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India (Morning Star News) – 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.
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.”
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.
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.
Photo: Church building demolished on Jan. 9, 2019 in Narnepadu village, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News)
(Voice of the Persecuted) Our foreign correspondent (Asia) reported to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) that blasphemy charges were laid against Bhola Ram, a 45-year old Hindu man, Vishal Tariq (18) and Adil Saleem Masih (25), both Christians. All three were employed at Civil Hospital Dunga Bunga as sweepers.
Bhola Ram, a government employee, is the main suspect in the case. He was relocated from Chak Panj Kosi, Southern Punjab to Donga Bunga. Ram had been transferred to work at Civil Hospital Dunga Bunga and an employees’ quarter was sanctioned for his stay. Among other things, he found the quarters filled with hospital records. He asked Dr. Kashif Nazir, the doctor in charge, about the records and was told to move them to the next room.
After Ram moved the records, he gathered all the trash and took it outside to be burned. While the trash was on fire, he saw what appeared to be pages containing verses of the Quran and he panicked. Not able move fast enough, due to a previously broken leg, he asked the two Christian boys to get the pages out of the fire.
VOP’s correspondent said,
“It’s worth noting that the Christians were so afraid of the situation that they risked themselves by going directly into the flames to save the pages. As a result, the hands and feet of both boys were burned.”
The report continued that a female health worker reported that Bhola Ram and the boys had burned pages of the Quran. Like wildfire, the news spread quickly causing journalists and locals to rush to the scene. It was alleged that the 3 accused were beaten by the people, but they denied it under pressure from the police.
The initial police report (FIR no. 1014/2017) was registered on September 28, 2017 against Bhola Ram and Vishal Tariq under section 295-B (Blasphemy law), 435, 201 and 109 of the Pakistani penal code. Muhammad Farooq, sub inspector at the police station, was the complainant. Adil Saleem Masih was not named in the report as one of the accused, but still alleged to be part of the incident. The FIR claimed the complainant received a call from a local journalist about the incident. When the police arrived at the scene, they were briefed of the situation and asked Dr. Nazir to write a statement and submit it to the police. In his statement, Dr. Nazir deliberately didn’t mention the burning of pages containing Quranic verses.
Ata-ur-Rehman, a district police officer (DPO) of Bahawalnagar, dismissed the FIR due to the support of the local lawyer community. They argued that Bhola Ram, being illiterate, could’nt have done what he was accused of. Religious groups present insisted the matter be brought to investigation, but DPO Ata ur Rehman maintained his position.
This is only one event where the accused have been freed without any damage, but there is no surety that they will be safe from violence or murder at the hands of extremists, warned the VOP correspondent.
Life-and-death Issue in Pakistan
Pakistan’s blasphemy cases have often evoked anger among groups in the majority Muslim country. This has led to extreme violence by large vigilante mobs and hardliners. Sadly, some have been murdered though later found innocent. Such was the case with Shahzad Masih (28yr) and his pregnant wife, Shama (25yr) who were brutally tortured, thrown into a brick kiln furnace and burned to death in an act of sheer barbarism by a vicious mob. The couple had three young children. See our report
Often the accused are continually considered guilty of blasphemy even though they have been exonerated from all charges. AMNESTY International shared that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used against religious minorities and others who are the target of false accusations, while emboldening vigilantes prepared to threaten or kill the accused.
The report, “As good as dead”: The impact of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, shows how people accused of blasphemy face a grueling struggle to establish their innocence. Even if a person is acquitted of the charges against them and released, usually after long delays, they can still face threats to their life. View report
We witnessed this in the case of a young, mentally-challenged girl falsely accused of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih was arrested in August 2012 and accused of burning the pages of some Islamic texts. She was jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the Islamabad Christian neighborhood where her family lived. The charge against Rimsha was brought to the attention of the global community and caused international outcry. The case against her later collapsed after police were informed the cleric of the mosque in Rimsha’s area had planted the burned pages on her. Pakistani courts eventually threw out the charges citing a lack of evidence, which angered many. The cleric was arrested for the false accusation, but later released without penalty, again, due to lack of evidence.
Following the infamous blasphemy case over 400 Christian families from her neighborhood were forced to flee due to serious threats. Rimsha, who had faced the possibility of the death penalty, was secretly evacuated from the country and given asylum in Canada where she now resides with her family.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and for those who’ve fled persecution to seek asylum, but now face extreme hardship and discrimination in places such as Thailand.
VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
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India (Morning Star News) – Villagers in Uttar Pradesh state, India beat Christians, forced them to participate in Hindu rituals and have refused to provide them water, sources said.
Four families who were attacked in Jalalabad village, Ghazipur District rely on the water to irrigate their fields, they said.
“How will we survive if we don’t grow our crops?” Sasikala Kumari asked Morning Star News, noting that the village head and police have allowed the Hindus to cut off the Christians water supply. “They have all joined together and are conspiring against us.”
Hindu villagers on April 25 beat with sticks Manoj Kumar, his wife Pushpa Kumari and three other Christian couples, including Sasikala Kumari and her husband Ramkreet Ram – and accused them of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity.
“The mob supported by the village president forced us to drink gangajal [water from the Ganges River, considered holy), eat tulsi [basil considered holy] leaves and declare that we deny Christ,” Pushpa Kumari told Morning Star News. “When we resisted, the men and women of the village beat us even more severely.”
The four couples along with four other Christians refused to participate in the ritual or deny Christ. A total of 13 other younger Christians felt compelled to participate in the Hindu ritual and deny Christ, they said.
“The youths were forced by the extremists to consume gangajal and tulsi leaves and deny Christ,” Pushpa Kumari told Morning Star News. “The village president instigates the mob to attack whoever converts to Christianity.”
When the Christians went to the Dullapur police station to file a complaint against the assailants, village President Santosh Kumar Gupta arrived also and accused them of forcible conversion.
Gupta denied that he and the other Hindus pressured the Christians to deny Christ and participate in the Hindu ritual, telling Morning Star News that the incident was a mere quibble between the two groups.
The matter went before police, he said.
Manoj Kumar, who leads prayers in his house on Sundays since the families do not have the means to travel into town for worship, said police listened to both sides.
“The villagers were against us, they made false allegations that we are forcibly converting the people,” Manoj Kumar said. “The police asked the villagers to let anyone follow their own Dharma [religious teaching] peacefully, and that nobody shall disturb the prayer services in the village’s house church.”
In the presence of the village head, the Hindu villagers said they would abide by the police request, and neither side filed a formal complaint. The agreement, however, made no mention of water service, and the villagers have refused to sell it to the Christians.
“As a result, we aren’t allowed our share of supply of water in the fields,” Manoj Kumar told Morning Star News. “We are ready to pay the hourly price, but the president and villagers have decided to not let us irrigate. Our field is going dry; it’s burned dead.”
Village President Gupta told Morning Star News he cannot prevent the Hindus from cutting off the Christians’ water.
“As far as the problem about the supply of water, it’s personal,” he said. “If nobody in the village wants to sell them water from the bore wells, it’s their personal choice.”
Asked if a basic commodity like water can be denied to a people on religious grounds in a secular country like India, Gupta said the families have not complained to him about it. Had they come, he said, he would have resolved it.
The families said the village president’s statement was untrue.
“We went to him twice now,” Pushpa Kumari said. “Gupta’s wife told us to bring the attackers to their house, and she will solve our problem. Why would the attackers come?”
The Christians approached the village head a third time on Wednesday (June 14), but they said he only told them, “You must get down from your high horse. Stop the worship services in the village. Stop following Christ, only then water will be supplied to your fields.”
Some of the attackers, identified only as Vijay, Hari, Rajender, Mukh Lal and Sonu, are part of a village committee that aids of the village president, Manoj Kumar said.
The sub-inspector of police of Dullapur in whose presence the matter was settled in the first week of May declined to comment, saying he had been transferred to another post.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.
Forced conversion to Islam of Christian and Hindu girls continues to rise in Pakistan. A recent report launched by the MSP (Movement for Solidarity and Peace) revealed that 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls, aged between 12 and 25, are forced to convert to Islam every year. It is estimated that Christian girls make up 70 per cent of this number, while Hindus make up the remainder.
The revelations are extremely alarming as minorities make up only five per cent of the country’s population where Muslims are the overwhelming majority. This is taking place against a backdrop where minorities are already feeling very insecure and vulnerable, placing them at unimaginable risk.
Christians are poor and 80 to 85 per cent of them live in the Punjab province, with 40 per cent of them living below the poverty line. I can see this number growing in the future, not just because the government has no interest but also because the Christian political and church leadership have no interest whatsoever either.
In villages the majority of poor Christians work with the landowners, while in urban areas poor Christian girls and women work as domestic servants where they are sexually abused, harassed, sometimes forced to convert to Islam, and are even killed on occasion.
I remember the case of 12-year-old Christian girl Shazia Bashir who was killed by her employer. I am not aware of anybody being punished for the crime.
Christian girls are the weakest and most vulnerable because their communities are poor, defenceless and marginalised, therefore they easily exposed to harassment and threats. Often they do not even have the courage to denounce the violence or lodge complaints about the treatment they suffer.
The findings in the new report do not come as a surprise, as a few years ago the HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) made similar revelations. But unfortunately the government institutions keep denying these facts and have failed to implement any change.
These facts and figures have been taken from a major newspaper and NGOs working on this issue, and it is thought the actual number could be much higher as many cases of forced conversion go unreported because influential locals and religious leaders are often involved.
Even if they dare to report the matter to the police, such cases are hardly registered and if the case is registered the complainants are threatened to withdraw the case. If the case does somehow reach court, justice is hardly done and therefore many cases go unreported. In many cases even if the abducted person is produced, she gives a statement in favour of her abductor stating that she converted to Islam and married by her own free will.
This is because they are terrified, as throughout the proceedings they are in their abductor’s custody, instead of being with their parents, or in independent accommodation and a fear-free environment. Under duress and the threat of their parents and families being killed, young girls are forced to give statements saying that they converted of their own accord.
I have studied many cases and reached the conclusion that whenever the girls get the chance, they escape from their abductors, like the case of Nadia Naira who has returned to her parents after 10 years. There are several such examples.
The police are normally inactive and reluctant to register such cases, where Christian or non-Muslims girls are kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam and then married to their Muslim abductor.
Magistrates and lower courts have failed to implement the law, sometimes they are pressurised by the local religious and political leaders, but are mostly complicit. Even the Supreme Court has failed to uphold international norms of justice in non-Muslim cases and use the available selective procedures.
The adult age for Christian girls in Pakistan is 18, while under Islamic laws, there is no age limit for a Muslim. But courts sometimes override the non-Muslim personal law and decide the case under Muslim law, like in 2009 when two Christian sisters Saba Younis, aged 13, and her sister, Anila Younis, 10, were abducted.
CLAAS, a Christian NGO, was directly involved in this case, but at the end of the day, the judge decided their case under the Islamic law and sent Saba with her husband, while Anila returned to her family. CLAAS objected and called it a miscarriage of justice protesting that the decision did not meet the international criteria, but since it was a matter of Christian girls, no one cared.
I have understood from several cases that the practice of forced conversion is well organised and well established, and to seek immunity from the crime, the culprits obtain conversion certificates from local mosques and change their names too.
Sometimes counter FIRs (first information police reports) are registered to harass the girl’s family. The abducted girls are threatened and are forced to sign sometimes blank papers, and sometimes a statement that she has embraced Islam by her own free will, just to save their and their families’ lives.
Sometimes they are told that since they have become Muslim they cannot reconvert to Christianity as it would be considered apostasy. In such circumstances they have no choice but to accept the hand fate has dealt them, and suffer in silence in the custody of their abductors.
They are not allowed to see their parents and other relatives, and are kept under tight security – nothing short of modern day slavery and a serious violation of fundamental and human rights.
In such cases the victim may be subjected to sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking, sale or domestic abuse.
Pakistan is considered one of the toughest and most hostile countries for minorities. Religious extremism, hatred, and religious intolerance continues to grow and exacerbate the misery of young Christian girls.
Religious freedom should be recognised as a fundamental right as Pakistan is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is hardly applied in practice.
Apart from the that, Pakistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and several other international treaties and instruments which explicitly talk about religious freedom and women rights, but Pakistan is a country where the value of human rights has no significance and when it comes to the matter of minorities nobody cares.
The human rights situation continue to deteriorate and the international community has raised its concern on several occasions, and the recent GSP-plus status granted to Pakistan was linked to the human rights situation improving, but Pakistan is well practised in the art of fooling the West.
Apart from international treaties, Pakistan’s own constitution includes several articles referring to religious freedom, protection of minorities, and equality before the law. Despite this, minorities are unfortunately rarely allowed to enjoy their rights and live under constant fear of their lives.
Minorities are demanding new legislation to stop this enduring situation, but the court has said that there is no need for new laws.
The government has also failed to address this problem so it means their misery will worsen in the coming years. Hindus and Christians have already started migrating to India and other countries because Pakistan’s laws have failed to protect their honour, and for these women honour and life are all they have.
Forcible conversion to Islam in Pakistan in the 21st century is an open challenge for everybody who believes in equality, justice, religious freedom and human rights. Minorities are losing faith in the government and courts. There is a loathsome continuation of dual discrimination towards women, as females and as members of minority communities. It is a serious issue of survival for minorities in Pakistan and the international community must pay attention to stop the continuous violation of the fundamental and human rights of minorities.
By Nasir Saeed, Pakistan Christian Post
INDIA, March 26, 2014 (Morning Star News) – A police station official in India’s Jharkhand state this month reviled Christians who sought protection after Hindu extremists beat and threatened to kill them for refusing to convert to Hinduism, area church leaders said.
Accusing Christian leaders of forcible conversion, the Hindu extremists earlier this month attempted to forcibly convert several church members after disrupting a home worship service, beating them and parading them half-naked through the street, area pastor Rampath Nath told Morning Star News.
Police subsequently registered a case of forcible conversion against four Christians, he said.
Virender Singh, the police official at the station in Patratu Thana, Ramgarh District, verbally abused the Christians who fled their homes, rebuked them and sent them away without taking their complaint after the Hindu extremists beat them on two consecutive days, stripped off their clothes and chased them from Pali village, Nath said.
Some 10 Hindu extremists stormed into the March 4 worship meeting at the house of pastor Tilas Bedia at 7 p.m. and began beating the Christians, including the pastor’s 60-year-old mother, Christian leaders said.
“The extremists asked the Christians why they are following Christ when they should be worshipping their tribal god and threatened to kill them if they continued to follow Christ,” Nath said. “They left after they told the Christians that they will teach them a lesson the next day.”
On March 5 at about 11 a.m. a mob of extremists appeared, led by Suresh Upadia, leader of the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, and village head Rohan Bedia. They dragged several Christians from their homes to the compound of the village head, who summoned a public meeting.
“The extremists dragged about 15 people who come to our prayer meetings,” said Jodhan Bedia, a pastor at the church. “They let us stand in the middle and started to verbally abuse us for following Christ, for being low-caste, and warned us to convert back to Hinduism or face harm.”
Several terrified church members denied they were Christians, pastors said.
“They ran off after saying they were Hindus,” Tilas Bedia said, “and two teenage girls who did not deny Christ were forcefully ‘converted’ back to Hinduism.”
Manita Kumari, 16, and Meenu Kumari, 17, refused to renounce Christ, he said.
“The extremists slapped them, verbally abused them for their faith in Christ, threatening them that they will never find a husband if they remain Christians, and forced them to worship Hindu idols at the spot,” he said.
The extremists continued to mock and beat Tilas Bedia, and his brother, Chandra Bedia, as well as the latter’s family; they also beat Jodhan Bedia.
“We told the extremists that we are ready to leave our house, but we cannot leave Christ,” Tilas Bedia said.
The Hindu nationalists slapped and kicked the Christians and struck them with their hands, slippers and clubs. The mother of Tilas and Chandra Bedia fell to the ground from the beating, spraining her ankle as her face swelled up from the blows, they said.
The extremists then dragged Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia and another Christian leader along a road, paraded them half-naked as they jeered and beat them, and dragged them to the outskirts of the village.
“They forced us to sign on a blank paper and told us that we will be cut into pieces if we ever return to the village,” Tilas Bedia said. “They said, ‘Those who worship Jesus cannot stay in the village.’”
The three Christians, who converted to Christianity about four years ago, sustained bruises and marks on their backs, and swelling on their faces and other areas, Nath said.
“On March 10, we received a copy of a First Information Report registered against pastor Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia, pastor Jodhan Bedia and myself by police officer Virender Singh of forceful conversion,” Nath said.
Singh was not available for comment, but Ramgarh Superintendent of Police Shri Ranjit Kumar Singh told Morning Star News that he had received the Christians’ police complaint and had sent a deputy to investigate.
“Nobody can say anything about the faith that a person chose,” the superintendent said. “The Constitution of India has given the right to each individual to follow the faith that he or she likes. Appropriate action will be taken against the culprits.”
The pastors were scheduled to appear before a judge on April 4. Area Christian leaders said there was no instance of forceful conversion by the accused.
Since Tilas Bedia, Chandra Bedia and Jodhan Bedia began following Christ, their families have been shunned and boycotted and have faced continual threats, Nath said.
“They are not allowed to fetch water from the public well, they are not allowed to walk on the main road and they were prohibited from buying and selling in the village,” Nath said. “They were often beat up and verbally abused and warned to renounce Christ or face harm.”
Morning Star News
Please pray for Christians in India as they stand for their faith in Christ. Pray for their persecutors, that their hearts will be softened and they to will find their way to the Lord. Let the faith of those persecuted inspire you own faith in the Lord. If faced with severe persecution, is your faith in Christ strong enough to stand?
(Morning Star News) – The worst anti-Christian pogrom of the 21st century has come not from Islamic extremists but from Hindu nationalists in India, an expert told a hearing in which U.S. President Barack Obama was challenged to quickly fill a key religious freedom post.
John L. Allen, Jr., author of “The Global War on Christians,” today told the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations that one reason Christians are increasingly persecuted is that Christianity is expanding in countries where religious freedom is lacking. Some states in India are prime examples. While most estimates of deaths from the 2008 attacks in India’s Orissa (now Odisha) state are around 100, Allen said the figure could be as high as 500.
“India’s northeastern state of Orissa was the scene of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century,” he said. “In 2008, a series of riots ended with as many as 500 Christians killed, many hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals, and thousands more injured and at least 50,000 left homeless.”
Tehmina Arora, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom-India (ADF-India), told the subcommittee that the impunity that violent mobs enjoy is an important factor in anti-Christian persecution in India.
“Police resist filing criminal complaints and have on several instances allegedly threatened to falsely incriminate victims in some cases,” she said. “The hostility of the state machinery towards the victims of communal and targeted violence was most evident in the aftermath of the violence in Orissa. The National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal, a private inquiry titled ‘Waiting for Justice’ clearly outlined the apathy of the state administration towards the victims and their families. The report also highlighted the fear faced by victims and survivors as well as the refusal of police to register complaints.”
In many cases, only orders from the High Court in Orissa prompted police to file First Information Reports against assailants, Arora said. In one case, a Christian whose house was burned down filed a FIR but no case was registered against the named suspects.
“I was attacked during the 2008 riot and my house was burnt,” Gajana Digal told ADF-India. “I lodged an FIR in the local police station, Tikabali, which was not registered against the accused persons … I have repeatedly sought help from the local police station for my protection but no action was taken in spite of my petition dated 19 May 2010 against the criminals with specific names like Dahia Mallick, Sudhira Pradhan, Ajiban Mallick, Mantu Gauda and Biranchi Behera. My petition was not registered and no action was taken against the accused persons.”
As in other states, the government of Orissa has failed to effectively prosecute those accused of carrying out violent attacks against the Christian community, Arora said. Though the Orissa government claims it took strict action against the accused, statistics show that of 827 FIRs filed, charges were brought in only 512. Just 75 cases ended in convictions, with only 477 people convicted, primarily for smaller or “petty” offences such as burning of houses and damaging property, she said.
“Only nine people have been convicted for their role in killing of the Christians,” Arora told the subcommittee. “Human right activists claim that as many as 84,000 people were accused by the victims in the over 2,500 complaints sent to the police. The acquittals have been due to shoddy investigation and lack of judicial oversight.”
In several murder cases, police failed to gather key forensic evidence such as bone fragments after mobs set bodies on fire; nor did they produce key witnesses at trial, she said.
“Police also failed to provide adequate protection to witnesses, many of whom later retracted their statements made to the police allegedly due to fear and intimidations,” Arora said. “Even years after the violence, Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa continue to live in fear, unable in many parts to return to their homes and fields. They have been threatened and coerced to convert to Hinduism.”
Elliott Abrams, a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told the subcommittee that lack of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom has sent a message of apathy to countries that routinely persecute religious minorities.
“The president last week at the National Prayer Breakfast suggested a nomination would be coming quickly – I hope so, because this is the key official within the U.S. government in the executive branch, coordinating and developing U.S. policy for international religious freedom,” Abrams said. “And if there is a long vacancy, it weakens the attention of the executive branch, it weakens the efforts of the executive branch, and it sends a message to countries around the world of inattention and lack of concern.”
Obama left the post vacant until midway through his second year in office, finally nominating Susan Johnson Cook on June 15, 2009. The Senate put a hold on her nomination, which then expired at the end of the 111th session of Congress on Jan. 3, 2011; she was re-nominated and confirmed in April 2011, but she resigned in October of last year.
The Obama administration has not set a timeline to nominate another ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Obama, whose administration has come under criticism for limiting the definition of religious freedom and doing little to protect it, defended his record before the 3,500 people at the prayer breakfast on Thursday (Feb. 6).
Asserting that promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, Obama appeared to agree with long-time pleas from advocacy groups that the White House regard international religious freedom as an integral part of national security.
“History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people – including the freedom of religion – are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful,” he said. “Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So freedom of religion matters to our national security.”
Obama also called on Iran to release imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini and on North Korea to free missionary Kenneth Bae.
At the subcommittee hearing, which was live-streamed this morning, chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), asked USCIRF Commissioner Abrams why the administration has been slow to designate violators of religious freedom as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) as directed by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
“The system is not working the way it was established in the Act – it hasn’t under several administrations, it’s not just the Obama administration,” Abrams said. “The Obama administration made CPC designations only once in the first four years, and the Act requires it every year.”
Such inaction sends a message to other governments that the United States does not care about violations of religious freedom, Abrams said. The IRFA empowers the United States to impose sanctions on countries designated as CPCs.
“There are a lot of things that can be done,” Abrams told the subcommittee. “On the sanctions angle, all too often there are no sanctions or there’s a doubling – you have a country that’s under some other sanction, and so you say, ‘Well, that’s for [lack of] religious freedom too.’
“There’s lots of flexibility, and I’m afraid we’re not using it, so the message that comes across is one of inattention. The CPC system, I would say, is broken.”
Increasing incidents of attacks on pastors and churches have alarmed the Christian community in the state prompting the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC) to lodge a complaint with Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy on Saturday. Officials said in the last two years, 76 incidents were reported in the state.
On January 11, pastor P Sanjeev of Vikarabad in Ranga Reddy was stabbed to death outside his house by four persons. Police arrested activists of Hindu Vahini for the murder. On December 13, pastor Nama Moses and his wife were attacked at Narketpally in Nalgonda district. In November, pastor Talla Christopher was attacked in the same district by two persons and on the same day pastor of Ippathi church G Niladri Pal was attacked. On October 16, a pastor in Budvel in Ranga Reddy districts was dragged out of his home and beaten up.
Pastors of many churches in Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Kurnool, East and West Godavari have also complained of threats and intimidation. Police arrested a few activists of Hindu Vahini for the attack on the Vikarabad pastor P Sanjeev of Hebron Church. “A few days before the attack there was an altercation in which a few persons came and accused the pastor of organising forcible conversions. On January 11 four persons knocked on the door and when pastor Sanjeev opened, they asked him to accompany to pray for a dying person. He was stabbed when he stepped out ,” said Inspector V L Ram.
A delegation of APFC, a state-level apex body of archbishops, bishops and heads of mainline churches and major Christian denominations representing the Christian community in the state, had a meeting with the CM and requested him to make efforts to rein in the Hindu Vahini and extremist elements involved. APFC president Archbishop Thumma Bala and others submitted the memorandum.
“Some of those arrested told the police the conspiracy and systematic plan of the Hindu Vahini for attacking and killing of the pastors all over the state. Now with the general elections around, we fear there is an attempt to whip up trouble by attacking Christians,’’ Father Thumma said. The APFC demanded that the government ban Hindu Vahini to guarantee the security of Christians.
Written by Janyala Sreenivas
Reblogged via The Indian Express
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – The gang that knocked on the door of a pastor’s home in Andhra Pradesh state and stabbed him to death earlier this month consisted of Hindu extremists, authorities said.
State police have arrested seven of the eight members of the Hindu Vahini group accused of attacking pastor Orucanti Sanjeevi on Jan. 10 at his home in Vikarabad, 64 kilometers (39 miles) from the state capital of Hyderabad, Area Deputy Superintendent of Police J. Ram Mohan Roa told Morning Star News. The other suspect is absconding, he said.
Pastor Sanjeevi, 48, succumbed to his injuries on Jan. 13.
“The key member of this module is Gandikota Srinu, alias RK, a full-time member of the Hindu Vahini, and these same people attempted to kill another pastor in Narketpally,” Roa said.
The Rev. Madhusudan Das of the Evangelical Fellowship of India said the Hindu extremists were upset about Christian growth in the area.
“The area where the pastor was killed was a strongly Hindu-dominated area,” Das said. “However, the church has seen growth as many people decided to follow Christ. The extremists harbored strong resentment against the pastor for the same reason.”
A large throng of Christians had besieged the state chief minister’s office on Jan. 14, protesting the killing and demanding justice, with police detaining some of the protestors.
At about 8:30 p.m. on the night of the attack, the Hindu extremists knocked on the door of the pastor’s house, claiming they wanted to pray with him, sources said. When his wife, Pramila, opened the door, they hit her with an iron rod, they said.
The Hindu extremists then stormed into the house, stabbed the pastor, beat him with clubs and hit him on the head with an iron rod. His wife managed to run out and call for help.
“The pastor was lying in a pool of blood when some people came to help him,” area Christian leader Franklin Sudharkar told Morning Star News. “The attack lasted only about 10 minutes, but the pastor sustained severe injuries as he was stabbed in the liver, intestines and spleen.”
He was rushed to a hospital and put on ventilator, but he succumbed to his injuries at about 3 p.m. on Jan. 13.
Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Churches, told Asia News that members of a Hindu extremist group had engaged the pastor in a heated discussion about three months ago and threatened him.
Pastor Sanjeevi had overseen the 250-member Hebron Church in Vakirabad.
The attack appeared to be well-planned, and police believe the extremists have made a hit list of targets, Roa said.
On Dec. 29, he said, the same Hindu extremists knocked on the door of the house of Baptist pastor Nama Moses in Narketpally, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) from Vakirabad, and attacked him in a similar way. The pastor opened the door thinking the person knocking was seeking shelter, said Moses Vatipalli of the All India Christian Council (AICC).
“One extremist with a knife barged into the house and started stabbing the pastor and the wife while two were standing outside,” Vatipalli told Morning Star News. “The pastor received nine stab wounds, and his wife sustained seven stitches on her head where the extremist hit her with an iron rod.”
The couple received hospital treatment for 15 days, and the pastor was still on bed-rest at press time.
Roa added that the assailants “held grudges against the Christian couple, as his grandparents started attending Christian meetings regularly.”
In the same area on Aug. 9, 2011, masked Hindu extremists attacked pastor Jaya Raj and an unidentified church member at midnight at the pastor’s home. The assailants broke Raj’s left hand and broke his nose, and the other Christian sustained severe injuries to his head, reported the AICC. Both of them received hospital treatment.