Protests against killing of two Christians in Pakistan

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, April 16, 2018: The leaders of the Christian community have launched a protest against the killing of two Christians near a church by four unidentified gunmen who opened fire at them in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, officials said.

Provincial police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said that a group of Christians had come out of the church on Sunday when the four gunmen appeared on two motorcycles from a nearby lane and opened fire on them.

“Two people were killed on the spot while six others were injured and rushed to a hospital,” he said.

The deceased have been identified as Azhar Masih and Rohail Masih. They were residents of Essa Nagri which houses a large population of the Christian community.

The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State terror group.

Ansari said that it appeared that the purpose of the attack was to spread panic and fear in the province.

“These terrorists are targeting security forces and now minorities to spread fear and panic because of the ongoing operation against them in the province,” he said.

The Christian community staged a protest demonstration against the provincial government and called for the immediate arrest of the attackers. They also urged the government to provide protection to all members of the Christian community in Quetta.

Pakistan has been battling armed groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The attacks often target Pakistan’s minorities, including Shia Muslims as well as Christians, Hindus and members of the Ahmadiyya sect.

Earlier this month, four members of a Christian family travelling in a rickshaw were killed in a firing incident on Quetta’s Shah Zaman road. The Christian family belonged to Punjab Province and had come to Quetta to see relatives.

In December last year, nine people were killed and 30 injured in a suicide attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road.

At least two suicide attackers had struck the Bethel Memorial Church while Sunday service was ongoing. There were 400 worshipers inside the church when the assault started.

– times of india

Christian persecution in India, the 11th worst place on earth for Christians

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, April 18, 2018: During this Lenten season when Christians are preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, those of us who are living in relative peace and affluence should remember and pray for those brothers and sisters in the faith whose circumstances are not as friendly.

To put it more accurately, Christians the world over should be mindful that at this time in our history there remain legions of Christ’s disciples who are made to endure persecution for their faith the likes of which rival that suffered by the earliest Christians.

While most of the worst environments for Christians are Islamic lands, there are non-Islamic bastions of intense Christian persecution that receive little to no coverage by the world’s media. One particularly notable example is that of India.

Of a population of 1.3 billion people, there are 64 million Christians who reside in India. Open Doors, an organization “dedicated to serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” relays the story of “Reena,” a 19 year-old girl who experienced this anti-Christian persecution directly.

“When I was a young child,” she says, “Hindu children did not want to play with me.” Eventually, “my parents were banned from using the local water supply. They had to walk many kilometers to draw water from the river.”

Things got even worse for this young woman.

When Reena went to work as a school teacher, she was initially promised a salary of 1,500 rupees ($23.13) a month. Her employers wound up welching: They paid her only 500 rupees ($7.71) for the first two months. Within six months, they stopped paying her entirely. So Reena sought work elsewhere.

Her new headmaster invited Reena to a teachers’ meeting. There he offered her and her colleagues an assortment of Indian pastries.

And it was at this time that Reena was drugged and kidnapped.

Reena doesn’t want to discuss the events that unfolded over the ten days of her captivity. She claims to have no recollection, but those in the know at Open Doors insist that it is more “likely…that what happened to her was so terrible [that] she doesn’t want to share” her experiences. After all, literally “millions of girls in India”—many of them Christians and other religious minorities—“are kidnapped and trafficked each year.”

Reena called her parents at one point and informed them that she was being retained in “a terrible place.” She also admits that when she first awoke, she was in a train car with many other teenage girls who followed her as she made her escape.

Yet Reena expresses suspicions that at least some of the girls were involved in her abduction.

Reena had been taken 14 hours away from her village.

Although she experienced depression and hopelessness for a time following her return to her home, upon attending an inspiring church service, Reena renewed her Christian faith. While her brother informs us that the headmaster in whose company Reena was drugged desires vengeance for the troubles that he now apparently endures, Reena sounds hopeful:

“My future is very bright. I will share the gospel with non-believers. I don’t expect more problems.”

But there are many problems for India’s Christians.

Over the last three years, the anti-Christian persecution in India has continued to increase. Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked India as the planet’s 25th worst persecutor of Christians in 2015. Yet in 2017 it was found to be the 15th biggest persecutor and, this year, it climbed to 11th place.

An Open Doors spokesperson informs us that before Christians face overt physical violence—in 2016, 15 Christians were murdered in India and many more beaten and threatened—“there [is] often…a long process of ‘re-converting’ them to Hinduism, during which they faced discrimination, social exclusion and other types of pressure.”

A chief cause of the oppression, according to Open Doors, is the resurrection of Hindu nationalism. The Hindu nationalist holds that only Hinduism should be observed in India. Some political leaders have even gone so far as to call for the expulsion from India of all Christians and Muslims by 2021.

In any event, although “everyone” is aware that “the churches are being attacked and demolished on almost an everyday basis in India,” as an Open Doors representative puts it, the Prime Minister of the country denies that any such persecution is occurring.

He should speak to people like Chandan Devi.

Chandan and her husband, Aadarsh, an Indian man who converted to Christianity and became a pastor who led a couple of dozen animists to Christ, have four children. The oldest, a daughter, is married, while the other three were away at boarding school when the unthinkable occurred.

Chandan and Aadarsh were home alone when they were attacked by thirty men, Maoist (communist) Naxalites all of them. As they grabbed him and proceeded to drag him outside, they were promising to murder Aadarsh. Chandan clung to her husband, begging the thugs to kill her along with her husband. Instead, though, they delivered to her a hard blow to the shoulder, dropping her to the ground.

The last thing Chandan recalls having heard is the loud sound of the door slamming shut as her husband was led off into the jungle to be killed.

Shortly afterwards, Aadarsh’s corpse was found.

None of the Christians who Aadarsh had converted attended his funeral for fear of losing their lives, and Chandan, fearing future attacks, fled her home and village with nothing but “the clothes on her back,” as Open Doors reports.

As if it wasn’t terrible enough that the Naxalites murdered Aadarsh. They subsequently threatened his brother Ajay. In fact, prior to Aadarsh’s murder, the Naxalites abducted Ajay’s son.

Of course, none of this should come as any surprise when it is considered that over the last decade, this same treacherous group, “with the help of local authorities,” has “attacked, beaten, kidnapped, raped and killed thousands of Christians in India” (italics added).

It’s worth noting that when Chandan was asked by Open Doors whether the trauma to which she and her loved ones have been subjected has provoked her to reconsider her faith and denounce Christ, she promptly responded:

“I’d rather die.”

Hindu-on-Christian persecution—not something that we hear, or are likely to hear, talked about by the Western media that has labored tirelessly to depict Christians as the planet’s only purveyors of oppression.

– belief net

‘Hindu terror’ a conspiracy against India, Congress wanted ‘Christian rule’: Subramanian Swamy

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, April 17, 2018: Rajya Sabha MP and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy on Monday hit out at the Congress party, accusing it of working against the country. Speaking to Times Now after a special NIA court acquitted all five accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, Swamy once again debunked the Hindu terror theory, saying it never existed. The BJP leader said on Hindu terror that there was a conspiracy against Hindus by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi and P Chidambaram, adding that PM Narendra Modi should now act against them.

“There was never a Hindu terror theory. It was a concocted thing from day and the first indication of concoction is when Rahul Gandhi went to the US Embassy, according to WikiLeaks, and said that Congress party has decided, Hindu terror is more dangerous than Lashkar-e-Toiba and we are going to accordingly modify our future action… and they started manufacturing things, P Chidambaram started forging documents,” Swamy said.

Swamy said Rahul Gandhi was trying to please the Christian lobby. “It was because of Hindus that we have a democracy and they wanted to convert this into some kind of Christian rule with help from Muslim nations,” he alleged, adding the entire conspiracy must be unravelled now.

Earlier today, a special NIA court in Hyderabad pronounced the judgement in the 2007 case of Mecca Masjid blast which claimed nine lives. The fourth additional metropolitan sessions-cum-special court for NIA cases acquitted all five accused in the case. The blast at the historic Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad on May 18, 2007 during Friday prayers had also left 58 others wounded.

Initial investigations were conducted by the local police and the probe was later transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had filed a chargesheet in the court. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe from the CBI in 2011.

Initially, 10 people with links to right-wing organisations were named as accused in the case. However, only five of them — Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Swami Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary – were arrested and put on trial. Two other accused — Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra — are absconding while another accused Sunil Joshi has died.

– times now news

Christians join other Indian religious leaders to clarify misunderstandings about their faith

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

India, April 16, 2018: As religious minorities in India, including Christians, are increasingly being targeted with violent crimes, more than 1,500 leaders from different faiths got together and resolved to promote the correct understanding of their respective religions to deal with an atmosphere of hate.

The resolve was made at an interfaith conclave held in the central India city of Indore last week, months after an independent report described the year 2017 as “one of the most traumatic for the Christian community” in 10 years.

The wave of attacks on the minority carries on under the administration of a governing coalition led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose supporters often seek to justify violence with the claim that Christians seek to convert Hindus by offering them monetary incentives or using fraudulent means.

However, the Rev. Jacob Corepiscopa, a priest from south India-based Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and who was part of the conclave, explained to the gathering that true Christians do not “force anyone to become Christian.”

“Our charitable works are also not for religious conversion. This is the way we share our Christian love with others. Such things are misrepresented as efforts to [seek] religious conversion,” UCANews quoted him as saying.

Not just Christians, the Muslim minority is also under attack in India. Dozens of Muslims have been lynched by Hindu nationalist mobs over suspicions of cow slaughter or possession and consumption of beef over the last four years. (Hindus regard cows as sacred.)

“We see a rise in sectarian violence in the country and have yet to find a solution. Those spreading violence are not religious people. They do not understand the tenets of their religion,” a Muslim representative and one of the organizers, Adil Sayeed, was quoted as saying at the conclave.

Christian persecution, which includes violent attacks, destruction of Christian property and false accusations, has risen since the BJP won the general election in 2014.

The governing party is connected with a Hindu nationalist organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

RSS founder M.S. Golwalkar once said: “The non-Hindu people in Hindustan (referring to India) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu religion, that is they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude toward this land and its age-long tradition but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen’s rights.”

In 2007 and 2008, about 100 Christians were killed and thousands of homes of Christians were burned down or destroyed in eastern Orissa state’s Kandhamal district.

India is ranked as the 11th worst persecutor of Christians in Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List.

– christian post

Church says St Thomas visited India

April 16, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Kochi, April 15, 2018: Amid a controversy triggered by reported remarks of a senior priest questioning the belief that St Thomas visited India in AD 52, the Syro-Malabar Church today said the disciple of Jesus Christ did visit India.

“The official stand of the Syro-Malabar Church is that St Thomas had visited India, the Church said in a statement here.

The statement was issued after Fr Paul Thelakkat, a former spokesperson of the church, last week reportedly said there was no evidence to suggest that St Thomas had come to India.

Some newspapers and TV news channels quoting former spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Church had reported there is no evidence to prove St Thomas had come to India. Some media even said this is the official stand of Syro-Malabar Church. This is baseless…,” it said.

The Syro-Malabar Church originated from the evangelisation works of St Thomas, said the statement issued by Bishop Sebastian Vaniyappurackal.

“World famous historians have accepted it as a fact. Many historic documents are there to support this,” he said.

However, Fr Thelakkat today said he had never made a statement about the traditional belief that St Thomas had come to India.

He clarified he had made certain remarks regarding prevailing upper caste feelings in Church while joining a debate kick started by Bishop Geevarghese Mor Coorilos of the Niranam diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church on the issue.

“We should not rely on glory of a caste or tribe. That is dangerous,” Thelakkat told PTI.

The Jacobite priest had recently criticised some church members for conducting hollow family meetings.

He had said in a Facebook post that some of the families believe in fake myths that their forefathers were members of the Brahmin community and St Thomas converted them to Christianity.

These kinds of false beliefs should be broken, he had said.

Noted historian M G S Narayanan said there were no historic documents to suggest that St Thomas had come to India for evangelisation work.

“There were no human habitations here at that time in Kerala.

There was only forest here. How would he visit such a place? For what? , he told a Malayalam TV channel.

The Syrian Christian community in Kerala believes that St Thomas came to this part in AD 52 and had established churches.

The community considers St Thomas as the ‘Father in Faith’ of Christians in India.

The Syro-Malabar Church has over 30 dioceses in the country and four outside– in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and Britain–serving over five million faithful.

– business standard

Lahore Christians protest against cemetery confiscations for real estate speculation

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Lahore, April 13, 2018: A group of more than a hundred Christians protested against the occupation of a cemetery that belongs to the local Church.

At the cry of “Down with Punjab government” and “Down with encroachment mafia”, protesters on Tuesday blocked the road in front of the Lahore Press Club for more than two hours.

The Gora Qabrastan (cemetery) Action Committee (GQAC) organised the rally to oppose the confiscation of the Christian cemetery in the heart of the provincial capital.

For the past two years, the committee has been demanding the removal of the family of the retired graveyard guardian, Munawar, who has been using three residential buildings (more than 500 sq metres).

GQAC deputy chancellor Khalid Shahzad told AsiaNews that “the family is trying to sell the houses with fake documents.”

“Both the Catholic and Protestant bishops sent the former guardian an eviction notice, but the family refuses to leave. We have organised innumerable meetings with district officials, but our complaints remain buried under the bribes.”

In August 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan “conveyed its displeasure” to its Human Rights Cell “with direction to submit report within two weeks” about the affair.

Illegally grabbing Church-owned land is nothing new in the country. At least three cemeteries are currently illegally occupied in the archdiocese of Lahore alone.

According to real estate website Zameen.com, Pakistan’s real estate is soaring as house prices have more than doubled in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

In 2012, the Lahore Development Authority bulldozed more than 8,000 sq metres of land that housed the Gosh e Aman missionary institute, a chapel, a Caritas laboratory and other social welfare buildings operated by the Catholic Church.

In 1972, the Pakistani government nationalised all Church schools and colleges in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

They were denationalised between 1985 and 1995 without compensation. Several missionary schools are still under government control.

“Instead of paying us rent for 35 years, Churches have had to pay to take back control of their institutions,” said Colonel (retired) Azim Ilyas, coordinator of the Lahore Diocesan Board of Education, Church of Pakistan.

A lot of money was “spent in the renovation of dilapidated buildings which affected the quality of education in once esteemed institutes. Those still in government possession have turned into ruins.”

– asia news

More Indian or more Christian?

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, April 13, 2018: Just like Indian Muslims, Christians in the country are also victims of a persistent questioning of their patriotism.

While suspicion of Christian groups has existed since the formation of the Indian state in 1947, this issue has gained in dimension with the election to power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has support from Hindu groups working to make India a Hindu nation.

The BJP’s electoral victory in 2014 has not only emboldened Hindu nationalist groups to dismiss as unpatriotic all actions and ideas that fail to conform to the aims of Hindu nationalist groups but has also led to increasing anti-Catholic violence, particularly in central India.

It seems this crisis facing Christians was very much on the mind of Cardinal Oswald Gracias when speaking at the conference of Latin rite bishops in Bangalore in February. He reportedly told the gathering: “The Catholic Church needs our nation, and India needs the church … We will be asking our people also to become better Indian Christians. This is the call of today to be fully Indian, fully Christian.”

In making such statements, bishops are making a profound analytical mistake not dissimilar to that made by the European Jews from the mid-18th century onwards.

Assuming that it was their external difference from Christian Europeans that was the reason for anti-Semitic hostility, sections of the Jews began to give up their distinctive dress, customs and sometimes religion to try and fit into the mainstream.

As the tragic consequences of World War II demonstrate, this did not stop them from being demonized across Europe and eventually meeting their end largely through the efforts of Nazi Germany. A similar mistake by the Catholic leadership in India could have serious consequences for Christians across the country.

The call to be “fully Indian, fully Christian” offers two suggestions. First, that Indian Christians are not as yet fully Indian, and secondly, that it is possible to identify what it means to be fully Indian and then meet those goals.

The first suggestion in fact plays directly into the hands of Hindu nationalists of all shades who suggest either explicitly or subtly that, given Christianity’s foreign origins, Christians in India are not authentically Indian. That this claim is recognized by Christians themselves can be seen in a variety of cultural interventions that purport to be forms of inculturation.

Let us not forget that the attempt to become “Hindu-Christian” by some theologians is in fact identical to the requirement that Hindu groups place on Muslims and Christians in India — that they be Hindu-Muslims and Hindu-Christians, positing Hinduism (understood exclusively in its upper-caste Brahmanical forms) as the base culture of India.

The second suggestion requires more work. The recommendation that Catholics in India should be more Indian and more Christian seems to suggest that Indian-ness is capable of being objectively determined. This is not a sound appreciation of reality.

There is a mountain of scientific research that points to the fact that the unspoken ideal subject of Indian nationalism is the upper-caste (north) Indian Hindu male. Such research points out how even Jawaharlal Nehru’s writings demonstrate an unconscious bias of Hindu-ness as the underlying theme of Indian-ness. It is these men, regardless of whether they are Hindu nationalists or secular Hindus, who define, and have been defining, what Indian-ness means.

Bluntly put, given that Christians in India are not in the position of defining what Indian-ness means, there is simply no way in which we will ever be able to approximate the ideals of Indian-ness set by Indian nationalists of any hue.

What killed the Jews of Europe is similar to what threatens all non-Hindu communities in India today: the growth of nationalism.

The problem with most popular analyses of nationalism is that they do not recognize the difference between concepts of the nation and the state. The distinction between the two is perhaps best captured in Hannah Arendt’s pithy observation of “the conquest of the state by the nation.” In her view, nationalism transformed the modern state from an organ that would execute the rule of law for all its citizens and residents into the nation-state, an instrument of the nation alone.

Modern nationalism is inherently a divisive force, identifying religion, ethnicity or language as the basis of the nation, and in this process inevitably excluding groups within the state or creating hatred of those outside it.

Smaller social groups do not naturally exist as minorities; they are actively created or made minorities through conscious exclusion. That this exclusion is an inevitable aspect of nationalism is made obvious by the fact that the only way secular liberal nationalists across the world can think of the relationship with minority groups is that of tolerance. Not love but tolerance.

In many ways, nationalism is a theology that articulates a mystical relationship between the national-citizen and the nation constructed as a deity. It is when we recognize the theological nature of modern nationalism and the nation-state that perhaps we will become aware that there cannot be a compromise between nationalism and the Christian calling.

In this context, Archbishop Thomas Ignatius Macwan of Gandhinagar was right in the phrasing of the pastoral letter for which he was pilloried. Catholics have a religious obligation to ensure that nationalists do not take over the state.

Fortunately, Catholics in India are not being asked to make a dramatic choice. The Christian call to universalism, one that recognizes neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal 3:28), can ensure that Christians are more than able to participate to the benefit of the state but refuse to cooperate in the sectarian projects of contemporary nationalism.

There is of course no need for Catholic leaders in India to actively proclaim a refusal to participate in nationalist projects; this would be a foolhardy venture in the current climate. But there is similarly no need for us to contribute to nationalist rhetoric by asking that we become more Indian.

Our call is to be more Christian, loving all without distinction.

– ucan

Indian religious leaders pledge to check hate

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Bhopal, April 13, 2018: More than 1,500 religious leaders in India concluded a two-day conclave resolving to reach out to the masses with true teachings of their faiths to check increasing religion-based hatred and violence.

Representatives of various sects of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions and sexual minorities attended the event on April 11-12 in Indore. It was jointly organized by three organizations working for religious harmony.

“We see a rise in sectarian violence in the country and have yet to find a solution. Those spreading violence are not religious people. They do not understand the tenets of their religion,” said Adil Sayeed, one of the organizers.

He said people spread hate about religions for political reasons and personal profit. “These people pick up teachings and traditions that suit them to spread hatred, and simple ordinary people fall for such distorted teachings. This leads to religious intolerance,” he said.

Sayeed said participants unanimously agreed to teach their followers the authentic spirit of their religions as no religion advocates hate and violence as the path of spiritual progress.

India has been witnessing increased religious polarization since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. It projected itself as the champion of Hindus, bolstering Hindu groups to accelerate their action to turn India into a Hindu-only nation.

Religious minorities like Christians and Muslims have been complaining of increased violence against their people. At least 10 Muslim men have been lynched and many injured by vigilante cow protection groups, many of which seemed to operate with the support of the BJP, rights group Amnesty India said in a report early this year.

Persecution Relief recorded 736 attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016.

Christians were often attacked after being accused of converting Hindus. The issue was addressed in the conclave by Reverend Jacob Corepiscopa, a priest of the Kerala-based Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church who now works in central India.

He explained to the gathering that no true Christian will “force anyone to become Christian. Our charitable works are also not for religious conversion. This is the way we share our Christian love with others. Such things are misrepresented as efforts to religious conversion,” said the priest.

Some 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people are Hindus but Muslims number some 14 percent or 180 million, making them the largest religious minority. Although Christians comprise just 2.3 percent, they are the third-largest minority.

As the country braces for its next parliamentary election in the first quarter of 2019, political parties have begun to project themselves as protectors of religious and caste interests in their effort to garner votes.

Hindu ascetic Sadhvi Pragya Bharati said Hinduism has “special love and respect for women” and “space to include everyone.”

“We name our rivers after women, the goddess of wisdom is named after a woman and even the great war depicted in the epic Mahabharata was for protecting the dignity of a woman,” she said without mentioning the recent rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl by Hindus in Jammu in an alleged revenge attack against Muslims.

Muslim leader Sayyid Ali Muhammad Naqvi said religious leaders who should be speaking against hatred are sometimes hypocritical by failing to condemn violence perpetuated in the name of their religion.

Transgender representative Mahamandleshwar Laxminarayan Tripathy said religions have exploited people with their male domination. “Those acting as leaders are trying to impose religion on others as they perceive it rather than imbibing its real spirit. This misrepresentation leads to chaos,” she said.

– ucan

Report on dalit discrimination in Sivaganga

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Chennai, April 13, 2018: A public hearing report released on April 9 has listed discriminatory practices against Dalits, ranging from denial of priesthood to preventing equal job opportunities, prevalent in Tamil Nadu’s Sivaganga diocese.

The report titled ‘Dalit Christians Crucified’ was compiled by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front.

“It was news for me. I have known Christianity as an institution that doesn’t support discrimination,” said D Hariparanthaman, retired Madras high court judge, who was a jurist in the public hearing held in March 2017.

For instance, the report cited the existence of different chapels within the same substation under a parish, each catering to different communities.

One chapel would serve the dominant community (udayars and vellalars), whom the report refers to as “caste Christians”, and the other chapel would cater to dalits converted to Christianity (pallars, parayars and kadayars). “From a mere look of a chapel in a village, one would come to the conclusion as to whether it belongs to Caste Christians or dalit Christians,” the report said.

“Different chapels exhibit the discrimination at play,” Hariparanthaman said.

The issue is not unique to the Sivaganga diocese. But the fact that casteism has pervaded Christianity which doesn’t have such a religious sanction, escapes the understanding of D Ravikumar, general secretary, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi. “More than 50% of Catholic Christians in the country are dalits. It is shocking to see a majority community (dalits) in a minority religion (Christianity) being subjected to discrimination,” he said.

But escaping caste in India is impossible, believes V Vasanti Devi. A former vice chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Devi was part of the jury which held the public hearing. “The term caste Christian is alien to Christianity elsewhere in the world. But caste is a primordial gene here,” she said.

G Michael Raja, a Dalit, was the first from his pallar community to complete seminary training in April 2012. A victim of deep-rooted casteism in Sivaganga, he is still not ordained. In November 2014, after protests erupted over Raja’s treatment, Archbishop Antony Pappusamy of Madurai wrote a letter to the bishops functioning under him. The letter insisted that Raja seek pardon from the bishop of Sivaganga for the “agitations staged by people against the diocese and its administration” for him to be ordained priest.

Raja said since 2012, no other pallar community member had finished training. “It is systematic elimination” (by the diocese). He cited the case of another pallar who had to drop out of seminary because of caste discrimination.

These situations bring up a larger question concerning religious conversion, said C Lakshmanan, associate professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies. “That conversion is not a solution to escape caste is the bigger picture here,” he said.

The fragile nature of the problem also plays into the hands of majoritarian and fundamentalist forces, Ravi Kumar said.

“Majoritarianism wave in the country gets its legitimacy from the discrimination prevailing in minority religion. The diocese must understand the larger danger lurking and resolve the situation,” he said.

Hariparanthaman added that the report and its findings would likely be forwarded to the Vatican in order to bring it to the attention of the Catholic head, Pope Francis.

– times of india

Christian family shot dead in southwestern Pakistan

April 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, April 3, 2018: Four members of a Christian family were gunned down in southwestern Pakistan on Monday, police said, in the latest attack on the minority community.

The family was travelling in a rickshaw when armed men on a motorcycle intercepted them and opened fire in Quetta city, the capital of Baluchistan province.

A woman was rushed to hospital. Her father and three cousins were killed.

“It appears to have been a targeted attack,” provincial police official Moazzam Jah Ansari told Reuters. “It was an act of terrorism.”

The attack comes a day after Pakistan’s Christian community celebrated Easter on Sunday. Around 2 percent of Pakistan’s population are Christians.

Minority religious festivals are a security concern in the majority Sunni Muslim country where there have been a number of high casualty attacks on Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.

Baluchistan, a region bordering Iran as well as Afghanistan, is plagued by violence by Sunni Islamist sectarian groups linked to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State. It also has an indigenous ethnic Baloch insurgency fighting against central government.

In December, a week before Christmas, two suicide bombers stormed a packed Christian church in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding up to 56, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The family killed on Monday had come to visit relatives in Quetta’s Shahzaman road area, where a large number of the city’s Christian community lives.

Rome’s ancient Colosseum was lit in red for an evening in February in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who has been living on death row in Pakistan since 2010, when she was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam.

– channel news asia

Next Page »