The CSF to internationalize Anti-Christian Violence

April 11, 2011 by  
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Give Christians Arms Licenses for Self-Defence, IF Government Can’t Protect its Citizens
Gandhi Jayanti Eve – Kandhamal Christians Internationalise Anti-Christian Violence
Orissa Relief Camps Bombed – Christians Not Safe Even in Government Shelters
100 Victims of Anti-Christians Violence & Civil Society March to United Nations
Mahesh Bhat & Others Petition UNO to Declare Orissa Christians as Refugees
Deny Navin Patnaik & Yeddyurappa Visas to Go Abroad
On the eve of Gandhi Jayanti and International Day for Peace, 100 tribal Christians from the communal violence-affected districts of Orissa, especially from Kandhamal petitioned the UNO to declare them refugees. A delegation comprising representatives of civil society, like noted film director, Mahesh Bhat and Ms. Shabnam Hashmi (member, National Integration Council, Govt of India) accompanied Dr. Abraham Mathai, (president Indian Christian Voice and vice-chairman, Maharashtra Minorities Commission), Mr. Joseph Dias (general secretary, The Catholic Secular Forum) and others to meet Ms. Shalini Dewan, the UN director presenting to her the petition, seeking UN intervention. Among the other signatories to the petition were Rev. Nitin Sardar of Dinbandhu Ministries and Dr. John Dayal, member, National Integration Council, Govt of India.

The Orissa Christians feared for their lives, if they were forced to go back to the state and hence, sought refugee status, which is historic, since it is the first time that persecuted Christians are making such an appeal. Mahesh Bhat said that this delegation had met all concerned – the President of India downwards, but to no avail. Hence, they were forced to make such a request on behalf of those persecuted for their faith and discriminated against because of their religion. Dr. Mathai said that the petition addressed to the UN Secretary General would be sent by his office in national capital to him in New York and some positive development was expected. He warned of a worse holocaust to follow the communal carnage, which the Government would not be able to prevent. He added that a national shame had become an international embarrassment for the PM on his visit abroad and India’s secular image needs to be kept intact overseas.

Mr. Joseph Dias feared militancy rising among Christian youth, with the violence continuing unabated with killings reported daily, over the last few months, torching of churches and wanton destruction of hundreds of homes, which had not yet been contained. Already there were calls from within the community, to ask the government for arm licenses to be used in self-defence, as such attacks will not stop, he said. He also called for refugee camps, under UN supervision to be started in Orissa to give food to the thousands starving to death in the forests and also emergency medicare to hundreds brutally injured and dying. The CSF general secretary hoped that “with the nuclear deal done, the Prime Minister would now have time to pay attention to serious issues nearer at home, like rising anti-Christian violence, which had already claimed hundreds of lives and caused destruction worth crores of rupees. Communalism is a threat to the Indian nation and if the fires are not tended, it would consume the country and affect all world citizens, like terrorism” he added.

The CSF general secretary urged the PM to visit Orissa and Karnataka, saying that The CSF would now also now internationalize the issue by writing to various heads of nations to act on controlling foreign funds to the Saffron Brigade and deny visas to Naveen Patnaik & Yeddyurappa to visit their countries, as is the case with Narendra Modi. Mr. Joseph Dias said, if a lunatic shot an innocent or a few were killed in a bomb blast, it made the front-page, but when hundreds of Christians were massacred and tens of thousands were brutally wounded by supporters of the RSS – VHP – Bajrang Dal, it ceased to make news, any longer. The CSF also received information that there was panic and chaos in the relief camp of Christians in Kandhamal when bombs exploded. The bombs, suspected to be hand-made and of low intensity, went off at Nuagaon, Mahasinghi village and Baliguda town at around 7, 8 and 9 pm respectively. What next ? Our silence makes us culpable, with implicit involvement in the murder and spilling of innocent blood, he concluded.

PETITION TO UNITED NATIONS


As you are aware, the violence against Christians in various States of India, especially in the State of Orissa, over the last 45 days, has made world headlines. The New York Times on 3rd September 2008 reported that 1,400 homes and 80 churches had been destroyed or damaged. The actual figures in Orissa, are more than double. Hundreds have been killed for belonging to the faith and large-scale gross human rights abuse is taking place – rape, brutal injury, police atrocities, torching of churches & property belonging to Christians, their institutions and clergy. Even the official figures of lives lost or crores of rupees worth property vandalized in the ensuing carnage, has shocked civil society in India and abroad. Tens of thousands are rendered homeless, living in the forests or in government relief camps – where inhuman living conditions, devoid of basic food & medicine – is cause of many deaths.

The Christian community seems to have lost all faith in the Government to protect the life & property of its citizens, especially when it comes to the minority Christians, who constitute a meager 2.5% of the country’s population. Further, the States where this is happening, especially Orissa, are ruled by the opposition right-wing BJP and allies, and this being an election year, the Government is reluctant to act, as it is not seen to be politically expedient. It’s been months since the Christmas eve massacre in Orissa and the community has ever since, been knocking at all doors – the President & PM of India downwards – but to no avail. As of today, the attacks continue with a renewed vigour of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Orissa and spreading to at least 8 other States of India.

The onslaught would have claimed more lives, if only the media and human rights activists had not played a significant restraining role, by highlighting the brutality of the Hindu extremists, backed by an inactive Government, which if not abets the communal violence, certainly turns a Nelson’s eye to it.There are all indications of a worse holocaust to follow the communal carnage, which we fear cannot be prevented by the Government. Christian NGOs & the Church are not allowed to even fend for its own & care for its hurt and dying. There seems to be no hope for thousands of Christian victims and the only option to save their lives, they feel is to flee the state. Hundreds of Oriya Christians have run-away from the State and contacted the undersigned NGOs to protect them & seek UN intervention.

It is against this background and emergency conditions, that we have therefore, as a last resort, brought to the national capital, this first batch of about 100 Christians from Orissa and make the following requests –

1) These Oriya Christians and others to follow have expressed the desire to be termed Prima Facie Refugees and urge you, through the UNHCR to deem them so, in order that they can be covered by a legal framework to protect their human dignity from rights violations and abuse. Currently, they along with tens of thousands, are a Stateless people, as the writ of the Government of India, does not run large in the State of Orissa. There is no Rule of Law and mobocracy by Hindutva terror outfits like, the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, is the political system, which is in place. The Prime Minister has not visited Orissa and earlier, even the Home Minister of India could not visit the victims.

2) These Oriya Christians fulfill the requirements, as per the UN conventions to be Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and urge you, through the various relief agencies, like the International Red Cross, UNHCR, etc. to provide them with the basic food, medicine and shelter. Tens of thousands such as these, will either be killed by the Hindu extremists or will die of injury and malnourishment, if no attention is paid immediately. Many of these are old, women, children, babies, clergy… who are the most vulnerable sections. We appeal to you on humanitarian grounds, not take a strictly legalistic view, as precious lives are being lost by every day, even as blood is split by the hour.

3) The State government has prevented Christian NGOs from working in the areas, thus facilitating the Hindutva ethnic cleansing and genocide begun, against Christians – akin to State-sponsored terrorism. The Government of India refuses to use its constitutional powers, for reasons best known. Now, humanitarian aid, under UN supervised relief camps are an imperative, as relief even if sent, will not be channeled to reach the dying and the needy. The UNHCR as per its mandate urgently needs to set-up refugee camps for 50,000 Oriyans, persecuted for their faith – refugees in their own land or IDPs, in UN parlance.

Finally, the violence being carried out against Christians in India is a clear breach of their human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. We appeal to the UN and the related world agencies, to urge the Indian government to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities, under the Constitution of India and in particular Articles 3, 7, 8, 12 and 18 of the Universal Declaration, which India ratified in 1948.

We also appeal to the UN and its world agencies, to exercise its power and influence, to protect lives and prevent further killings in India or discrimination on the basis of race, religion or caste. We thank you for your kind attention and trust that the matters raised in this letter will be given due consideration.

(The Signatories)

The CSF Protest March from St. Peter’s Church to Mount Mary’s, Bandra

April 11, 2011 by  
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Orissa an International Shame
We reiterate our Demand – Imposition of President’s rule
Prime Minister should visit Orissa & allow Relief work
Ban Bajrang Dal – Christian Blood should not be Spilled for Political Expediency
There seems to be no respite from the Saffron Brigade for Christians in Orissa and even worse, the communal violence spreads to other several other states. To send out an SOS to the government, hundreds of Oriya Christians – in the city and those, who have fled the state marched, while praying for communal harmony. The prayer march started from the St.Peter’s Church on Hill Road, Bandra (W) at 4pm, and culminated at Mount Mary’s Shrine at around 6 pm. These Orissa Christians were accompanied by an enactment of the Roman soldiers flogging Jesus, as an eye-opener to the Government that even today, Christians are being attacked, brutally killed and their property destroyed in modern India. The flogging enactment is to serve as a reminder that even after over 2000 years, the persecution of the Christians – their agony, anguish & genocide – continues & the Jesus is their only solace.

The march was organised by the Indian Christian Voice and The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), who reiterated their demands – WE REITERATE OUR DEMAND FOR DISMISSAL OF THE ORISSA GOVERNMENT AND IMPOSITION OF PRESIDENT’S RULE IN THE STATE. WE ALSO CALL FOR A BAN ON THE BAJRANG DAL AND RELATED MOB TERROR OUTFITS IMMEDIATELY for attacks that are unconstitutional, threatening the secular fabric of the country. The State of India has abdicated its responsibility and duty to protect Indian Christians, by not taking the state governments to task & failing to protect the life and personal liberty of Indian citizens. The Government of India has failed to ensure freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion – the very rights enshrined in the Constitution of the country (Articles 21 & 25) and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Articles 18 & 27) to which the Government of India is a party.

We call for immediate provision of relief and adequate compensation to the victims as per ICCPR Article 2.3.1 to those Internally Displaced Persons, according to international conventions. There must also be independent fast track courts constituted to try the culprits and enforce rule of law immediately, besides, the following demands, which must be seriously considered:

Foreign funding to such Hindu NGOs needs to be stopped and travel advisories need to be issued to tourists not to come to these states.
Order the CBI to investigate into all aspects of the anti Christian violence in various states & into internal business-houses funding the hate-campaign of the Saffron Brigade.
Immediately take into preventative custody the culprits, after suspending police & government officials for gross dereliction of duty & joining in the ethnic cleansing.
Hand over especially, Kandhamal district to the Indian Army & allow Christian NGOs to do relief work in Orissa.
Trace the thousands of Christians missing, (abducted, injured or feared dead) or believed to be hiding in the forests.
Grant Scheduled Status to Dalit Christians and reservations to Christians, as provided to Muslims, to get them economically uplifted from their poor state as per NSSO survey.
Grant compensation to the churches & residences of priests / house-churches, etc. for losses incurred, which the government is not presently doing, since it is not felt to be politically correct.
Improve state of relief camps and jails, where thousands of Christians are languishing & which have inhuman living conditions, resembling Nazi concentration camps.
Constitute an Enquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act & expand the terms of reference of the state enquiries instituted to fix responsibility and culpability on government servants & also on guilty politicians.
Provide adequate security to Christian religious places and institutions, as attacks are expected in the run-up to the elections & the fires of communalism are to flare-up. Active Christian NGO leaders need to be included by the Government in discussions pertaining to the community.
We also appeal to you to highlight the following recommendations we make to the Govt of India:

Communalism is to be treated as a crime against the state, like terrorism and made a non-bailable offence. Mob terror is equal, if not worse than bomb terror.
Enactment of legislation like Prevention of Atrocities on SC/ST Act, to protect minorities, from the brute force of the majority.
Moving Law & Order from the State list to the Concurrent list, for the union government can intervene, without flimsy excuses.
Permitting an Independent Enquiry by International Human Rights Organizations or an Independent Supreme Court Judge into the anti-Christian attacks, within a time-frame.

 

“Chalo New Delhi”, “Mourning in Mangalore” or “Black Christmas in Orissa”

April 11, 2011 by  
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Dear Friend in Christ,

This is Sent & Dedicated to Those Who are One with Us in The Cause for a Secular India

The email below seemed to be frighteningly prophetic as we received news of a number of churches being attacked in Kodaikanal, TN and statues vandalised including those of Our Lady of Fatima (90 yrs), St. Lourdes (50 yrs), OL of Velankanni (15 yrs), Crucifix (10 yr) of Poondi Mata Church and many others in Dindigul district. Today, we also sadly received news of Little Flower Catholic Church in Tikamgarh district in Madhya Pradesh being vandalised and torched, which was discovered by the Sisters of Sacred Heart nuns, working there. Elections are due there in November and it seems, the Hindutva forces have opened war on yet another front, that we need to face.

We welcome the Supreme Court’s direction to the Orissa government to to assess the damage to Christian property and assist in re-building them by providing compensation. The CSF is also happy since the apex Court said that proceedings in cases arising out of the violence will have to be conducted by setting up fast track courts. Another statement of the SC Bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, was that the central para-military forces provided to the state government for maintaining law and order in riot-hit areas will remain there till December-end in view of the upcoming festival of Christmas. All thanks to Archbishop Raphael Cheenath filing a PIL for the same.

The CSF is however disappointed that the SC has declined to hand over to CBI, the investigation into the alleged rape of a nun during the on-going communal violence in Orissa. The apex court could have been a little more sensitive and besides, the Christians have no faith in the police, who stood as mere spectators, while the nun was raped and paraded naked on 25, August and in many cases even participated in the attacks on the community. Any enquiry by the state government, after all the community is going through, will not instill confidence among Christians & such probes will only prove to be shams, as has happened in Gujarat.

Finally, a suggestion that we organize a massive “Chalo New Delhi”, “Mourning in Mangalore” or “Black Christmas in Orissa”, with lakhs (not thousands) of Christians participating from all over the country. No Speeches – Just lay seize to the PM’s / CM’s residence and not move, unless the issue is resolved to our satisfaction. It seems the only way, if we are serious about getting results.

It is said, if you can discuss a problem ad nauseum, you will not be able to solve it.

Thanking you, with warm personal regards – In HIM – Joseph Dias

Goa, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra & Tamil Nadu – Next ? Church & Community Needs to Act Urgently

You will be happy to know that Cardinal Oswald Gracias is back yesterday in Mumbai, is recuperating fine & expressed his heartfelt gratitude for those who kept him in their prayers. I am just back from Goa – the latest state on the Saffron Brigade’s communal radar. VHP warlord, Praveen Togadia was there, addressing a meeting, where I was present & it was no different from those he did in Orissa… Manohar Parrikar, Goa’s ex-CM from the BJP, says that at least 7 churches/chapels have been vandalized so far. Hindu fundamentalists are now after a 130 year-old church in Mayem in North Goa & also claiming church property. In Mangalore something similar is happening, where the Hindutvawadis have planted saffron flags over property used by the Church, since decades. The reasons / excuses to target the Christian clergy or laity & their property may vary, but the effect is the same – decimation of the community.

The situation has not improved a bit, anywhere else. Christians in Orissa & in other parts of the India, who do not reconvert to Hinduism, run the risk of being killed, raped or having their property reduced to ashes. Those Christians who reconvert, spare their their heads being tonsured, escape being fed cow-dung & urine, besides having to do unspeakable of desecration to the Bible, Crucifix or statues. I am on my way to Madhya Pradesh, where the announcement of assembly elections in the state has placed Christians at grave risk there, according to Fr. Anand Muttungal of Bhopal and other Christian activists. Tamil Nadu & even Delhi has also been added to the list of targeted states.

Let us admit it. We have failed to make a dent with the powers-that-be in the State as well as the Centre, with no action forthcoming. Lip-service. Words, Words… And More Words. The reaction of the church has been the traditional pray & pay. Christians are largely church-centric & so after the first round of rallies, prayers, meetings, signature drives… we are passing the hat around for relief – the most popular kind being old clothes. The CSF believes that all this was a good beginning & we were not to be left behind. But next what ? Much more is expected from the Church & Community. Instead of collecting resources to compensate the victims, shouldn’t we pressurize the government into giving compensation ? Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Orissa has moved the court for damages worth Rs. 3 crores and The CSF has asked the PM to act by providing funds from central coffers. Can we / should we collect that much & much more every time anti-Chrisitian violence takes place ?

The writing has been on the wall since the last attack on Christmas eve in Orissa; and if Christians had seen through it then & prepared themselves, we could have saved many precious lives from being snuffed out. We could have prevented blood being spilt, nuns being raped, clergy being attacked, hundreds of churches desecrated, crores of rupees worth property destroyed…It is still not too late, since the attacks will not stop. We fear it will only get worse, until the ultimate Saffron aim to ethnically cleanse & eliminate Christians (physically, politically, religiously & economically) is achieved. In Maharashtra we have information of one Narendra Maharaj, who has much in common with the late Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati of Orissa, who claims to have reconverted almost 50,000 Christians in western India states. Expect more persecution from Thane, Raigad, Ulhasnagar, Sindhudurg….

What needs to be done ?

We need to put in place a mechanism to face such SOS situations. We need to concentrate less on empowering others and more on equipping ourselves. The anti-Christian violence has exposed weak links in the existing church and laity structures. Therefore –

1. The church & the community need to go back to the basics in the Bible. India is fast becoming like the West, in terms of most of us being Christian only in name. Of little importance, in the rush of modern living, are things like – the Great Commission, love & concern for our own, tithing or giving to God’s work, supporting the poor, sick, orphans, widows… Unless we put Christ back among Christians, our faith will be no less shallow than that of those in the “developed” countries – facing an economic meltdown for being selfish & ignoring God ?

2. The church & the community needs to introspect & support notable activist initiatives, for the tasks at hand are huge, needing much financial & professional resources. Most of the initiatives are dependent on private & personal funds, which will dry out in time. Soon, yet another anti-Christian attack will not create a big stir, like anti-Muslim riots don’t today. Rather, many more activists would rise to the cause, if they are supported financially, since or else they would have to do so, at the cost of their jobs or small businesses. We need to organize ourselves into a network – to take on a major community development exercises.

3. The church & the community needs to demand reservations for Christians in education / employment & Scheduled status for Dalit Christians. If we had done so at the time of Independence or during the Mandal Commission agitation, Christians would have been in a better position today. In case of such communal violence or discrimination, we would have had at least a handful of community members in the police, government, judiciary, administration, civil & defence forces, etc. to help us out. The Govt of India NSSO survey clearly states that Christians are in some cases, the poorest. What does the Church or urban Christians plan do about it.

Examples to learn from.

The Parsi, Sikh & Jain minorities, who are just a tiny fraction of our numbers, have shown the way economically & politically. The Muslims too can teach us something in this regard. The Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) has put out an appeal for the better blessed Muslims to each contribute a little Zakat (tithe) annually and is working towards a 25 Million U$ Dollar / Rs.100 Crore community development fund. Details onhttp://www.unitedislamicaid.org/ Christian clergy, intellectuals, professionals, ex-servicemen, financially better-off laity … need to think on these lines.

If we don’t watch out & take urgent steps, our churches will be reduced to muesuems and vocations will stop happening. We are thoroughly ill-equipped to face the onslaught & dangers to come. If we have been spared to some extent is because, we have internationalized the issue. But this too has its limitations.

The CSF is making a humble beginning by setting-up a major DATABANK, which will be of great service in meeting the challenges we are presently confronting. Nothing of this kind exists in India & the expenses for the same are expected to be at a minimum Rs. 2,50,000 or US$ 5555 approx. This will be for staff, office, systems, stationery, communication, etc. We are looking for partners, who are prompted or blessed by the LORD to help us out. If you feel called to assist in any way, please send your contact details to thecsf.ceo@gmail.com

The CSF also has Dr. Peter Rodriques specifically looking into the issue of reservation – a subject very close to his heart. We invite others to contact The CSF and contribute (ideas, contacts, influence, volunteer…) your mite – assistance in kind is more valuable, than cash!

The CSF would also like to promote a national-level Federation of Christian NGOs & activists, to meet under one roof to see how best to organize the community effectively & come out with an action programme. We need to use the internet to tell the world and compel the Government of India to act. We have therefore put up a petition to the UNITED NATIONS & HEADS OF STATES and will follow it through internationally. We are closing this petition by October ’08 end & if you haven’t as yet signed in, please do so athttp://www.PetitionOnline.com/thecsf17/petition.html. Please also forward this email, with the above link, (or copy+paste it) for your other contacts to sign in.

Thank you for the support that you have given us. Please be assured of our prayers for you & your loved ones. Requesting your prayers for us, our families & associates too – without which, it would not have been possible for us to do so much.

Your Servant in the Lord’s Service
Ln. Joseph Dias, MA (Eco), Ex-Special Executive Magistrate / SEO, Govt of Maharashtra
General Secretary, The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF)
09769 55 56 57
trinity.cmd@gmail.com

The Story of Fr. Bernard

April 11, 2011 by  
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It began with his visit to Sankarakhole parish on Aug. 23, when a Hindu leader was killed, kicking off the attacks.

He and his driver Sisir Pradhan left the archdiocesan headquarters in the state capital of Bhubaneswar. They reached Sankarakhole at around 10:30 p.m. “We had dinner. As we were preparing to go to bed after a tiring day, we received a call” saying Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu leader based in the state’s Kandhamal district, was shot dead. “I could not believe it. We went to bed,” he recalled.

He recounted that he woke up the next morning hearing anti-Christian slogans and people “yelling outside,” saying they wanted to kill missioners.

Father Alexander Chandy, the parish’s 65-year-old pastor, Pradhan and Father Digal remained inside the church compound the whole day and moved to a forested area at night.

The situation “got worse” on Aug. 24, Father Digal continued. “We kept getting information on attacks and killings in villages. We got stuck in the forest and survived on dry food.”

Father Chandy was sick and could not walk far. To provide him better shelter, the younger priest and his driver went to the house of another priest’s brother in the village. They wanted to use his motorcycle to go to a safer place.

Father Digal said they saw the entire house, including the motorcycle, on fire. The two of them then went to see the priest’s sister in the village. She urged them to go to a safer place as people had threatened to destroy her house.

The two went to nearby Dudukangia village, where 15 Christian families lived. But the Christians refused them shelter, saying they too had received similar threats.

By then, night had fallen. Since returning to their hiding place in the forest was risky, the two decided to sleep in the village church that had already been torched. “It had only walls standing. We thought the mob would not come, and we were tired of walking all day. Our legs were swollen.”

At 11:30 p.m., however, people came to the demolished church. “Seeing the mob, we ran,” shared Father Digal. “Pradhan ran fast, but I was caught. The mob shouted to each other to kill me. I pleaded for my life, but they ignored me.”

The mob then hit him with crowbars and sticks. “The beatings came like heavy rain. They stripped me naked and asked for mobile phones,” the priest recalled.

He said he managed to run some distance but was caught. “I fell to the ground and they continued hammering me. Soon I saw blood flowing from my head and lost consciousness. They thought I was dead and left me.”

In his semi-conscious state, the priest said he thought he heard wolf cries and feared the animals would feed on him. “I thought I might not even get a burial. I prayed to the Lord.”

Later, two villagers came. By then, the priest’s body had become numb because of the wet ground and a cold night breeze.

The villagers brought the church’s broken door and helped him lie on it. They also brought him some water. “I was feeling a bit better,” he said, “and the villagers left me alone.”

His driver came looking for him in the morning, and later informed the police. Along with a few villagers, the police took Father Digal to a public health center in the village and later moved him to the district hospital. After much pressure, the state administration brought Father Digal to a better hospital in Bhubaneswar.

“There is no place left in my body where I was not beaten,” said the priest.