Government recognition a silver lining for Bengal’s madrassas?

April 25, 2012 by  
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West Bengal, April 23, 2012: The announcement of recognition to a large number of madrassas by the West Bengal government has brought a glimmer of hope to thousands of Muslim students, including a growing number of girls, who were deprived of proper educational opportunities and teachers. There are however many who feel the move may not work, especially when it comes without any assurance of state funds.

“While 25 percent of Bengal’s population (23 million approximately) is Muslim, the number of recognised madrassas in the entire state is just 611, of which only 17 schools are purely Urdu-medium while the rest are mixed medium,” state Madrassa Board president Giyasuddin Siddiqui said.

Kolkata has just eight madrassas, only four of them having Urdu as the medium of instruction. The announcement by the Mamata Banerjee government of giving recognition to 10,000 madrassas is surely a right step forward, says Siddiqui.

“The process for identifying the schools has started and by the end of this year, a substantial number of them will be given recognition. The conditions for recognition are that the schools should have a building of their own and sufficient teachers. They must follow the syllabus prescribed by us which is at par with other boards in the state,” Siddiqui added.

However, there are many who are sceptical it will make a difference.

“Many of the existing madrassas don’t have proper buildings, or sufficient number of teachers. Moreover, a large number of the schools have teachers who are not adequately qualified to teach in the medium. Blindly giving recognition without proper infrastructure will only compound the problem and not solve it,” Urdu Academy member Shahnaz Nabi told IANS.

Another problem peculiar to government-run madrassas is the vacant posts of teachers under the reserved category. “As the Muslim community has no SC/ST category, the posts reserved for them are lying vacant. The government must come out with a solution to this very strange problem. I find it hard to understand the need for such a move when there exists no such category in the community,” Aliah University professor Salman Khurshid said.

As the recognised madrassas were initially under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the reserved seats were created. But now, they are under the Madrassa Board and the government is mulling to do away with the reserved posts and filling up the vacancies, said Siddiqui.

Some also feel the move to recognise the madrassas may not be smooth sailing. “The ‘kharezi’ (unrecognised) madrassas are run through charity and have their own set of rules and regulations. If they get government affiliation, they will have to follow the government rules and the syllabus of the state Madrassa Board, which they might not be willing to accept.

“Moreover, the move to give recognition has not been backed by a separate fund. So there are chances that many of the Kharezis will not apply for the same,” said Alamgir Jaan, a retired madrassa teacher. Banerjee, while making the announcement for recognition, had said that once recognised, the madrassas will get money from the central government but did not say anything on financial assistance from the state.

In spite of the government running advertisements in Hindi and Urdu newspapers published from Kolkata in June and July (2011), not many schools have applied for recognition. “Up till March this year, about 60 madrassas have applied, of which a few had to be rejected because of some anomalies in their applications. Without assurance of funds from the state, the madrassas are hardly willing to apply,” a Madrasah Board official said.

Some madrassas have complaints regarding the syllabus. “Computer literacy and knowledge of English have become a prerequisite to be successful, but the Madrassa syllabi are far from competitive. Suitable changes must be incorporated so that the students are able to prepare themselves suitably,” Nasreen Khan, a journalist, told IANS..

On the rosier side though, female students in the madrassas not only outnumber males, more girls than boys are passing the Class 10 exam. During 2010-11, of the 50,000 students who appeared for the Class 10 exams, 75.62 percent passed the exam, of whom 63 percent were females. This year, of the 50,000-plus students who appeared for the exam, almost 66 percent are girls. “The figures are a revelation and contrary to the popular belief that females from the community are not allowed to join schools,” Siddiqui said.

– ians

Christians stopped from building new church *Gujarat municipality to ban meat sale

April 25, 2012 by  
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India, April 21, 2012: Christians in a village in India have been prevented from building a new church on recently purchased land.

Pastor Sayam Chandran, who is supported by Gospel for Asia, bought the land in order to build a larger church to house his growing congregation.

His current church in the village, both of which cannot be named for security reasons, has room for up to 90 people during service time.

An additional 200 people in the village receive home visits from Pastor Chandran to make up for the fact that there is no room for them in the church.

Gospel for Asia said that anti-Christian residents in the village had stopped the construction of the church from going ahead.

Although he is facing strong opposition at present, Pastor Chandran has earned the respected title of a religious teacher in 10 neighbouring villages because of the many miracles that have reportedly happened through his prayers and dedicated ministry.

Gospel for Asia president, K P Yohannan, is inviting Christians to pray for Pastor Sayam, his flock and many other Christians facing similar obstacles in their ministry.

“We’re so grateful for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are praying for pastors like Sayam,” said Mr Yohannan.

“It is through these faithful prayers that God’s work is established.

– christian today

Gujarat municipality to ban meat sale


Gujarat, April 23, 2012: The decision is to appease the Jain community who has been demanding ban on sale of meat products, including eggs.

A municipality in an Ahmedabad town is mulling to ban sale of non-vegetarian food but said it would seek people’s view before implementation.

Palitana Municipal Committee passed a resolution in its general body meeting Friday to ban even eggs, within its territory.

However, the municipality said it would first ask its 100,000 residents among whom 40 percent are non-vegetarian.

The Bharatiya Janata Party rules the municipality and its president Pravinbhai Gadhvi told reporters that the decision to ban meat sale was taken following the demand of the Jain religious leaders.

He said that some Jain religious leaders led by Maharajsaheb Maitriprabhasagar in March had sat on a dharna demanding ban of meat.

He had threatened to self-immolate himself if his demand was not accepted.

Gadhvi, however, said that a recommendation for imposing ban would be made to the government only after consulting the residents.

BJP is in majority in the municipality, occupying 30 seats in a house of 36. Six Congress members led by Hidabhai Baloch, a Muslim, boycotted the resolution.

However, Baloch refused to make any comment when contacted.

Meanwhile, a government official, on condition of anonymity, said that Friday’s decision was taken by the municipality under political pressure as Jains were politically very influential in the state and contributed a lot to the BJP election coffers.

However, the official said that the decision for a ban was not as per constitutional provisions.

Besides the 25 percent Muslims, many Hindu communities like Kolis are also meat eaters and are opposing the decision.

Muslim residents of the town fear that if the ban is implemented, they would also not be allowed to slaughter animals during Baqr Id which is their religious duty.

They say that the decision is in favour of one community, overlooking the religious responsibilities of the other.

The Muslims have requested the administration not to buckle under the pressure of Jains who do not account for even five per cent of the town’s population.

Palitana is a well-known Jain pilgrim town, about 400 km from Ahmedabad.

– tcn

Archbishop D’Souza: New evangelization needs love of Mother Teresa

April 25, 2012 by  
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West Bengal, April 21, 2012: Love for God and neighbor must be the hallmark of all missionary efforts, against the difficulties and accusations of proselytism. Archbishop Emeritus of Calcutta and postulator of the cause of canonization of the first Missionary of Charity, remembers the path of the blessed.

Christian missionaries in India are increasingly suffering persecution of various kinds, accused of proselytizing through their charities, schools in more rural areas, hospitals and leper colonies. Archbishop Henry D’Souza, Archbishop Emeritus of Calcutta, reflects on the situation of the mission in India and its difficulties, recalling the example of Mother Teresa, with whom he worked for 35 years and for whom since 1997 he has been postulator for the cause of canonization. What distinguishes the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, says the Archbishop, is love. Below an interview with Msgr. Henry D’Souza.

Excellency, why did Mother Teresa not encounter problems in her missionary work?

Mother Teresa had one overriding thought. “Where love is ,there is God”. in her attempt to respond to the call “Be my light” she brought love. Love God, love your neighbour, especially the poorest of the poor.  Love needs to be the mark in all our missionary efforts.  Many times we hear criticism about our institutions and our social and charitable works- they have become “institutionalized”.

Good works without love may attract outwardly, because of their academic excellence, or professional quality, and their ability to achieve. But this is not real evangelization.

On the other hand, when our work is with the poor and rural sections of people, our good works may be the cause for changing the social structures. That could be threatening to the given society.

Mother Teresa was able to avoid the two issues through her love. In fact her ministry, life and example have changed society- society at large has become more conscious of the poor and the need to help them achieve a better standard of life.

Perhaps love is the key to meet the many suspicions which face Christian institutions, and Christian missionaries. Even when we suffer persecutions, we need to offer love.

Mother Teresa’s Mission was through her multifaceted awareness of mission work. What are your reflections, changes and challenges that have occurred as a result of its impact?

Many were the consequences of the mission of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was once told that she should not be concerned about actual poverty. She should address the causes of poverty. Her reply was straight forward, “I only understand the reality. I leave it to others to find the causes.” But in addressing the reality, whether it was actual material poverty or loneliness or lack of love, she drew sharp attention to the causes of poverty.

Even actual poverty has begun to be better understood. When this year the Rs.32/- poverty norm began to be discussed, a spokesperson said, “Poverty is not only about food. It has also to be concerned about home, family education, health and other such realities.”

People began to want to offer more than food and shelter. The start of the physio-therapy section in the MC homes is a concrete example. Qualified people are going forward to offer assistance to the poor.

The leprosy apostolate of Mother Teresa is another good example. Leprosy patients were often branded as untouchables and forced to live in distressing hovels outside the town. Mother Teresa began Shantinagar in Bengal. It is now both a home for leprosy patients and a rehabilitation centre.

Many leprosy patients have their own homes also, and are employed in self-help works. The leprosy colony at Titagarh is another example of the transforming effect to such afflicted persons. The Cuttack leprosy colony and the Puri leprosy colony in Orrisa have been in existence for centuries. They have been radically transformed after the MC Sisters and Brothers began to get involved in there through Fr. Bill Petrie, CSSH and Marianus Zelezek, SVD.

Your reflections on Mother Teresa’s mission to proclaim Christ and spread the Gospel – Mother’s spirit of evangelization.

The message of Mother Teresa is simple. One does not need to do extraordinary things. She wanted her Sisters to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. Her message goes out very strongly in two events narrated by her.”

Among many protests at the end of March, the parliament lowered the poverty line from 32 rupees a day (about 46 cents) to 28 rupees a day (about 40 cents).

– asianews

No urgent hearing on petition against Cardinal Alencherry *Yes to League, No to Rigid Muslim!

April 25, 2012 by  
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Kerala, April 22, 2012: The judicial first class magistrate court has turned down an application for an urgent hearing on the alleged role of Cardinal Alencherry and Union minister K V Thomas, ‘in trying to facilitate the release of Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen’. Petitioner T G Mohandas from Koovappadom had alleged criminal conspiracy by the cardinal and the minister.

The judge, S K Anil Kumar, held that the application to advance hearing on the case to record the statements of Alencherry and K V Thomas cannot be heard urgently as the court is already tied up with ascertaining evidence in other cases and as “there is no urgency” to hear the case. Observing that the case was filed this year and is posted for a hearing on April 28, the court decided not to allow the application for an early hearing.

In the petition, Mohandas alleged that the cardinal and the minister engaged in criminal conspiracy and tried to facilitate the release of the Italian marines. The petitioner alleged that the cardinal’s statement on February 21 to Italian media that he has urged local authorities in Kerala not to ‘precipitate action’ amounts criminal conspiracy as his efforts were to help the Italian marines.

“I immediately contacted the Catholic ministers to ask the Kerala government not to take precipitate action,” Alencherry was reported to have told Catholic news agency Fides in Rome.

“It seems that the opposition wants to exploit the situation and manipulate it for political motives by talking about ‘Western powers’ and ‘the drive for American domination’,” Alencherry was quoted by Fides.

Kochi: Allegations of criminal conspiracy against cardinal George Alenchery and Union Minister KV Thomas, in trying to facilitate escape of Italian marines accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen, need not be heard urgently, a magistrate court here has ruled.

Judicial First Class Magistrate of Kochi decided not to allow an application by TG Mohandas from Koovappadom seeking urgent hearing of his petition filed in February.

The judge, SK Anil Kumar, held that the application to advance hearing on the case to record the statements of Alenchery and KV Thomas cannot be heard urgently as the court is already tied up with ascertaining evidence in other cases and as “there is no urgency” to hear the case.

Observing that the case was filed this year and is posted for a hearing on April 28, the court decided not to allow the application for an early hearing.

In the petition, Mohandas alleges that the cardinal and the minister engaged in criminal conspiracy for trying to facilitate the escape of the Italian marines, who allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen while they were employed on deputation onboard Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie to protect against pirate attacks.

The petitioner has alleged that the cardinal’s statement on February 21 to Italian media that he has urged local authorities in Kerala not to take “precipitate action” in a row between Italy and India amounts criminal conspiracy as his efforts were to facilitate escape of culprits and use of power towards escape of the culprits.

“I immediately contacted the Catholic ministers to ask the Kerala government not to take precipitate action,” Alencherry was reported to have told Catholic news agency Fides in Rome.

“It seems that the opposition wants to exploit the situation and manipulate it for political motives by talking about ‘Western powers’ and ‘the drive for American domination’,” Alencherry was quoted by Fides as saying.

– timesofindia

 Yes to League, No to Rigid Muslim!

Kerala, April 20, 2012: Communalism, Casteism and Religion rule roost in Kerala, CM reduced to taking orders from High Command & Muslim command, democracy in Shambles, boot out the rot to resurrect meritocracy.

Recent events in Kerala have simply tarnished beyond measure the image of the Muslim League, the Congress party and Oommen Chandy the CM, and in that order.

First the Muslim League. Among an endless array of political parties in India, too long to enumerate, I think Muslims alone have the unique distinction of floating a political party with an unmistakable religious tag: ”Muslim League”, and take pride in it. It would be excellent in a Muslim theocratic state, but definitely a misfit in a secular country like India. So I am forced to say: Yes, to League and No to the adjective ‘Muslim’ with good-will to my Muslim brothers.

For instance, how would the public react if others followed suit and started political parties like Hindu League, Christian League or Buddhist Leage? How many non-Muslims will join a Muslim League, how many non-Hindus will join a Hindu League and how many non Christians will join a Christian league? Nay will anyone tolerate a political party with a religious tag in this day and age?

Politics must include all
The assumption of course is that politics and political parties are to be all inclusive, meant for the common good of all in a Panchayat, district, state or country. How is it that Keralites who call themselves literate and enlightened fail miserably to see this contradiction in their daily political speech and conduct? How can they parade themselves to be global (they are all over the world) and all embracing in their talks but sectarian, divisive and narrow when it comes to acting in their little narrow home state?

You can fool some people for some time, not all people, all time and everywhere. We have seen it happening in recent elections in UP, known as an illiterate state. Even the most tolerant can run out of patience. Weather enlightend or illiterate, according to Markandey Katju, “The truth is that the minds of 90 percent Indians are full of casteism, communalism and superstition.” No one wants to slap that comment on the enlightened sections of Muslims in Kerala.

But in the recent elections, the party though confined to Northern Malapuram areas, came out with flying colours with a record of 20 MLAs. Taking pride in it is quite legitimate, but not boasting over it or acting like one gone drunk with it. Critics say, it was the latter that prompted the League’s supreme command. Panakkad Shihabi Thangal to announce, ahead of anyone (which made many wonder who heads the UDF—Oommen Chandy or Thangal) that Manjalamkuzhi Ali would be its fifth minister and he would take oath together with Anup Jacob, The League stuck to it until it got its pound of flesh 100% in weight, in spite of all  persuasions spread out before them by friends, foes and critics.

Failed Persuasions
What are some of them? In the 140 Kerala assembly the ruling UDF has only 72, that is a wafer thin majority of two, with one seat laying vacant following the resignation of CPM’s R Selvaraj from Neyyatinkara to be won or lost by UDF or LDF, no one knows to whose benefit.  With the induction of Anup Jacob and Ali the number of cabinet members rose to 21. The rule book restricts the size of the cabinet to 10% of 140-member assembly,14 or 15. This rule was kept by EMS and broken by successive governments to feed a white Elephant of a jumbo cabinet of 20 for long. Ali’s entry made it 21 for the first time. Remember, the cost of maintaining a Minister for one year is Rs.5 crore. Multiply it for five years and again with 21 to get the staggering cost of supporting a top-heavy government, all for the sake of the Aam Aadmi committing suicide at ground level for not  having Rs.26 or 32 to spend.

Ruled by three KUs
What is worse, is the communal misrepresentation and imbalance in cabinet. According to 2011 census Hindus constitute 56% of Kerala’s population of 3.3 crore. Of this Muslims are 25 % and Christians 19 %. Now the shameful picture is this. Muslims and Christians have stolen the lion’s share – six ministers for each (that is a total of 12) in a 21member cabinet.

The Muslim League gets six, only because Aryadan Muhammad of the Congress also is included.  Being a Muslim, weather in Congress or League Aryadan also automatically represents the Muslim community, it is argued by Sukumaran Nair of NSS and Vellapally Natesan of Ezhava community. Hence the Comment of Sukumaran Nair that Kerala is governed by three KUs — Kunjalikutty, Kungungu and Kungumani.

Finally when all these arguments failed to prevent the League from pressing for the fifth minister the KPCC met and decided and declared their decision not to give another minister. Within hours it had to revert its decision to save a sinking ship and stay afloat. Reportedly the options offered by League were: 1. It would withdraw its 4 ministers en block, 2. Give outside support, 3. if that too doesn’t work, a senior leader would leave the ship with a bunch of 10 to join the LDF to form a new government. At such a three pronged torpedo, Kerala’s Congress CM had to cave in and surrender unconditionally, it is said.

Still the CM should have stood his ground and resisted like a late Karunakaran or a living Antony, some say. These critics also ask the counter question: What if even that didn’t work and LDF formed a government? Then wouldn’t Oommen Chandy alone be put in the dock for wrecking the ship on the slender rock of a 5th minister? Left with no alternative the Congress simply had to bow and prostrate before the League and busied itself with damage control by handing over Home ministry to Thiruvanchiyoor, a senior Congress leader from Nair community to pacify the NSS and additional responsibilities to existing Majority community ministers.

Haj Subsidy
 Haj subsidy is another irritant. This preferential treatment given to Muslims, its use and misuse is frowned upon by other communities. During last elections Jayalatlithaa tried to make political capital out of it by promising similar subsidies for Christian and Hindus to visit their Holy places. If the government is bent on placating minorities no one can prevent it. But let it treat all minorities equally, say critics.

When it comes to the image of the Congress, one thing that makes people to look with disdain and contempt is the Congress High command’s treatment of state leaderships like vassals or kids with no brains. For every silly decision the CM and the KPCC president have to fly to Delhi to get clearance from the Madam, it looks. Where is co-responsibility and subsidiarity in Congress? That is why Congress is rootless even in States they rule. Everywhere It is  a remote control rule from Delhi.

Two other things for which the Congress is roundly criticised are its craze to    promote dynastic succession and its unprincipled fervour to reward defectors with favours denied to faithful party workers as in the case of the prodigal son. Anup Jacob is example for the first. What mattered for Congress was dynasty and winnability due to sympathy vote, not merit. For the second we have the case of Sindhu Joy who was in the opposite camp abusing Congress and campaigned against Chandy. Latest is making CPM-defector Selvaraj contest on the party symbol forgetting his earlier statement, he would commit suicide rather than join the UDF.

Communalism Rules Roost
All these prove one thing for certain. Democracy, whether at the national or State level, has become just a façade only, an eyewash. It is used as a fig leaf to cover all kinds of undemocratic doings to promote vested interests. Being a fig leaf it reveals more than it hides – the deplorably shameful nakedness of our honourable rulers which has become   an eyesore. How?

Read a marriage ad appearing beside a news story about the final shape of Kerala Cabinet: “Nair brides, Menon brides, Mappila brides, Marthoma brides, Jacobite brides, Roman Catholic brides, Pillai brides, Nambiar brides. Izhava brides”, all are available just for the asking.

That explains best the mentality – caste and communal mentality — working behind Indian politics on national level and at state levels. Politics is simply   reduced to the rule of the jungle where the dominant bull or bulls (parties) sire progenies from a hoard ready to bend or crawl before them. You call it democracy? What can be a more despicable farce? This is not rule of reason but passion, a passion that is communal to the core.

Democracy is meritocracy, selecting the right person, irrespective of caste, communal or religious affiliations, for the right post from top to bottom. In that sense I vote for V. M. Sudhiran, not Oommen Chandy, for the post of CM to start with.  You vote for the rest, at the next elections if not now. And make sure not to vote for any professedly caste or religion based parties. They have no place in a democracy. If an illiterate, but roused voting public in UP could send topsy-turvy a corrupt Mayavathi with no principles (think also of Delhi civic polls), a literate and determined voting public in Kerala can and should work wonders at least at the next elections.

– james kottoor

How to ‘Hear’ God’s Word

April 20, 2012 by  
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Hearing Word of God“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV)

Let’s say you’re a gardener. You’ve learned that you can take the exact same seed and plant it in three different locations and get three different results. In one spot, you’ll get giant tomatoes. In another, you’ll get small tomatoes. And in a third, you’ll get nothing. What’s the difference? It’s not the seed; it’s the soil. The soil must be prepared for the seed.

The same is true when you hear God’s Word. Your heart has to be prepared for the Word. If you get up late, have trouble finding a parking spot, and are irritated as you rush into church, you’re probably not going to hear God’s voice! You’re not in a receptive mood.

That’s why you can take two people to church, set them side-by-side, and one will walk out thinking God really spoke to him and the other won’t get anything out of the service. The heart of one person was prepared; the other’s heart wasn’t.

The Bible says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:19b-21 NIV).

For good reception, this passage teaches you have to have four attitudes:

• You must be quiet. You can’t hear God if you’re talking.
• You have to be calm. You can’t rush God. If you’re frantic, you’re not going to hear God. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” My translation of that is: “Sit down and shut up.”
• You have to be clean. Before you can meet with God, you need to take out some emotional and spiritual garbage. You need to get rid of the stuff that stinks in your life. You get rid of the garbage by confessing your sin to God and agreeing with him that what you did was wrong.
• You need to be humble. Be ready to do whatever God tells you from his Word. A prideful attitude won’t work.

Talk About It

Why do you think pride is such a hard sin to confess?
What is keeping you from hearing God’s voice today?

– fwd: v c mathews

Vatican orders drastic reforms of Women’s Religious

April 20, 2012 by  
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USA, April 19, 2012: The Vatican has called for reform amid a doctrinal “crisis” within the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead renewal efforts.

The appointment was made as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revealed the findings of its multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women’s conference, which has more than 1,500 members throughout the country.

The assessment document explained, “It is clear that greater emphasis needs to be placed both on the relationship of the LCWR with the Conference of Bishops, and on the need to provide a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.”

The assessment, initiated in 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was carried out by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, a member of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee.

Among the key findings were serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s annual assemblies in recent years.

Several of the addresses depicted a vision of religious life that is incompatible with the faith of the Church, the assessment found. Some attempted to justify dissent from Church doctrine and showed “scant regard for the role of the magisterium.”

The document cited one address about religious sisters “moving beyond the Church” and even beyond Jesus. Such positions — which constitute “a rejection of faith” and “serious source of scandal” — often go unchallenged by the LCWR, it said.


Pak: Christian acquitted of ‘Blasphemy’ charge

April 20, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, April 17, 2012: Prosecutor unable to produce any evidence despite clamoring of Muslim mobs.

A Pakistani Christian falsely charged with “blasphemy” after rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating at the hands of Muslim boys has been cleared of the charge.

Dildar Masih, a 27-year-old father of two young children, was acquitted on March 26 after prosecutors failed to produce any evidence against him, he said.

“I was produced in court three times during the case proceedings, but not one accuser ever turned up at the hearings,” Masih told Compass by phone. “You cannot imagine my joy when the prison officials told me that I had been acquitted by the court. I had not been taken to the hearing that day; only my lawyer, Javed Raza, and father were present in the courtroom.”

His nephew, Ihtesham (also known as Sunny), had gone out to fetch ice when Muslim boys from a nearby madrassa (religious school) beat him for refusing to convert to Islam in village No. 68 AR Farmwala, in Khanewal district’s Mian Channu area in Punjab Province, on June 10, 2011.

Seeing the attack from a distance, Masih shouted and rushed to the scene, rescued his nephew and then went to his work as a painter. Soon after the incident, a Muslim mob of about 55 led by village prayer leader Qari Hasnain besieged Masih’s house and ordered his father, Yousaf Masih, to hand over “the blasphemer” to them.

Yousaf Masih said that Hasnain claimed to have heard Dildar Masih “abusing Islamic holy words” as he was standing in the entrance of his mosque near the site of the incident. Hasnain later telephoned clerics in neighboring villages, and they called on all Muslims to “come out for the defense of Islam” after Friday prayers (see, “Pakistani Families Flee after Another Bogus ‘Blasphemy’ Charge,” June 15, 2011).

Unaware of the declarations emanating from the mosque, Dildar Masih had no idea why the Islamic throng arrived at the house he was painting and “pounced on him like tigers,” his elderly father told Compass.

Police registered a blasphemy case against Dildar Masih, No. 211/11 under Section 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order, later that night after a crowd of about 2,500 Muslims gathered outside the police station and demanded officers hand him over to them.

He told Compass that he could scarcely believe his ears when he learned that he had been acquitted and would be released that same day. He said that there had been instances when Muslim prisoners and junior jail officials at the Multan Central Jail had tried to vent their anger at him, “but some prisoner or another would intervene in the situation and tell them that I was not guilty of blasphemy and thus saved me from being beaten up.”

Masih said that during his imprisonment, he stood by his faith that Jesus would free him from the false charge and that he would be able to return to his family.

“I prayed a lot … This was the only other thing I did in prison besides having food and sleeping,” he said. “I kept on telling God that I had complete faith in Him and would wait for the day when He would set me free.”

After being released from jail – so full of joy that he forgot several of his belongings in his hurry to leave – Masih joined his family in a village where the entire clan has relocated after the incident.

“I haven’t found work as yet, but I’m sure God will provide a living for me very soon,” he said. “It’s so good to be back among my two children and wife … And yes, I’m much more closer to God now.”

He said he’s witnessed the hand of the Almighty at work.

“About 13 people are currently imprisoned in Multan Central Jail under blasphemy charges,” he said. “I was the only Christian, and probably the only one to have been able to return home in less than a year.”

– cdn

Bangalore police arrest Pastor Victor Babu for conducting Bible class in Hebron church

April 20, 2012 by  
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Karnataka, April 20, 2012: Radical Hindus staged a protest in front of the Hebron Church near Marathahalli here Thursday (19th April) demanding action against a pastor for his alleged attempt to convert schoolchildren forcibly. The Mahadevapura police intervened to defuse the situation and detained Victor Babu (31), the pastor, for questioning. Victor is from Dharmavaram in Andhra Pradesh.

A resident, Rajashekara Reddy, complained against Victor, and filed a case under Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code against Pastor. According to the complaint, the pastor, in the guise of organising a summer camp for schoolchildren, was allegedly preaching the Bible to 32 schoolchildren who attended the camp.

The police inspected the church premises and illegally confiscated VBS materials including hymn books.


Kashmir worsens – Christian couple from Delhi arrested and held

April 20, 2012 by  
Filed under India, Jammu and Kashmir, newsletter-india, Persecution

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Jammu & Kashmir, April 19, 2012: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has arrested a Christian couple on charges of “promoting enmity” while they were allegedly distributing pamphlets about Christianity in the border township of Bandipora in north Kashmir.

The police said the couple from Delhi, along with a local girl, was distributing pamphlets in the Bandipora market when people raised a hue and cry and called the police. Sensing trouble, the police seized the pamphlets and immediately whisked them away for sustained questioning.

The police later registered a case under section 153A Ranbir Penal Code (promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, etc) at the Bandipora police station. Under this section, the law prescribes imprisonment of up to three years, or with fine, or with both. In case of an offence relating to religion, the punishment could extend to five years.

“We have arrested the duo. The woman was seen distributing pamphlets in the market place where she had gone shopping,” said Bashir Ahmad Khan, superintendent of police, Bandipora district.

The couple and the girl have been detained and questioned in the police station. Police sources said during questioning, they said they were not doing anything unconstitutional or illegal in the town.

The police said they were arrested to avoid any law and order breakdown in the area. “There was lot of hue and cry which could have created law and order problem in the area. Therefore we took them into custody as a preventive measure to avoid any crisis in the district,” said a police official.

The arrest comes six months after the police arrested a Christian priest in Srinagar in November last year. A case was registered under section 153A and 295A of RPC against Rev Khanna at the Ram Munshi Bagh police station. Khanna was arrested three days after he appeared before the self-styled supreme court of Shairait, headed by the Grand Mufti of Kashmir Bashir-ud-din, who had issued summons to him.


Lankan PM condemns ‘unethical conversions’

April 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-india, Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka, April 19, 2012: Prime Minister M Jayaratne called on religious leaders earlier this week to prevent what he called unethical conversions that threaten peace and stability in the country.

“Some groups are trying to gain personal benefits and spending a large amount of money to launch their projects,” he said in an address in Colombo on April 17 to leaders from Buddhist, Catholic, Islamic and Hindu communities.

“There is no space for such fundamentalists to make their efforts successful,” said Jayaratne, who also serves as minister of religious affairs.

He added that the government had revoked the visas of several international religious organizations, including some American sects, he said were engaged in unethical conversions.

Jayaratne further proposed the establishment of a commission headed by representatives of various faiths that would agree on a plan to prevent unwanted proselytizing.

Venerable Medagama Dharamananda Thero, a Buddhist monk who attended the meeting, said the issue of conversions had become a crisis that needed to be addressed immediately.

Father Ivan Perera, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Colombo, said cooperation between all faiths was the key to tackling the issue of conversions.

“All religions have coexisted peacefully in this country for years until recent times, where a few evangelical groups make conversions,” he said.

He further noted the importance of distinguishing between mainstream churches and fundamentalist sects.

However one evangelical pastor dismissed charges often leveled at certain groups that they pay people to convert and said evangelization was a key aspect of his faith.

“We cannot stop our evangelical work in the country. We spread the good news to the people and God always blesses our work, which is evangelization, said Pastor Dharsan, head of the People’s Church.

Jathika Hela Hurumaya, a Buddhist political party, proposed anti-conversion legislation in 2004, but the bill has yet to be passed because of strong opposition from some religious groups.

– ucan

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