Indian Christians set Martyrdom Day on July 22 ‎

July 25, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Chhattisgarh, July 25, 2017: A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe July 22 as Martyrdom Day to pay tribute to Christians killed for the sake of their faith.

Shibu Thomas, who initiated the day through his ecumenical forum Persecution Relief said special prayers were offered in Churches across the country.

The observance is “part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life,” Thomas told ucanews.com July 24.

He said July 22 was set as it marked the first anniversary of the rape and murder of a schoolgirl in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh after her family refused to abandon their Christian faith despite several threats.

“This was an act of revenge and intimidation, to get her family to renounce their faith, but they are still firm in their faith despite continuing threats,” Thomas said. “The day is a moral boost for such persons who suffer for the sake of Christ,” he said.

Christian leaders like him say attacks against Christians have increased since 2014 when the pro-the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in a landslide victory. Fundamentalist Hindu groups, who consider BJP as their political wing, took the election victory as a mandate to step up their action to make India a Hindu-only nation.

“The country is going through a very difficult phase where practicing and propagating the Christian faith is a serious challenge now,” Thomas said.

Data collected by Persecution Relief shows that in 2016 alone, Hindu extremists destroyed 106 Christian places of worship, most of them belonging to Protestant and neo-Pentecostal groups.

- ucan

Caste aside: India’s new president Has ‘No Room for Christians’

July 25, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, July 25, 2017: Ram Nath Kovind, India’s new president who took office today, represents an unusual case of a little-known politician from the country’s lowest caste, the Dalits, rising to power.

However, as others champion his victory, India’s Christian minority—the majority of whom are Dalits themselves—know that a Hindu nationalist politician from the Dalit caste is still a Hindu nationalist politician.

Like the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that nominated him, Kovind represents a continued threat to non-Hindus in India, including its estimated 25 million to 60 million Christians. (As CT has noted, that’s a tiny minority amid 1 billion Hindus, but still sizable enough to rank among the 25 countries with the most Christians, surpassing “Christian countries” such as Uganda and Greece.)

If Indian officials were to move forward with anti-conversion legislation or other policies directed at Christians, “he would be a good rubber stamp for the government,” said Sandeep Kumar, a church planter and principal of Mission India Bible College, in an interview with CT. “There is no room for Christians in his understanding.”

Since 2014, India has been led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a BJP leader notorious among Christians for permitting religious freedom violations to spread unchecked. Meanwhile, the position of president is mostly ceremonial and selected by lawmakers.

Kovind’s election this month indicates that the BJP is gaining support among Dalits (once called “untouchables”) with its polarizing vision of India as a nation whose religion, language, and culture is solely Hindu, an ideology known as Hindutva that originated among the higher castes.

When he was a party leader back in 2010, Kovind had remarked that “Islam and Christianity are alien to India” and said that they do not deserve the benefits and quotas assured to others from lowest castes, officially designated as “Scheduled Castes.”

India’s constitution has extended scheduled caste benefits to Buddhists and Sikhs, but not to any other religious minorities, officially leaving Dalit Muslims and Christians out. Most estimates suggest that at least half of India’s Christians are Dalits.

Z. Devasagaya Raj, a priest who oversees Catholic outreach to Dalits, said “the idea of appointing a Dalit person for the coveted post is largely positive but not if ‘the person holds a [pro-Hindu] right-wing ideology,’” according to a UCA News report. Though Modi endorsed Kovind as a representative for the poor and oppressed, Christians have reason to believe that won’t include them.

Samuel Jaykumar, who defends Dalit Christians as a leader with the National Council of Churches in India, told the Catholic news source that he was concerned that Kovind’s presidency would make things worse for Dalit Christians and Muslims.

Kovind’s election on July 17 followed weeks of protests from Christians and Muslims angered by attacks on religious minorities for eating beef, which angered Hindutva extremists due to Hindus’ veneration of cows. (The sale of cattle for slaughter was declared illegal in most of India this spring, until the Supreme Court suspended the ban.)

Kovind’s opponent from the United Progressive Alliance, Meira Kumar, also came from the Dalit class and had a “good track record” in foreign affairs, according to Sandeep Kumar. Regardless of the candidate, it’s uncommon for presidential politics to come up in Indian churches.

“We don’t preach on if someone has been elected and how that could benefit us,” the pastor said. “But we do pray for our country.”

K. R. Narayanan, India’s first Dalit president since the country’s independence, was a better advocate for tolerance for religious minorities when he held office from 1997 – 2002. Having grown up in the disproportionately Christian state of Kerala in southern India and studied at a church-run school, Narayanan condemned the Hindu nationalists thought to be responsible for violence against Muslims and resisted efforts to shift the secular education system.

Catholic and Protestant leaders have joined to pray for their new president.

The next general election in India will take place in 2019. There aren’t promising signs for an alternative that would be friendlier to Christians than the current administration, led by Modi, so most expect that the Hindutva ethos will continue to rule.

Though India is the biggest democracy in the world, its Hindu norms have increasingly restricted Christian freedoms. Open Doors rates the persecution level in the country as “very high.”

Christians will join in demonstrations next month designed to draw attention to the plight of Dalits. According to Asia News:

This August 10th will be a “Black Day” to highlight the discrimination suffered by Dalit Christians in India for 67 years. It is the initiative launched by the Indian Bishops’ Conference (CBCI) Office of Dalits and the Disadvantaged Classes. In recent days, the bishops expressed their solidarity with the new president, Ram Nath Kovind, of Dalit origins. They also want to remind people that the country implements a constitutional-based discrimination against those Dalits that embrace Christianity.

Due to a regulatory crackdown on foreign NGOs, Compassion International was forced to end its child sponsorship operations in India in March, pulling $45 million in funding from its Indian church partners.

- christianity today

Muslims rally behind Kerala writer facing Islamic threat

July 25, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Kozhikode, July 25, 2017: A writer in Kerala facing threats from some fringe Islamic groups has expressed relief after several Muslim leaders of the southern Indian state rallied behind him.

K P Ramanunni had recently received an anonymous letter threatening him with dire consequences if he didn’t convert to Islam within six months.

“The public, social, cultural and political leaders, police and government have stood with me during this period. The support is a good sign and gives me courage,” Ramanunni, a Sahithya Academy Award winner, told twocircles.net. Greater relief came from the visits and calls of support from Muslim leaders, added the progressive writer, who was born a Hindu.

As the news about the threat spread, Muslim leaders such as Youth League leader Panakkad Syed Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal visited him at his residence in Kozhikode along with party leaders P K Firoz to lend their full support. Various other Muslim organizations including Sunni Yuvajana Sangham condemned the threat.

On July 22, the Kerala writer lodged a police complaint saying he received an anonymous threat letter. The letter warned him that his right arm and left leg would be chopped off if he didn’t convert to Islam. The letter, referring to a recent article named ‘a believer to Hindus and Muslims,’ alleged that Ramanunni misguided Muslim youngsters through his writings about Islam.

A columnist in Madhyamam daily run by Jama’t-e Islami Hind, Ramanunni is a regular face in venues and programs hosted by Muslim organizations across the state. His debut novel Sufi Paranja Katha (Story told by Sufi) was based on a love story of a Muslim man and a Hindu woman.

“The letter has been sent by a criminal. It doesn’t matter which religion he belongs to. He is a criminal. Religion has nothing to do with his crime,” Ramanunni said.

“I am not apprehensive of the threat and don’t want to stop. My articles aimed at strengthening communal harmony have got accolades from all corners,” he said.

Police have found the letter was posted from a post office at Manjeri in Malappuram and started collecting CCTV footages from nearby localities. A special team has been constituted under the leadership of Nallalam sub inspector Kailas Nath.

- matters india

Indian police round up 4 suspects in murder case of Christian pastor

July 24, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Ludhiana, July 24, 2017: Indian authorities have rounded up four suspects on Saturday in connection with the murder of a Christian pastor in Ludhiana.

According to Times of India, the police carried out a search operation in Jageerpur, Arjun Colony, Kakke, Bajrna and Bahadur K on Saturday and rounded up four youths in connection with the murder of Pastor Sultan Masih.

The pastor was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants on July 14 while he was talking on the phone outside the Temple of God church in Ludhiana. The attack was captured by CCTV cameras installed at the church, but a police spokesman said that the footage was too dark to make out the faces of the attackers.

Over 200 police officers led by senior officials carried out the search operation which lasted almost six hours.

“The police showed us the CCTV footage and asked if we have seen anyone in our area. Besides, cops also asked about 6-ft men. The police also asked about the bikes and cars owned by villagers,” a villager stated.

“The police noted down names and mobile numbers of several villagers. They also asked not to give house or room on rent to any person without police verification,” another villager said.

Among those arrested was a scrap dealer, a worker at a welding shop and the owner of the welding shop.

The arrests were made on the same day the Christian community threatened to hold protests if the authorities failed to arrest the perpetrators by July 24.

“We will hold Masih’s memorial service on July 24. Till then, the police should be able to arrest the culprits else the Christian community that is living under fear would be forced to hold protest demonstrations in Ludhiana,” said Albert Dua, a representative of the Christian community.

Two days after the shooting, hundreds of Christians took to the streets and blocked off a major national highway for three hours in protest of Masih’s murder. The protesters only agreed to leave after receiving assurances form the police that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, the pastor’s 22-year-old son, Alisha Masih, has revealed that the pastor received death threats on social media before he was shot.

Alisha, who is also training to be a pastor, also noted that his father had been approached by a group of men after an event celebrating the anniversary of his church in May. The men reportedly asked Masih where he found the money to pay for the function attended by about 800 people, and whether he would give them something if they converted to Christianity.

According to Alisha, the pastor told the men that he would not give them anything and that those who converted had done so only because of their belief in Jesus.

Alisha believes that the perpetrators were monitoring his father on the night he was killed, noting that the attackers waited until the pastor was alone before carrying out the shooting.

“Our father was a courageous man and he was never afraid to die for Jesus. He has put the same zeal in us. Our family will continue to serve God,” said Alisha.

- christian times

Believers oppose move to demolish Mar Thoma Church in Kerala

July 24, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Kerala, July 24, 2017: An apse comprising a rare laterite dome. A history of 120 years. The wood that went into its making was hauled along the Manimala river. The Immanuel Mar Thoma Church in Eraviperoor is not without its share of historical and archaeological importance. Believers also claim it is the first church to have tiled roofing among the state’s Mar Thoma Churches.

Why wouldn’t the believers then oppose a move by some members and the clergy to demolish the church? The experts at Vasthuvidya Gurukulam in Aranmula – the government agency for the promotion of traditional architecture under the Culture Department – had said in its 2006 report the apse of the church is an example for rare laterite dome construction.

“The church is in good condition. Five-hundred people can be accommodated with full visibility and audibility. If a CCTV is installed, the number of people can be increased up to 650,” the Gurukulam report said.One of the complainants to the Pathanamthitta District Collector, K V Oommen Karikkattu, told Express the whole of Eraviperoor had participated in the construction of the church.“The materials were brought through the Manimala river,” Oommen said.

“Those days, there were neither vehicles nor any equipment. Giant logs of wood were brought through the river by mere manpower. The balcony, wooden steps, walls and other segments were constructed with unique techniques. Our pioneers said the roof tiles were brought through the river in a country-boat and transported from the riverside by forming a human chain and passing them over.”

The church officials said the number of believers under the church currently has increased to 4,000.“More space is needed for worship and Holy Mass,” a representative said, attempting to justify the decision to demolish the church and build a new one.

However, the opposing section of believers said there are four chapels under the church and the numbers of those participating in various worships are declining. Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the Valiya Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church, has been vocal about the church as a memorable and precious one.

“The church was constructed during the rule of the Travancore kingdom in 1897 with the support of the Shankaramangalam family. Former head of the church Abraham Mar Thoma Metropolitan’s childhood was also connected with the Immanuel Church,” Mar Chrysostom said in his message to the Shankaramangalam family.  The Valiya Metropolitan’s baptism too was conducted at the church.

The history of the Immanuel Church has also found a place in the village history records of the Eraviperoor grama panchayat.

“Edappally kingdom placed old Christian families on the riverbank of Manimala. They installed small churches roofed with coconut leaves. The Immanuel Church was developed as a modern church in those days using tiles for roofing. One metre-long width of the wall of the church was made of lime and one of the bonding material used is surky,” it says.

- new indian express

Bishops: August 10 a ‘black day’ for discriminated Dalit Christians

July 24, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, July 22, 2017: This August 10th will be a “Black Day” to highlight the discrimination suffered by Dalit Christians in India for 67 years. It is the initiative launched by the Indian Bishops’ Conference (CBCI) Office of Dalits and the Disadvantaged Classes. In recent days, the bishops expressed their solidarity with the new president, Ram Nath Kovind, of dalit origins. They also want to remind people that the country implements a constitutional-based discrimination against those Dalits that embrace Christianity.

The constitutional order of 1950 on the “scheduled caste”, signed on August 10, 1950 by the then president of India [Rajendra Prasad, ndr] states that “No person professing a religion other than Hinduism may be considered a member of Scheduled Caste “. Subsequently, the order was modified to include Sikhs (in 1956) and Buddhists (in 1990).

The bishops complain that civil petition 180/2004, which requested the deletion of paragraph 3 of the order of 1950, is still pending before the Supreme Court. That is, they argue that “the constitutional rights of Christian and Muslim Dalit have been denied for 67 years because of religion.” Specifically, ecclesiastical hierarchies believe that paragraph 3 is “unconstitutional, a black page written outside the Constitution and inserted through the black door of an executive order.”

Hence the invitation of Msgr. Anthonisamy Neethinathan, president of the Cbci Office, addressed to all Christians in India, “to observe August 10 as a Black Day in your regions, dioceses and institutions.” The event can take the form of “meetings, rallies, demonstrations, hunger strikes, memorandum, vigil and so on”. Thus, concludes the bishop, “in your areas you can show support and solidarity to the Christians who suffer because of their humble origins. I urge you to use media, and in particular social media, to spread news in civil society. “

- asian news

Goa Archdiocese refutes police arrest of vandal

July 23, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Panaji, July 22, 2017: Police in the western Indian state Goa have arrested a mentally unstable person for the destruction of numerous crosses, following a probe that a church team described as “scripted.”

Police arrested Francis Xavier Pereira, 55, saying he is “a radicalized former convict” and since 2003 has vandalized some 150 religious structures to “free trapped souls.” Police said the suspect is mentally unstable and was “seeking publicity” through vandalism.

However, a church-initiated fact finding team studying the vandalism rejected police claims. The police are following “a familiar script” that is being followed across the country “to pacify civil society and affected communities and divert attention from the actual perpetrators,” according to a Goa archdiocesan statement released July 15.

Some 50 crosses have been destroyed since June in Catholic-stronghold areas in the southern part of Goa. Church leaders suspect that it was a crime to divide Christians and Hindus in the state, where the government is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

The latest incident was on July 10 when some some 40 crosses were destroyed at a Catholic cemetery. It was the largest single act of destruction, with police claiming that some heavy machinery was used to destroy and even dig up graves.

- ucan

Bishops welcome India’s new president with caution

July 23, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, July 22, 2017: Catholic bishops have welcomed the election of India’s new president and are hopeful he can lead the nation toward peace, development and justice for all.

Ram Nath Kovind, nominated by a coalition led by the pro- Hindu ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won more than 65 percent of the votes to be elected to the largely ceremonial role of president, July 20.

The BJP presented Ram Nath Kovind, who is considered a leader of the socially oppressed Dalit group (formerly untouchables), as its candidate for president, June 19.

Kovind said he would be the representative of the poor and farmers in Raisina Hill, where the 340-room presidential palace is located near to the Indian parliament.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India offers its “prayers for his good health, wisdom and strength” so he might lead the country “toward peace, development and justice for all peoples,” said Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas in a statement.

The bishops pray that “God may assist” Kovind to lead the country as “per the oath of office,” and that he will “devote himself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of India,” the statement said.

The bishops’ call to Kovind to uphold the constitution exudes the general air of apprehension from religious minorities that the appointment will present little resistance to the pro-Hindu BJP and their parliamentary majority.

Echoing the views of the Catholic bishops, Samuel Jaykumar of the National Council of Churches in India, told ucanews.com he “hopes the new president follows the constitution and retains its values.”

The presidential election was held on July 17 amid reports of protests and campaigns against growing intolerance and violence based on religion.

Hindu vigilante groups and extremists are accused of attacking religious minorities in the name of protecting the cow, a revered animal in Hinduism, and preventing the consumption of beef.

Constitutionally, India is secular nation that applies equal respect to all religions. However, hard-line Hindu groups, under the political patronage of the BJP, have been working to create a nation of Hindu hegemony.

Some leaders have called for amendments in the constitution to alter the secular character of the nation.

Kovind had been earlier embroiled in a controversy when, as a BJP leader in 2010, he said “Islam and Christianity are alien to India.”

He further suggested people from these religions should not be given social benefits or quotas for government jobs and educational institutions, even if they come from a poor socio-economic backgrounds.

Vijayesh Lal, executive director of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told ucanews.com he hopes the “new president, just as the previous president, will act above party politics.”

The term of the current president Pranab Mukherjee, a nominee of the opposition Congress party, ends on July 24. The president-elect will be sworn in on July 25.

- ucan

SC asks Centre, states not to protect any kind of vigilantism

July 23, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Delhi, July 21, 2017: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre and the states not to protect any kind of vigilantism and sought their response on violent incidents of cow vigilantism.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra was informed by the Centre that law and order is a state subject but it does not support any kind of vigilantism in the country.

“You say that law and order is a state subject and states are taking actions as per law. You don’t protect any kind of vigilantism,” the bench, also comprising A M Khanwilkar and MM Shantanagoudar, said.

It also sought the assistance of the Centre and states for removing violent content related to cow vigilantism uploaded on social media.

“Law and order is a state subject and Central government does not have any role into it. However, Union of India is of the view that no vigilante group has any space in the country as per procedures of law. It does not support any kind of vigilantism by private persons,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said.

Counsel appearing for BJP-ruled Gujarat and Jharkhand informed the court that appropriate action has been taken against those involved in violent activities related to cow vigilantism.

The bench recorded their submission and asked the Centre and other states to file their report regarding to the violent incidents in four weeks time and posted the matter for further hearing on September 6.

The apex court had on April 7 sought the response of six states on the plea, filed on October 21 last year, seeking action against cow vigilantes who were allegedly indulging in violence and committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities.

Activist Tehseen S Poonawalla, in his plea, said violence committed by these ‘Gau Raksha’ groups have reached such proportions that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared them as people who were “destroying the society”.

The plea also alleged that these groups were committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities in the name of protecting cows and other bovines and they needed to be “regulated and banned in the interest of social harmony, public morality and law and order in the country”.

“The menace caused by the so-called cow protection groups is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes,” the petition submitted.

The plea sought to declare as “unconstitutional” section 12 of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1954, Section 13 of Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1976, and Section 15 of Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, which provide for protection of persons acting in good faith under the Act or rules.

Seeking action against the vigilantes, the petition said the atrocities committed by them were punishable under various provisions of IPC and under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989.

- economic times

No clear lead in pastor killing case

July 21, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Ludhiana, July 20, 2017: Even though a team, led by Commissioner of Police RN Dhoke, has been working overnight to get some clue to the killing of Pastor Sultan Masih, sources said SIT had got nothing conclusive about the assailants.

Masih, the pastor at the Slem Tabri church in Ludhiana, was shot dead by two unidentified men on a motorcycle on July 15 night.

The special investigation team is headed by DCP-Crime Gagan Ajit Singh.

“Till the time we don’t have information about the entry and exist routes of the assailants, our probe is not going even a step further. We also don’t have clue about the motive of the killers which is also stopping the probe from moving further. Despite having scanned CCTV footage of dozens of cameras, we are not having any clue to the bike-borne assailants’ entry or exit route. We only have footage of a CCTV camera installed on the church, which is hazy,” said a senior police official while talking to Ludhiana Tribune.

When DGP Suresh Arora visited the spot, he also hinted at not having any clue about the assailants. He had just hinted that the police were exploring the angle of terrorist attack in the case.

The sources said the police were also not yet clear about the bike the killers were riding. So far, the police were relying only on the eyewitness account by two children who said the assailants were on a Pulsar.

The source said apart from exploring other angles, the police had also been exploring the angle of personal enmity. “We are digging deep into the personal profile of the pastor to know if he ever had any scuffle or enmity with anyone over some religious issue or anything else.

- tribune

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