Christians face “intimidation and violence”

May 22, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Myanmar, May 18, 2017: Despite Myanmar (Burma) taking encouraging steps towards greater democracy, many of the country’s Christians continue to face severe persecution from the Buddhist majority. The independent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom documented the situation in Myanmar in their latest report, stating that “discriminatory restrictions on land ownership, intimidation and violence against Christians, the forced relocation and destruction of Christian cemeteries, violent attacks on places of worship, and an ongoing campaign of coerced conversion to Buddhism.”

Most of Myanmar’s Christians come from non-Burman ethnic minorities and these groups continue to be singled out. The government’s long-running war against Kachin separatists has “deeply impacted Christian and other faith communities, including by restricting their access to food, shelter, health care, and other basic necessities.” Thousands of Kachin Christians have lost their homes and live in camps.

Children in ethnic minority Christian communities are particularly vulnerable: “there are 33 Na Ta La [Buddhist] schools across the country, more than half of which are in rural, impoverished Chin, Kachin, and Naga areas. The Na Ta La schools offer free education and boarding to children of poor families who might otherwise not have access to education. In return, however, Christian students are not allowed to attend church; must practice or learn about Buddhist worship, literature, and culture; and become initiated into the monkhood or nunhood. Students effectively are cut off from their parents, and upon graduation are guaranteed government employment so long as they officially convert to Buddhism, including on their national ID cards”

- uscirf report 2017

Newly built Catholic church in Hyderabad vandalised

May 22, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india, Persecution

Hyderabad, May 22, 2017: A group of villagers on Sunday vandalised the newly constructed Lady of Fathima Church at Godamakunta in Kundapalli village of Keesara mandal in Medchal district, 25 km from the city.

The church was consecrated on May 13 by Archbishop Thumma Bala of Hyderabad.

According to eyewitness account, the mob forced its way into the church on May 21 and broke the statues of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary besides pulling down the portraits and the chairs kept inside.

The miscreants, it was understood, had earlier gathered at the gram panchayat office, where a meeting was held opposing the continuation of the church.

A watchman and five construction workers were on the church premises when the incident took place.

When a person connected with the church rushed to the spot and tried to capture the incident on his mobile, miscreants snatched the phone and threatened him. After vandalising the church, the villagers left the place.

On information, the Archbishop, along with nominated MLA in Telangana Assembly Elvis Stephenson and national coordinator of the Disaster Management wing of the All India Catholic Union Roydin Roach, rushed to the spot.

The Keesara police also rushed to the spot and enquired about the incident.

Mr. Roach told The Hindu that the church was inaugurated on May 13 and no church service was being held as other civil works were on. “We had taken all the permissions for construction of the church and there was no dispute with anybody in the village,” he said, adding that it was an unfortunate incident.

“We Catholic people demand stern action against the culprits for vandalising the church and hurting our sentiments,” he said, adding that they had lodged a complaint with the Telangana Director-General of Police Anurag Sharma, who promised stern action against the people involved in the incident.

Keesara police said a mob arrived at the structure and damaged religious symbols claiming that the building was being used as a church when it was sanctioned for use as a function hall. The mob was led by the village sarpanch, said the police.

“The irate villagers claimed that the owner of the land had illegally built the church.

We have booked them for rioting,” Inspector M. Surender said, adding that they were yet to name people in the case. The inspector also said George Reddy, the owner of the land who had allocated about 1,000 square yards for the church, had applied for permission for constructing a church with the district administration but had not received approval yet.

- hindu

Pastors ‘falsely charged’ granted bail in northern India

May 22, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Bhopal, May 22, 2017: Six pastors were released on bail by a court in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh after the prosecution failed to prove charges of attempting to incite a riot and hostility between religions.

The pastors who belong to the Seva Bharat (serve India) Church were released on a surety of 20,000 rupees (US$298) on May 20, nine days after they were arrested in Salempur village, said Sanjay Kumar, a member of the church from the village.

The pastors from the neo-Christian church were slapped with charges of disturbing communal peace, creating hostility between religions and attempting to incite a riot. Kumar said that, apart from the prosecution failing to produce evidence, the court also found anomalies in the police complaint and subsequently granted bail.

One of those charged, Pastor Bala Lakhandar told ucanews the police arrested “us on May 10 at the house of a believer in the village where we had gathered for a healing prayer session.”

Lakhandar said Hindu activists objected to the prayer meeting and informed the police who came with media and cordoned off the house where around 250 believers were gathered. They arrested the six pastors who were present.

The pastor said they faced harassment in jail. Inmates pulled their hair, took away their beds and verbally abused them for being Christians.

Pastor Mangaleshwar Prasad, the main organizer of the prayer meeting who was also arrested, told ucanews.com, “There was no provocation from our side; we were there only to offer prayers.”

“The police took us into custody without listening to our pleas and lodged a complaint without any evidence,” Prasad added.

According to Pastor Anil Andrias, who was coordinating the prayer program, the Hindu activists tried every trick possible to block their bail. “They staged protests and told the police to register fake complaints against the innocent ministers accusing them of indulging in religious conversion,” he told ucanews.com.

However, Uttar Pradesh does not have an anti-conversion law, unlike several other Indian states, so the pastors were framed with charges of organizing a riot and creating enmity between religions. Church leaders have time and again expressed concern over Christians facing trouble in the state, especially after Hindu hardliner Yogi Adityanath became chief minister there in April.

“We are living in a very dangerous situation. Hindu activists are leaving no stone unturned in their plans to make people give up Christianity,” Andrias said.

“Our prayer meetings were attacked and we are implicated in false cases,” he said, adding that the Hindu fundamentalists act with impunity.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has some 200 million people, with Hindus forming close to 80 percent. Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains together form the remaining 1 percent, with Christian numbering some 360,000 or just 0.18 percent of the total population, according to 2011 government census. Muslims make up the rest.

- ucan

Yogi Adityanath to end minority reservation from various schemes of UP government

May 22, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Uttar Pradesh, May 22, 2017: In an attempt to invert or modify social schemes launched by the Akhilesh Yadav government, the UP government is set to end the 20% minority quota in about 85 schemes related to social welfare and rural development.

This is not first decision taken by the new UP government to counter the schemes of Akhilesh Yadav’s government. Prior to this, the Yogi government denied distribution of ration cards that were printed with photos of Akhilesh Yadav. The ord ‘Samajwadi’ was scrapped from various schemes of government and instead ‘Mukhymantri’ was added.

Samajwadi Awas Yojna, a housing scheme for poor people launched by Akhilesh Yadav, was also ended by Yogi government without any apparent explanation.

Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya said, “We are in the process of reviewing all the schemes. We will continue those which we consider important but others will be scrapped.”

The decision, which is not official yet, is being seen in line with that decision of Bhartiya Janta Party to end ‘caste and -based politics’ in the state.

- tcn

Church building, Pastor’s home burned down

May 21, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india, Persecution

Tamil Nadu, May 17, 2017: Hard-line Hindus in southern India, upset that members of their caste-based group have become Christians, burned down a church building and the pastor’s home this month, sources said.

After pastor John Muller and his pregnant wife left for a store on May 3, the assailants in Tamil Nadu state’s Attipattu village, Cuddalore District, set fire to their church building and adjoining home, Pastor Muller told Morning Star News.

Three days prior, five hard-line Hindus in their mid-20s had threatened him, he said.

“They said, ‘Don’t stay here – get out of this area, or we will see your end,’” Pastor Muller said. “Recently, some villagers belonging to Vanniyar, a caste-based Hindu sect, came to Christ. The same caste group opposes conversions in the village because they treat Christianity as a religion of lower castes. They don’t want anyone from Vanniyar to convert to Christianity.”

About 40 families attend his worship services, including the Vanniyar, he said.

“The church and my house got destroyed in fire,” Pastor Muller said. “We lost everything. My wife is 26 weeks pregnant. We are expecting our first child. We are homeless. A kind believer is letting us rest in his house during nights for now.”

Shibu Thomas, founder of Persecution Relief, which assists persecuted Christians, confirmed that hard-line Hindus set the structures ablaze.

The young men who allegedly set the fire were identified only as Madhivannan, Manimaaran, Radha Krishnan, Sarangamani and Naveen, a local official told Pastor Muller. All five of the alleged assailants were said to be influenced by Hindu extremist groups.

The pastor said the official told him that he, the village council head, had prior knowledge that the young men were planning to set the fire and tried to deter them, but that he did not notify police due to caste and family loyalties. For the same reason the village head did not tell media and remained unavailable for comment.

On the day of the attack the pastor received a call from a shopkeeper in nearby Chidambaram saying that Vacation Bible School materials he had ordered were ready. When he and his wife went to collect them, he said, the young men set fire to his church building and home.

On his way back to Attipattu, he received a call from a neighbor that the church building and his house had been on fire for more than two hours. Upon arrival he called the fire station in Chidambaram, 17 kilometers (10 miles) away, and firefighters put out the fire.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed in Kumaratchi Police Station dated May 3, but there has been no progress in the investigation, Pastor Muller said

“The police took money from the attackers and went on leave,” he said.

Morning Star News attempted to contact the police officer who took the complaint, but she was unavailable for comment on the case and the accusation.

Eight years ago, when the worship center was under construction, 50 people attacked the pastor and told him to stop building in the village, pastor Arun Kumar of a nearby village told Morning Star News.

“They also cut off electricity wiring and created many problems,” Pastor Kumar said.

Pastor Muller said he did not file a complaint at the time.

“I always thought I shouldn’t complain against them to the officials,” he said. “Instead, I wanted to let things go peacefully and do the Lord’s work, but now they’ve destroyed everything.”

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.

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

- morning star news

Why Indian Christians can’t mention ‘hell’ ‘heaven’ or ‘Jesus’

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

India, May 20, 2017: Indian Christians are seeing an alarming spike in violence since Hindu nationalist gained power three years ago and a Christian aid group says the persecution is only going to get worse.

Hindu nationalists are pressuring believers to abandon their faith and if believers don’t convert, they face persecution.

“In states across India, militants have threatened and killed church workers,” Paul Robinson, the chief executive of Release International, said. “Extremists have tried to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. And they have bombed, torched, vandalized and demolished churches.”

International Christian Concern (ICC) reported earlier this week, Christians in the village of Chhattisgarh were pressured to reconvert back to Hinduism.

15 Christian families reconverted but some refused.

“What crime have I committed that I should pay the fine? I have not stolen anything. I have not defiled any woman. I have not quarreled. I have not killed anybody. If you think going to church and worshiping Jesus is the crime, I will commit this crime every day,” 55-year-old Kanesh Singh told village elders.

Shivaram Tekam told ICC Christians were forced to give livestock, money, and other gifts to the village deity during the reconversion ceremony.

“They can stop me from going to church but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. I will find ways and secretly come to church,” Tekam told a local pastor.

Strict conversion laws have been implemented in five states making it nearly impossible to evangelize or share the gospel.

Andrew Boyd of Released International told Premier Christian the government aims to make it a nation-wide law as the right-wing Hindus expect that all Indians should follow Hinduism.

“It’s based on the idea that conversion by force should be made illegal. I think everyone would agree that conversion by force would be useless,” Boyd explained.

“But actually if you preach about Heaven then it’s considered to be bribery, if you speak about Hell then it’s considered to be a threat. If you offer any kind of Christian charity then it’s regarded also as bribery,” he added.

Members of the Dalit community are among the most persecuted. They are known as the “untouchables” and are considered the lowest caste, but they are converting to Christianity and it is angering nationalists.

“These people are converting to Christianity and quite large numbers of them are converting because they’re finding acceptance and dignity and worth and that is provoking quite a backlash,” he said.

Reports from Christian aid groups note the intense persecution against believers.

Open Doors’ World Watch List list India as the No.17 country where Christians are targeted for their faith.

They claim that radical Hinduism has “increased steadily” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

- cbn

Dalit youth killed in firing in Bihar

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

Patna, May 8, 2017: A young man belonging to a Mahadalit caste was killed on Monday while three others were injured in Bihar’s Darbhanga district after a policeman allegedly opened fire, police said.

Two communities had earlier clashed due to a dispute over burying of a body in a graveyard in Hawidih village in Bahedi area, about 200 km from here.

Vijay Ram, in his early 20s, was fatally hit by a bullet fired by a policeman to disperse persons indulging in violence.

“Vijay was trying to flee after the violent clash but was fatally hit by a bullet fired by a policeman without proper orders from his senior officials,” a district police official said.

The three injured were admitted at Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital.

Darbhanga District Magistrate Chandrasekhar Singh said the situation in the village was under control.

According to Darbhanga Superintendent of Police Satyavir Singh, there is an old dispute related to graveyard land between two communities.

“A group of Mahadalit men stopped members from a community from burying a body in the graveyard on Sunday even though police tried to convince them to allow it. On Monday, when another attempt was made to bury the body, Mahadalit youths started pelting police and members of the other community with stones. A bodyguard attached to a senior officer opened fire to disperse them,” a police official said.

- tcn

A hospital in Lahore is forcing Christian paramedics to recite verses from the Holy Quran

May 21, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, May 3, 2017: Reports suggest that there is a hospital administration in the city that forces its non-Muslim staffers to either recite verses from the Holy Quran at morning assembly or be marked absent for the day.

The Mian Mir Hospital, run by the City District Government Lahore, was named after Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir who rose to prominence during the time of Mughal emperor Jehangir. The saint himself was a big proponent of interfaith harmony.

The matter came to light when Mian Mir Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Sarfraz allegedly slapped a Christian paramedical staffer for not attending the assembly. Following the incident, all paramedical staff protested against the MS and other hospital administration by shutting down all functions of the medical facility.  “This act of the MS is a violation of the Constitution of Pakistan,” commented a Christian paramedical staffer named Marshal.

Talking to the media, he asked religious scholars to sort out the issue as the administration of the hospital was pressurising them to leave their jobs.”

Another paramedical staff member of the medical facility, Fahad Ahmed, said both Muslims and Christians were working in harmony. “It is professional workplace; I don’t know why the administration is forcing our Christian brothers to do this. This is totally unacceptable.”

Center for Social Justice Chairman Peter Jacob told The Express Tribune that religious freedom is guaranteed to all under Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan. “This act goes against the constitution and should be dealt with accordingly,” he commented.

A paramedical staffer also agreed with this notion. He urged authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter and “question the MS over the incident”.   Despite several attempts and text messages, MS Mian Mir Hospital Dr Muhammad Sarfraz was unavailable for comment.

However, CDGL Health CEO Dr Muhammad Saeed assured a high-level committee had been formed to look into the matter and a strict departmental inquiry would be initiated against anyone found guilty.

Experts said extremism was creeping into public hospitals and was a massive concern for law enforcement agencies. A senior law enforcement official, requesting anonymity, said the phenomena of extremism among doctors and other paramedical staff was nothing new. He urged the health department to frame a code of conduct to avoid any such incident in future. “The issue of Mian Mir hospital is just a small manifestation and also serves as an alarm bell,” he concluded.

- tribune

Indian prayer meeting halted by Hindu extremists

May 19, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india, Persecution

Himachal Pradesh, May 19, 2017: Tensions ran high in Rampur, Himachal Pradesh on 14 May 2017 as angry members of the Dev Sanskriti Raksha Manch, a fundamentalist Hindu group, disrupted a Christian meeting which was being held at the auditorium of a local school.

“Christian leaders from Rampur and surrounding areas had organized the Satsang (prayer meeting) for the benefit of local Christians and had obtained all the necessary permissions beforehand,” said the Rev Kamlesh Negi, Pastor of the GCPF Church, Rampur.

The two-day Satsang was to be held at the auditorium of a local school since that was the largest space available in the area. Rampur is the hometown of the Chief Minister Mr Virbhadra Singh and he was expected to join the meeting on the second day.

On the very first day of the meeting, members of the Dev Sanskriti Raksha Manch held a protest against alleged ‘conversions’. They mobilized a crowd of nearly 150 plus people for the march and attempted to break into the school where the meeting was being held.

“The Dev Sanskriti Raksha Manch members, armed with sticks, attempted to break the large Iron Gate at the venue. In doing so, they attacked and injured several police personnel who tried to prevent them from entering the venue of the meeting,” said Mr Jain, a local lawyer.

The Hindu fundamentalists were also protesting against the presence of an American participating in the meeting – a personal friend of a local pastor who was visiting.

As a result of the attack, the meeting was cancelled while the protestors blocked traffic on the Hindustan-Tibet National Highway for about two hours. The members of the Dev Sanskriti Raksha Manch made inflammatory statements against the local church community to local media alleging that Christians were hand in glove with so-called Islamic State and was conspiring against the nation.

The next day church authorities led by Pastor Kamlesh Negi reported the incident to the police.

In recent days the Chief Minister has ordered stern action against acts of vandalism and has warned against conversions by force or fraud. He further said at a public meeting at Rampur on 15 May, that henceforth no religious functions would be allowed at government educational institutions.

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has politicised the issue. The leader of opposition, Prem Kumar Dhumal from the BJP demanded an arrest of the American who was said to be attending the meeting as well as Christian leaders from the area. They alleged that conversions had taken place in the meeting.

Dhumal said that the American should not have been granted Indian visa as “it (Americans) had insulted the country by terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi as terrorist on its website.”

- global christian news

Church service attacked by Hindu extremists in Uttar Pradesh

May 19, 2017 by admin  
Filed under India, newsletter-india, Persecution

Uttar Pradesh, May 16, 2017: The pastor and some of the male members of a house church in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, were attacked and beaten as they worshipped last Sunday (14 May 2017)

Pastor John E Dawson, a retired government official, Asha Prakash and his son Arun Prakash and three other men sustained internal injuries in the assault.

The attack took place around 10am in the morning after the regular worship service began and the first song was being sung.

“Two strangers around 19 and 17-year-old came and joined the service. Soon I noticed the older youth texting message to someone. Minutes later a man barged into the worship, disrupting the service, shouting at the boys and criticising the Christians of forceful conversion. The boys left with the man. I sent Arun Prakash, the son of the owner of the house to enquire about the matter. When Arun approached them, who were waiting outside the door of the house, they slapped Arun hard on his face,” said Dawson in an interview with Global Christian News.

The fellowship – Shechem House of Worship runs in the house of Asha Prakash, also a lay preacher for the past 5 years with about 40 regular worshippers besides children.

Soon after Arun was slapped, a mob of about 10 men, all carrying strong wooden sticks slammed open the house door and started to assault the men in the congregation.

“They left the women and children unhurt and hit all the males present with the ‘lattis’ (wooden sticks) so hard that we could barely walk. While hitting, they abused us of carrying out forceful conversion.

“They kicked the table and threw the holy sacrament on the floor. The assault went on for 3-5 minutes and then these men absconded,” added Dawson.

There was a jeep which was parked outside the colony, which they used for fleeing the area.

What concerned Dawson the most was the health of Asha Prakash, the owner of the house, who had recently undergone a ‘heart surgery’ (By-pass) and after the assault he began to vomit.

The Hindu neighbours of the Prakash family attempted to come to the rescue but fled when they saw the leader of the attackers with a hand gun.  They also said that the Hindu extremists carried a big black bag filled with wooden sticks.

The police were immediately informed lf the attacks.

Dawson told Global Christian News that a week before last a middle-aged man and a young boy in his early twenties had come to attend the worship service. While the man left the service soon, the boy stayed till the end. He spoke to a youth member of the fellowship, enquiring if he will be given a job or monetary assistance if he chooses to become a Christian?

“The boy clearly refused saying that, ‘We do not do any of these things…’,” said Dawson.

Dawson said that in his 40-years of involvement in ministry, he has not seen such a thing happen. “The worship service was always open for everybody and anybody until now. But from now on, it will not be so. We will not let strangers walk into our worship service, disrupt the holy gathering and risk the lives of worshippers with their violent attacks,” he concluded.

This attack took place after the assurance of the newly sworn-in Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Yogi Adityanath last month. The CM spoke in response to the concerns of the Christian community regarding the rising incidents of violence against the minority Christian community in the biggest Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The CM assured church leaders that there would be justice against law breakers. He asked them to continue their services to the poor and the needy in various fields, including education, and practice their faith without fear.

- global christian news

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