Friday, December 28, 2007

Christians demand help against Hindu violence

Christians have staged a rally in India to demand government intervention to halt violence against members of the minority religion in Orissa state, after reports of Christians being killed, church buildings destroyed and meetings broken up over the Christmas holiday.The rally yesterday in Delhi drew an estimated 1,000 Christians and was organized by the All India Christian Council to unite protesters from a wide range of denominations whose members have been victimized by the violence in Orissa.A message was delivered to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after officials met with Union Home Minister Shivraj V. Patil, as well as the head of the National Commission for Minorities.During the meeting with Patil, Christians were told that roadblocks and communication breakdowns are making it difficult to restore security in the villages of Orissa, and Patil confirmed he likely will visit the state in order to stop the attacks, prosecute the criminals and provide compensation to the victims."Sadly, the delegation was not satisfied with the promises of the Union Home Minister since most violence continues in rural villages and the government didn't give specific plans to halt the violence in villages nor a planned amount for compensation of victims," Rev. Abraham Sahu, the president of the Delhi chapter of AICC, said."It is clear that the local police and Orissa state government have not been able to protect the Christian minority. While Orissa's leader claims they were prepared and are fully committed to stopping communal violence, we have doubts. For example, why does Orissa not have a state minorities commission? The Central Government must act now." said John Dayal, the secretary-general of the AICC.During the meeting with Mohamed Shafi Qureshi, the head of the National Commission for Minorities, the Christians were told that a visit to Orissa was planned in order to set up procedures that would protect Christians from attack.Also represented at the rally were the Evangelical Fellowship of India, All India Catholic Union, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indian and others."Authorities clearly don't believe in freedom of religion or freedom of speech. They use accusations of forced and fraudulent conversions as an excuse for violence. Has there been a proven case in the courts of a missionary forcing someone to become a Christian recently? No! We are requesting immediate action to protect peaceful Christians and the arrest of miscreants from radical Hindutva groups," said Sam Paul, the secretary of public affairs for the AICC.According to reports, the violence broke out last weekend. At least 30 churches, Christian schools and convents were damaged or destroyed in a series of attacks that began on Christmas Eve, and four Christians were killed, the reports said.
Radical Hindutva activists also have been blockading roads, preventing both police and other aid from reaching victims, the reports said.According to the AICC, "the violence allegedly began when Christians in a village 150 kilometers from the district headquarters of Phulbani began to celebrate Christmas Eve. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a fight ensued."
According to Gospel for Asia, a Christian ministry working in India, the violence amounted to a virtual terror campaign against Christians."This violence against believers in Orissa breaks my heart," said K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of GFA. "This is the same state where missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were martyred. The believers know they will face opposition, but this outburst of persecution at Christmas time is especially disturbing."GFA said a project on which its missionaries had worked in Orissa was destroyed, and its missionary leader Matish Junni attacked."The mob beat Matish and shaved his head. Then they mockingly paraded him around the village, shouting slurs against him and other Christians," the report said. "They also forced Matish to go to their religious temples. When the mob finally released him, they warned him not to continue the construction."Another GFA structure "stood for only one month before the militants attacked," and the "anti-Christian hate groups have also taken over another GFA-related church building in Orissa."World Vision facilities also were involved, officials said."The extremist organizers saw an opportunity to bring more sadness and grief to the Christians by attacking them on their most joyous holiday," GFA said."I hope that the government in Orissa will do everything in its power to protect the believers and bring peace to the state," said Yohannan.Gospel for Asia is a mission organization involved in evangelism and church planting in Asia's unreached regions. It currently supports more than 16,500 native missionaries in 10 nations.The AICC, which was launched in 1998, was set up to serve the Christian community, minorities and oppressed castes in India. It is made up from thousands of Indian denominations, organizations and lay leaders.WND also reported earlier when religious radicals threatened to burn a Christian church's pastor and his family, and the church building was vandalized with a Hindu "Om" symbol.Just weeks earlier, another church leader in India was attacked, beaten and kicked for being Christian.{{{{{{Even within the United States, there have been attacks, although verbal instead of physical. As WND reported, the Hindu American Foundation has attacked Christian organizations ranging from the Southern Baptists' missions board and Gospel for Asia to Olive Tree Ministries, which aims to teach Christians about their beliefs."The proliferation of websites promoting religious hatred is an unfortunate consequence of the universality of access to the Internet," said Vinay Vallabh, the lead author of a report that attacked the Christian groups for their expression of their beliefs."We must vigorously identify, condemn and counter those who use the Internet to espouse chauvinism and bigotry over the principles of pluralism and tolerance," Vallabh said.Vallabh's report, called "Hyperlink to Hinduphobia: Online Hatred, Extremism and Bigotry Against Hindus," expresses his hope that Internet Service Providers will start censoring Christian postings of their beliefs, "a necessary step as we continue our balancing act between free speech and licentious speech that leads to violence in the electronic age."}}}}}}

As in the days of Noah...

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