trilokpuri and met the assistant commissioner of police and told him that it is our constitutional right to pray to our God,” she told Morning Star News. “But the police official told me that it is not possible to let you continue Christian prayers, saying, ‘Who will take responsibility if the situation turns hostile?’ I told him that I will take the responsibility, ‘You may arrest me, but the convention should go on.”’

After long discussions on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, police allowed them to continue as long as they refrained from using the sound system, Singh said. More than 200 policemen were deployed, and barricades were installed on four sides of the church building, she said.

“A mob of at least 200 Hindu extremists showed up outside the church premises and were shouting to the top of their lungs, ‘Har Har Mahadev [Shiva is everywhere],” she said. “We told the police that our people would remain calm, and there will not be any problem from our side, and you please control the mob outside the premises.

“By God’s grace, the final day of the convention was a success. The police also had the chance to hear the gospel and joyfully joined us for the meal after the prayer service.”

pastor prays with ADF-India team after his release from jail in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, India in November 2019. (Morning Star News)

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Tonight on the Persecution Watch Prayer Conference Call (Dec. 12, 2019)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear intercessors, you are invited to join us tonight, Thursday December 26 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church. Looking back on 2019, I believe it would be good to lift up the 7 nations who in our, perhaps my, perception caused much prayer for the persecuted Believers.

In alphabetical order:

Afghanistan

Population: 36 million, Christians in the thousands

A country where Christianity is not permitted to exist. An Islamic state by constitution, which means all government and religious officials are hostile to other religions as Christianity is.

Christian converts from Islam face strong pressure from family, friends and neighbors and can even be attacked.

  • Pray for these believers to have courage and protection.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam.

  • Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.
  • Pray for isolated believers in Afghanistan, many of whom are totally cut off from any other Christians.

China

Population: 1.4 billion, Christians 97 million

China continuously increases restriction on religious freedom and monitors and controls Christians through CCTV and social ratings.

  • Pray that the Chinese Christians who were recently arrested in raids would have courage and perseverance in the faith—include Pastor Wang Yi.
  • Pray for Chinese Christians to stand strong amidst tightening religious restrictions and to engage in cross-cultural missions effectively.
  • Pray that the Chinese government would proactively enter into constructive dialogue with local churches, in order to understand that Christian values are aligned with traditional Chinese values and that Christianity can be a positive influence for Chinese society.

Eritrea

Population:  5.1 million, Christians 2.4 million

Brutal, authoritarian president suppressing Christianity under inhuman conditions.

Thousands of Christians have been imprisoned in Eritrea over the last decade, some of whom remain in prison after more than 10 years. Pray for endurance for brothers and sisters detained in horrific conditions and ask God to give them perseverance in their faith.

Pray for President Afwerki, that God would work in his heart and reveal the truth of the gospel.

India

Population: 1.3 billion, Christians 65 million

President Moro is determined to create a Hindu state with Hinduism as the only approved religion. Increased violence and restrictions towards Christians.

  • Pray for Christian converts from Hinduism who are forcefully pressured to return to their national religion.
  • Pray with Christians in India for God’s provision and protection as they preach the gospel in places with anti-conversion laws.
  • Pray for the government of India, that they would open to religious liberty.

Iran

Population: 82 million, Christians 800,000

Islamic State under the control of religious leaders meaning that Christians persecuted and restricted “under” Islamic law. Mosques are empty and people demonstrate against Islamic leaders.

Any Muslim who leaves Islam faces a charge of apostasy and can be thrown in jail or worse. Pray that the laws will change, allowing for freedom of religion.

Nearly all churches that held services in Persian have been closed in recent years and their leaders were arrested. Pray for Christians in Iran’s prisons to have genuine love for their guards and fellow inmates.

Pray for secret believers who meet in house churches, that they will be protected and will be faithful witnesses to the surrounding culture.

Nigeria

Population: 195 million, Christians 91 million

Weak government controlled by Muslims unwilling to protect Christians. Increasing violence in the Northern part of the country against Christians by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.

  • Please pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice, who made a slave for life by Boko Haram
  • Pray for Christians in the middle of Nigeria, who are facing increased hostility and attacks from Fulani militants.
  • Sharia law has been implemented in 12 northern states where Christians face marginalization and discrimination. Pray that these Christians would not be discouraged. Pray they will not be tempted to give up the faith in pursuit of an easier life.
  • Pray for Fulani militants, the members of Boko Haram and other extremist groups. Pray that God will touch their hearts with His truth.

North Korea

Population:  25.6 million, Christians 300,000

Brutal dictatorship that fears Christians. Goes to extremes to punish Christians and aims to eradicate Christianity.

  • The situation for Christians is vulnerable and precarious. They face persecution from state authorities and their non-Christian family, friends and neighbors. Pray for their protection.
  • Pray for strength and courage for Christians who suffer in prisons, labor camps and remote areas.
  • Pray that God will prepare the underground church in North Korea to be a light for the country—and that they will be ready to share the gospel freely someday soon.

Many blessings,

Andy, Prayer Call Moderator

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: China, Burma and India (12/21/19)

 

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear prayer warriors, the Lord is manifesting His power all over the world. The enemy knows it and like a roaring lion he is enraged and on a rampage to devour any one who is rejecting the love of God. However, he was given no power to touch any of the Lord’s elect!

(John 3:17-21) “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Now more then ever we are experiencing how close we are to the end. With the Lord’s leading, we will lift up the Church in the following nations on tonight’s prayer call.

China: Crackdown on Christianity Ramps Up 

Myanmar (Burma): Rebels Who Closed More than 100 Churches Allow 51 to Reopen

India: Christians Face Increased Persecution as Christmas Nears

I welcome you dear one’s to come as God’s Spirit leads you to intercede for our brothers and sisters and for the global harvest!!!

In Christ Love

Nadia Dybvik Prayer Call Moderator

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Indian Christians Facing Increased Persecution as Christmas Nears

 

Church building demolished on Jan. 9, 2019 in Narnepadu village, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Christians in India are suffering increased persecution with a recent surge of violence, intimidation or harassment against them. With the uptick of reports and investigations of Christians being persecuted, sadly most cases go unreported as victims and witnesses are terrified of repercussions. Authorities often ignore or refuse to record incidents or perpetrators of these crimes will file false claims against the Christian victims who then end up being arrested.

As Voice of the Persecuted had feared in 2014, Christian persecution has spiked under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is a former militant with the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS), one of India’s most active and violent radical Hindu organizations. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is known for its open support to groups such as the RSS, as well as for backing a state that is 100 percent Hindu. Modi, as a BJP member, was the party’s choice as candidate for the post of prime minister. Modi has won two consecutive terms with a full majority since 2014. This has encouraged radical persecution against religious minorities in the country.

Indian Christians are frequently and falsely accused of bribing or forcing people to become Christians. Mobs attack, burn down churches and destroy properties, beat and sometimes kill Christians for their faith. In only a single week in December, International Christian Concern documented over half a dozen instances of religious persecution against Christians. The group said as many of the world’s Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas, Indian Christians are struggling with a growing sense of fear.

The report shared that 10 Christians were arrested on false charges, 25 Christian families were cut off from clean drinking water, and several churches, including one church with nearly 600 members, was shut down. The increasing intolerance is impacting their ability to freely celebrate Christmas, ICC shared. Some churches have felt forced to cancel Christmas programs out of fear they will invite attacks.

In of one of the recent incidents, a mob of extremist Hindu nationalists attacked and savagely beat members of Rev. Bhovi’s church community as they cleared land to build a church. Following the attack, extremists cut the water supply for 25 Christian families and threatened to drive them out of the village unless they renounced their faith in Christ.

“We were small in number at the police station compared to mob of Hindu radicals,” the pastor said. “All of the 25 Christian families were present at the police station to lodge a complaint; however, the police told us that Christians cannot hold any meetings in the village and that pastors from outside the village cannot visit the Christian families, even during this festive season.”

“We have cancelled all our Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village, including carols, cottage meetings, and pre-Christmas events,” said Pastor Raja Bhovi of His Grace Church in India’s Karnataka State. Pastor Bhovi said he planned to take the 25 Christian families of his flock to Arsikare, a town that is 30 kilometers away from their home in Banni Mardatti village, to celebrate Christmas. “Our hope is that we will have a peaceful Christmas celebration, even though it is away from our homes,” Bhovi said.

Extremists closed a church in Uttar Pradesh after filing a false criminal complaint against the church’s pastor, Rev. Ramjit, accusing him of being involved in forced religious conversions. Police told Ramjit that he was no longer permitted to hold Sunday worship services at his church. “We are very uncertain about this year’s Christmas,” Pastor Ramjit said. “Unlike previous years, we have been told to shut down our church since December 8. It is a very painful situation for us now. We are all hoping that things will change.” Pastor Ramjit has appealed the decision and is trying to get permission to hold a Christmas service.

“If we fail to get permission, we will have to organize several smaller gatherings in homes on Christmas day. We are going to have a service one way or another,” the pastor said.

Tonight, the Prayer Team will be lifting up Christians in India on the prayer conference call. If the Lord is breaking your heart for these dear Indian brothers and sisters, come pray with us on the call. Prayers will also be shared for those suffering in China and Burma.

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?

Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Meet you on the call!

Axe-Wielding, Tribal Animists Set Bibles, Church Building Ablaze in Eastern India

Tribal animists shout at pastor Bibudhan Pradhan in Perigaon village, Odisha state, India, on Dec. 1, 2019. (Morning Star News)

India (Morning Star News) – Tribal animists in eastern India earlier this month surrounded a church building with axes, threatened to kill Christians within and later burned down the thatched-roof structure, sources said.

Hard-line animists in Odisha state’s Perigaon village, Rayagada District, attacked on Dec. 1 after having raided Christians homes to seize and burn Bibles five days earlier.

“After we concluded the prayers and community lunch service [on Dec. 1], a batch of around 15 tribal men came with axes, surrounded the church and threatened that they will chop us into pieces,” pastor Bibudhan Pradhan told Morning Star News.

The assailants surrounded the pastor and his wife as they were trying to return to their home in another town, he said.

“They took us inside the village and held us hostage for more than four hours,” Pastor Pradhan said. “They abused us in vulgar language, words that I can’t utter with my mouth, and threatened us that their gods and goddesses will swallow us alive for propagating Christianity in an Adivasi [indigenous tribal] hamlet.”

He and his wife remained calm in captivity, he said. Church members told the assailants that the pastor had to return to his home in Rayagada and suggested they take them in place of him and his wife. The assailants released the couple with an ultimatum to stop worship services and never again enter the village.

They took no one else hostage, but that night they set the mud-and-bamboo structure on fire, the pastor said.

“Christians from the Adivasi hamlet reside about one kilometer far from the church site,” Pastor Pradhan said. “But the fire spread faster, and within 10 to 15 minutes the roof made of dry grass shattered, and the bamboos also caught fire.”

On Nov. 26, after village Christians had gathered for an hour-long prayer at the church site, a gang of drunken animists raided their homes as they slept, he said. The Christians were unable to call police as the area has no cell phone coverage.

Church elders rushed to Pastor Pradhan’s home the next morning.

“They were horrified by what happened the night before,” he said. “The drunk men abused the Christian families in filthy language and forcefully searched their homes for Bibles. The Christians tried hard to resist them to no avail. They gathered the Bibles from Christian homes at one spot at the center of the village, poured kerosene and lit fire.”

The animists, who worship gods based in ancestors, spirits and nature, ignored their pleas to calm down and spare their Bibles, he said. Pastor Pradhan and the elders complained to village elders that day.

“But the elders of Perigaon village justified the act of burning Bibles and in return abused me in filthy language,” he said. “They said that because of me the village has lost its rich culture and values, and that I had introduced a foreign faith, and that my presence and the Christian prayers in the village had hurt them deeply.

“They also issued threats that they would go to any extent to put an end to the spread of Christianity in the village.”

Nine of the approximately 75 families in Perigaon village are Christian, he said.

“My wife and I had been ministering in Perigaon for the past four years,” Pastor Pradhan said. “At least thrice the tribal extremists blocked us from entering the village by laying huge branches of trees on the road.”

Forced Signatures

Pastor Pradhan on Dec. 2 accompanied church elders to Rayagada police station to file a complaint about the Dec. 1 and Nov. 26 attacks.

Pallab Lima of the Minority Rights Forum of Odisha told Morning Star News that police did not take the complaints seriously.

“We insisted to police that a First Information Report [FIR] must be filed, and the church arson should be investigated,” Lima said. “But he was only summoning Christians to the police station and was not taking any action against the assailants.”

Inspector Nihar Ranjan Pradhan of Rayagada police station summoned Christians several times on Dec 2. and Dec. 6, forcing them to sign a document prohibiting them from worship in the village, Pastor Pradhan said.

“On Dec. 2 officer Pradhan forcefully took our thumb prints on a document that was written in Odiya that there will not be any Christian prayers in Perigaon village,” he said. “He was very biased and refused to listen to our pleas.”

After 10 p.m., police registered an FIR against the assailants based on a complaint by church elder Bhasker Rao’s wife, Sure Kadraka, under Indian Penal Code sections for mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house ordinarily used as a place of worship and criminal intimidation.

Leaders from the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal reached the police station along with tribal villagers, a Christian who visited the church members at Rayagada police station, Hananiyo Lima, told Morning Star News.

“Police held the suspects in custody for a while and sent them away,” Lima said. “No cases were registered against the assailants, who confessed that they had set the Bibles ablaze, held the pastor hostage and later burned down the church. We refused to sign on any document, but they took our fingerprints forcefully.”

Inspector Pradhan summoned them to the police station again on Dec. 6.

“This time, he was very angry that he was receiving phone calls from human rights activists enquiring about church arson,” Lima said.

Asked why the Christians were summoned to the police station, Inspector Pradhan yelled at Morning Star News, “Who is calling them to the police station? They came to the police station,” and abruptly disconnected.

Rayagada District Superintendent of Police Saravana Vivek told Morning Star News the inspector and sub-collector visited Perigaon, that a “peace committee” had been formed, and that police were looking into the matter “very closely and seriously.”

“We are concerned about each and every person’s safety,” Vivek said. “Whatever is legal and possible has been done.

“Tribals are dominant in Rayagada, and the tribal families’ sentiments have been affected.”

Tension over Temple

Vivek told Morning Star News that villagers were angry that a Hindu priest who had been granted land for Hindu worship had converted to Christianity, resulting in the rituals having ceased for the past four years.

The officer said the former Hindu priest has built a Christian house of worship on the land, and that he must renounce all rights to the land.

Pastor Pradhan told Morning Star News the convert had actually been a priest of tribal Adivasi religion, not Hinduism, and that the land had been the site of an Adivasi temple. The former animist priest is now church elder Bhasker Rao.

Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh (RSS) has been using the words “Hindu” and “Adivasi” as synonyms in order to promote the Hindu caste hierarchy. The use of this language among police and administrative officials is indicative of their Hindu nationalist leanings and connections with the RSS, sources said.

“The church’s site is one kilometer from Rao’s residence,” Pastor Pradhan said. “He was formerly the tribal Adivasi priest and has come to Christ four years ago. He has been under immense pressure from the villagers to perform the offerings and worship to Adivasi deities, but he resisted their advances.”

Rao was willing to relinquish the two acres of land granted to him by the Adivasis as well as two additional acres, the pastor said.

“He had requested the village council to take away a total of four acres from him and relieve him from the priest’s duties, but they demand that he only must perform the rituals, and that if he doesn’t do it, the entire village will be cursed, and that the tribal deities would swallow them alive,” Pastor Pradhan said. “He even suggested the council members to transfer the priestly responsibilities to any of his kinsmen and leave him free to follow Christ.”

Officer Vivek said civil administration officials are also involved along with police, and that police are trying to bring the Christians and assailants together for talks to avert future crimes.

Threats

Based on the complaint Rao and his wife filed, police should have filed more serious charges than they did, an attorney for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, Pratap Chinchani, told Morning Star News.

Instead of taking stern action against the assailants, police have turned against the victims, with official documents telling them in essence, “There won’t be Christian prayers in the village – you move out of Rayagada and conduct your worship service elsewhere,” he said.

“How can police restrain the pastor from visiting the village? This kind of approach is illegal, and it must be legally challenged,” Chinchani told Morning Star News. “This inaction of police must be challenged in a court of law. As ADF-India, we are ready to incur the travel expenses for the victims to travel down to Cuttack, where the High Court is located [about 280 miles from Rayagada).”

Pastor Pradhan said villagers have threatened that if church members take legal action, they would expel the Christians’ children from government welfare hostels and forbid burials within village limits.

“They also demanded that Christians must fund Adivasi rituals and festivities, and if they refuse to donate, they will not be allowed to avail the government benefits or have the tribal status,” he said.

In the face of the threats, church members have decided not to pursue legal action. Chinchani practices at the Cuttack High Court 500 kilometers (310 miles) away, and the ADF-India team is offering them counsel through local contacts.

Odisha, formerly Orissa state, was the first to pass an anti-conversion law in 1967, attorney Chinchani said. Forbidding conversion by inducement or fraud, the law is commonly misused to file false charges against Christians in attempts to stop the spread of Christianity.

Officer Vivek said villagers alleged that people have converted to Christianity by means of inducement, which the church members deny.

“The former priest had also converted seven other families to Christianity,” he said.

In 1973, the High Court of Orissa declared the anti-conversion law contradicts the Constitution of India’s guarantee of freedom and belief, Chinchani said.

“The court held in its conclusions that article 25(1) of the Constitution ‘guarantees propagation of religion and conversion is a part of the Christian religion,’ that the term ‘inducement’ is vague, and that the state legislature lacked the competence or jurisdiction to make the law in question on the topic of ‘religion’ under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution,” he said. “It has always been a hard time for Christians in this state.”

Odisha’s population of 4.1 million is 93.6 percent Hindu, 2.77 percent Christian and 2.17 percent Muslim, according to the 2011 census.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Fear of Hindu Extremist Violence Ends Christianity in Village in Northern India

(Morning Star News) – The gruesome beating of a pastor’s family in northern India last month showed why a woman who was once Christian returned to Hinduism – and joined the mob attacking them.

“I was among the crowd abusing and accusing the Christian family,” the 30-year-old mother, whose name is withheld for security reasons, told Morning Star News.

Led by Hindu extremists in Udham Singh Nagar District in Uttarakhand state, a mob of 60 to 70 mainly female villagers assaulted 28-year-old pastor Sawan Pol’s father, mother, wife and 10-year-old brother in Bagwala village, near the city of Rudrapur, sources said. The pastor’s wife was holding their 6-month-old son during the assault.

Pastor Pol, who was away on ministry visits during the Nov. 8 attack on his home, said the assailants kicked his young brother in the groin.

“Some men were wearing boots – they kicked my little brother on his private parts with the boots on their feet and injured him so badly that he still cries with severe pain every time he urinates,” Pastor Pol said.

His father, 48-year-old Shyama Prasad, sustained internal injuries to his chest, knee, hands and legs and has pain throughout his body, he said.

“They beat my father, mother and wife in such a way that they would not profusely bleed,” Pastor Pol said. “They have sustained much internal injury. My father and mother are unable to walk. My father is not able to breath normally after he was beaten on his chest.”

Injured leg of Shyama Prasad, father of pastor Sawan Pol in Bagwala village, Uttarakhand state, India. (Morning Star News)

Though about 10 men were among the assailants, initially most of the attackers were women in order to discourage the pastor’s father from fighting back, he said.

“They knew my father would never resist attack by women, knowing well that the crowd would blame him for attempting to compromise a woman’s dignity if he tried to resist,” Pastor Pol told Morning Star News. “Two men caught hold of him while the women attacked him with hands and wooden sticks. My brother was begging the assaulters to leave my father alone, but to no avail.”

The mob then turned to Pastor Pol’s mother and wife, according to the former Christian woman.

“The mob dragged Pastor Sawan’s mother and wife and assaulted them by slapping them with bare hands and sticks,” she said.

She said she feared for her own safety and that of her family if she did not join the mob, but that she could not obey the other women’s calls for her to strike the Christians.

“Not even one woman was left who did not step forward and slap the family,” she said. “After knowing how pious and helpful the family has been not only to me but also to the entire village, I just could not hit them on their face – although I joined the mob to abuse the family, to save my own skin.”

She said she became a Christian and was baptized a few years ago after experiencing several miracles and answers to prayer, but that she grew afraid when a Hindu “holy man,” or Baba, arrived in the village about a year ago. He summoned every woman in the village and demanded that they pay him 5,000 to 10,000 rupees (US$70 to US$140) each or he would harm them and their families with black magic, she said.

“He performed some black magic, threatened us and ordered us to continue to visit him and revere him by touching his feet,” she told Morning Star News. “And all the women of the village have been regularly doing as he says.”

Before his arrival, there were 15 Christian families in Bagwala village, she said.

“All the Christian families, for fear of the Baba, returned to the Hindu faith,” she said. “He threatened me with fatal consequences if I ever went to church again. Baba said that he would harm my children using his black magic, and at no cost can I risk my children’s lives. I am very scared for the safety of my family, and I asked my husband as well to stop going to church.”

She said she knew that the Hindu “holy man” was a fraud, but that she would not risk him and his followers attacking her family as they did Pastor Pol’s family.

“This is the fate of those who will not submit to Baba,” she said. “If I would have resisted, I would undergo the same fate as that of Pastor Pol.”

The followers of the Hindu Baba have spread word throughout the village that no one should attend church services if they wish to safeguard their families, she added.

Police Inaction

In the two-hour assault, the former Christian said, the mob dragged Pastor Pol’s mother and wife and struck them, with his wife shielding their infant son from the blows.

“To save her son, she ran to a corner and hid him in her arms with her back taking all the beatings,” the mob member said.

Pastor Pol’s mother somehow escaped and shut herself in a room; the mob pounded the door with bricks, stones and wooden sticks, trying to break it open and assault her, the former Christian said.

“The mob accused the family of being Christian and carrying out forced conversions as they hit them,” she said, acknowledging, “all their allegations are false and fabricated stories.”

Pastor Pol said his young brother was traumatized.

“My brother was begging the assaulters to leave my father alone, but to no avail,” Pastor Pol said. “My house was completely vandalized when I reached home, and I was devastated to see my father, mother, wife and brother.”

He took his father 19 kilometers (11 miles) to Bilaspur, Uttar Pradesh state, for treatment. Prasad, his father, submitted a complaint at the Rudrapur police station that day, but police did not register a case, Pastor Pol said.

“The police came to our village and spoke to the head man of the village,” he said. “The head man hushed up the case by convincing the police in-charge that he will mediate and strike a compromise between the two groups [attackers and the victims]. So the police did not take any action.”

Pastor Pol later went to the police station to insist on registering a complaint, but the station chief said he would require not only the full names of the assailants but also their parents’ names, as well as their addresses.

“How can I know their mothers’ and fathers’ names and their correct addresses?” Pastor Pol said. “This is a way of demotivating me to pursue the case.”

Without money to hire a lawyer to move the case forward, he said he decided to take it no further with police.

Unwilling to Abandon Christ, Village

Heading an independent church called Jesus’ Followers’ Holy Gathering (Yeshu Bhakat Pavitra Sabha, or YBPS), Pastor Pol said his family has been facing threats for the past year.

His young brother is regularly bullied and threatened at school, he said.

“‘You are Christians, we will not let you settle here,’ is often what he hears while on his way to school,” the pastor said. “If I was alone, I would not fear – even if they cut me to pieces, I would not fear. But I am fearful for my family. Mine is the only Christian family left in the village, everybody else has chosen to leave Christ due to fear.”

He has been forced to stop gatherings in Bagwala, but he continues to lead worship services at nearby villages, he said.

“I cannot leave Christ, nor can I leave the village and go – they [Hindus] will say that we have fled due to fear,” he said. “If I leave, someone else will come [to lead services], but opposition will be strengthened to persecute this new pastor more.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Falsely Accused of Killing Hindu Leader in India, Five Christians Ordered To Be Freed

Journalist Anto Akkara on Indian TV program The Wire (Screenshot from YouTube)

(Morning Star News) – After spending 11 years behind bars for a murder they did not commit, five Christians in eastern India were finally ordered to be freed on Tuesday (Nov. 26), sources said.

The Supreme Court of India issued a decision granting bail to the five Christians from Odisha (formerly Orissa) state falsely accused of killing Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, whose death on Aug. 23, 2008 in Kandhamal District touched off anti-Christian attacks that killed 120 people, destroyed nearly 6,000 homes and displaced 55,000 Christians.

The five Christians remained in jail at this writing. One of the five Christians granted bail this week is reportedly mentally challenged. Because the Supreme Court issued the release on bail, the five Christians and two others freed earlier this year do not have to return unless the high court itself so orders.

“I am really happy that all of them are granted bail,” attorney Anupradha Singh, who represented the Christians, told Morning Star News. “The Honorable Judges granted the bail on the grounds that they have spent over 10 years in jail. Their behavior in the jail was also good, and the same was noted.”

Journalist Anto Akkara, who has been anchoring an online signature campaign at www.release7innocents.com since March 2016, was also elated.

“This is a big victory for truth and justice for Kandhamal,” Akkara, author of “Who Killed Swami Laxmamananda?” told Morning Star News. “I am thrilled.”

Buddhadev Nayak, Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Durjo Sunamajhi, Sanatan Badamajhi and Munda Badamajhi were convicted in 2008. They were arrested by December 2008 along with Gornath Chalanseth and Bijaya Sanaseth, who were also convicted but managed to obtain bail in May and July respectively.

Christian leaders and activists have long maintained that the seven Christians were framed and falsely accused, and that the charge against the mentally challenged Badamajhi typified the absurdity of the charges.

“Considering the fact that the accused-appellant(s) had already undergone 10 years of their sentence as is the case of other accused directed to be released on bail, and taking an overall view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the above-named accused- appellant(s) should also be released on bail on such conditions as may be imposed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Phulbani in S.T. No. 16/18 of 2013-2009,” Supreme Court Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari wrote in their ruling.

The Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), said the legal fight does not end with the granting of bail to the seven accused Christians.

“This is just the first step,” Lal told Morning Star News. “The case still has to be fought at the High Court in Odisha.”

At the same time, Lal said he was glad that the Christians will be able to celebrate Christmas with their families.

“This is like a Christmas gift for them,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Human Rights Law Network, to the Bhubaneswar Cuttack Archdiocese, to [the United Christian Forum’s] John Dayal, ADF [legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom] and to everyone who contributed to securing this first step to their freedom. Special mention should be made of journalist Anto Akkara, who continued to create awareness about this case.”

Attorney Anupradha Singh echoed the sentiment that the quest for justice remains.

“This is a small success because the case is still pending at the High Court,” she told Morning Star News. “We will diligently fight the matter in the High Court.”

Spurious Case

The Reb. Dibya Paricha, a Catholic priest and an attorney based in Odisha state who has coordinated legal matters for the seven Christians, said he was hopeful that they will win acquittal from the High Court.

“They should not have been detained for so many years,” Paricha told Morning Star News. “Politics should not have been involved but, unfortunately, it was. We must understand that people’s lives and liberty are more important. I know personally that they are innocent.”

Attorney Bibhu Dutta Das, who has played an active role in legal matters following the anti-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008, said the accusations lack substance.

“There is no direct evidence against them,” Das told Morning Star News. “Their conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, and it is necessary that the chain of circumstantial evidence be established for conviction, but in this case, it was not so.”

Journalist Akkara expressed his frustration over the lagging legal process.

“Last week the Supreme Court observed that the constitution will lose importance if fundamental rights are not protected,” he told Morning Star News. “When I heard this, I asked myself what this meant for the seven innocents of Kandhamal. It was a shame that those people were still in jail for all those years. I see the bails as a silver lining, and it seems that now we are coming to the edge of the tunnel, towards freedom and truth.”

False Arrests

Hindu extremist leader Saraswati, widely believed to have encouraged violence on Christmas Eve 2007 that damaged 53 church buildings and 700 houses, was killed along with five of his disciples by a mob of armed gunmen at his ashram in Jalespeta, Tumudibandha in 2008. Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda took responsibility for the attack, but Hindu nationalist leaders led by Pravin Togadia alleged a Christian conspiracy.

Togadia marched with the body of Saraswati for 160 kilometers (100 miles) along predominantly Christian areas in order to provoke violence. The ensuing attacks on Christians’ homes and destruction with explosives of church buildings sent thousands of people into the forests.

Soon after Saraswati’s death, the police arrested and detained four Christians, including a 13-year-old boy. The four Christians were reportedly brought to the police station by members of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Togadia, the VHP leader, reportedly announced the names of the arrested Christians arrested before the police could.

The Christians were detained for more than 40 days before police let them go for lack of evidence. Later, however, police proceeded to arrest the seven Christians as scapegoats.

“The first batch of ‘Christian killers’ – four of them were beaten up and dumped in police stations by Sangh Parivar – were later set free by the police after 40 days of investigation,” said Akkara, who also produced a documentary, “Innocents Imprisoned,” on the 10th anniversary of Kandhamal in August 2018. “It was after their release, the seven innocents were arrested in two batches in October and December 2008 from the remote Kotagarh jungle area.”

The seven Christians were convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and rioting by Additional District and Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Tosh on Sept. 30, 2013. Two prior judges presiding over the trial were transferred before Tosh heard the case and delivered the verdict.

Appeals against the judgment from the District and Sessions Court have dragged on since then. Their bail applications were denied, forcing them to appeal to the Supreme Court of India.

“We requested the judges in the High Court again and again, and the matter was listed many times, but was never heard,” attorney Das told Morning Star News. “Finally, when it came to the court of Justice Misra, he said that he will neither hear the case nor will he grant bail and thus rejected the bail applications. So, we had no other option but to come to the Supreme Court.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

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