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January

Destruction of the under-construction church shatters a decades-long dream of the Christian community Catholics from the Syro-Malabar-Church, one of the three rites that comprise the Indian Church, observe Lent at St. Mary’s School in East Delhi in April 2018. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News) An under-construction Protestant church in the southern Indian state of Telangana was demolished by a mob of radical Hindus on Jan. 20. Gethsemane Prardana Mandiram (church) in Mahabubabad was attacked by a group of Hindu fanatics headed by a leader named Bura Venakanna, said Pastor Muhammad Afzal Paul. “Local Christians believe that the main reason for the attack is that there are around 80 churches of different denominations in a radius of 10 kilometers, which the Bajrang Dal [a radical Hindu group] could not accept,” Pastor Levi of the Power of Jesus Fellowship, a Protestant church, told UCA News. “The local administration has stationed some police officers at the church attack site and it is under investigation. The church is very small with about 100 members. “A Muslim named Muhammad Afzal, who converted to Christianity and who is now known as Pastor Muhammad Afzal Paul, takes care of the attacked church. Christians are terrified but believe that the investigation will have no impact as

Officers and Hindu extremists in India threaten church members. – Police who did nothing to stop a fierce attack on a church service in Uttar Pradesh, India also beat and threatened the Christians while arresting them under false accusations of fraudulent conversions, sources said. A mob of 15 to 20 Hindu extremists earlier this month assaulted men, women and children of Heavenly Gospel Mission Church in Shahjahanpur District, with some saying, “We will continue to hit you until you abuse and curse Jesus,” church members said. After beating the seven men of the congregation with wooden batons and the 10 women and 10 children with the church chairs, they dragged four Christians and the Hindu owner of the rented building outside and threatened to kill them as they further assaulted them near parked police cars with officers who did nothing to stop them, according to a Christian identified only as Rajat in a video on social media. “We were dragged out barefoot with threats by the attackers who told us that they will break our hands and legs and kill us,” Rajat said on the video. Church pastor H.S. David told Morning Star News that the assailants did not ask them anything when they burst

An image of Father Stan Swany on a sipper-cup and badges that rights groups issued as part of their campaign demanding the release of the Jesuit priest and 15 other activists accused of terror links. (Photo: UCA News) Detained elderly Indian Jesuit Stan Swamy has marked his 100 days in prison with a letter highlighting the cases of poor people languishing in jail who begin their trials without even knowing their criminal charges. In his letter to Jesuit colleagues, the 84-year-old priest also expressed gratitude for the "overwhelming" solidarity of his supporters as he completed 100 days in prison on Jan. 15. Father Swamy has been detained in Taloja Central Prison in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state, since Oct. 9. The human rights activist priest is charged with sedition and having links with outlawed Maoist rebels. Along with Father Swamy, 15 other activists were arrested and jailed at different times for their alleged involvement in a violent incident in Bhima Koregaon on Jan. 1, 2018, in which one person died and five were injured. As he completed 100 days in jail, rights groups across India organized peaceful candlelight marches, processions and webinars to mark his and other activists' incarceration. "First of all, I deeply appreciate the overwhelming solidarity expressed by many during these past 100 days

Hindu devotees take a holy dip in the Narmada River on Makar Sankranti, a day considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology, at Tilwara Ghat in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh on Jan. 14. (Photo: AFP) A right-wing Hindu group has demanded an immediate shutdown of all churches built in tribal areas of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and action against Christian priests and pastors involved in alleged religious conversion. However, church leaders denied the conversion allegations and termed the demands an attempt to terrorize and defame them by taking advantage of the newly enacted anti-conversion law in the state. Azad Prem Singh, a local leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council, said that in the past 70 years Christian missionaries had converted "gullible indigenous people into Christianity and built churches specifically on protected tribal land." "All the illegally built churches should be shut down immediately, and action should be taken against all priests and pastors involved in the process," said Singh, who is based in the state's Jhabua district. Along with his hundreds of supporters, including some indigenous people, he marched through Jhabua city on Jan. 11 and handed over a memorandum detailing their demands to the district collector, the highest government officer in

Christian families were worshipping in a wood-and-hay structure in eastern India last month when an influential man of wealth wielding an axe led others in and, in coarse language, asked why they had abandoned their tribal religion. Elder Burjo Tadinji of the church in Odisha state’s Chichima village, answered, “We have known the true living God; we will not leave him. We used to indulge in fights and speak lies, but we do not do all that now. We like this faith, and that is why we follow it.” Outraged, the leader of the mob of 20-25 men from three different villages began swinging the axe on the church structure, according to pastor Bibudhan Pradhan, who normally leads the small congregation of 15 but was absent that day (Dec. 13). “They manhandled the Christians, damaged [an adjacent] Christian home, and broke the thatched structure with the axe,” Pastor Pradhan, 48, told Morning Star News. “They threatened to chase them out of their homes and the village if they reported the matter to the police.” The mob joined in, and soon the church structure was reduced to pieces, with Tadinji’s adjoining home also damaged. They tore the clothes of one Christian and with a stone

Indian police in Shahjahanpur district, Uttar Pradesh State, have been instructed to keep a watch on prayer meetings after five Christians were accused of trying to “unlawfully” convert people to Christianity. The order was issued by a regional police superintendent after five Christians were brought to authorities by members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu group. The Christians allegedly violated the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, which came into force in November 2020. The new anti-conversion law prohibits “conversion of religion through: force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or fraud, or marriage”. It also prohibits “abetting, convincing, and conspiring to such conversions”. The instructions given to police stations were to be aware of prayer meetings in their area and to “act strictly when they are completely sure that conversion is taking place in the garb of prayer”. The allegations have been contested by Christians. Local church leader Harold D’Cuhna said, “It is just an allegation from the fanatic groups and if they are sure about it, let them prove it. People are free to express their views in a democratic country.” He added that normal charitable activities of the church are being misconstrued as “allurement to conversion.” An Indian Christian leader told Barnabas Fund that

“Legal luminaries, eminent intellectuals, are questioning the legal validity of this ordinance, which touches the core of the constitution,” the prelate said. A pastor and some faithful are beaten and arrested. Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Last Sunday, a gang of Bajrang Dal men attacked a Christian clergyman in Shahjahanpur, a district in the State of Uttar Pradesh, during a prayer meeting. According to The Hindu newspaper, Rev David, who hails from Tirunelveli in Kerala and a group of local people, including women and children, had gathered in a garden for prayer to mark the first Sunday of the New Year when men stormed the premises and disrupted the activity. After the Bajrang Dal members filed a complaint, local police charged the pastor and four others under the new anti-conversion law. “This is a special ordinance,” said Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai, but “there is a groundswell of public opinion against it. “Legal luminaries, eminent intellectuals, are questioning the legal validity of this ordinance, which touches the core of the constitution”, For the prelate, who is also general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), “A few national and local influential newspapers are questioning this ordinance and even the procedures by which it was passed. “Reputed newspapers are

Catholics pray at the Christ the King festival in New Delhi on Nov. 20, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News) Police in an Indian state have directed officers to keep a watch on prayer gatherings after five Christians were arrested on a charge of religious conversion. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hardline Hindu group, handed the five Christians to police in Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh state, which is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “It is just an allegation from the fanatic groups and if they are sure about it, let them prove it. People are free to express their views in a democratic country,” Father Harold D' Cunha, vicar general of Bareilly Diocese, told UCA News. “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, it does not promote or propagate religious conversion in the diocese as well as in the country. “Occasionally, these groups blame us for conversions, but until now there is no record of any religious conversion where the Church is involved.” He said the Church is engaged in many charitable works that can be construed as allurement to conversions, “but it is not true.” S. Anand, superintendent of Shahjahanpur police, told the Press Trust of India that after the alleged religious conversion

Persecution has been widespread across India and China even during the pandemic, but things are only likely to get worse in 2021, Release International has warned. The charity, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, says that China has "bought the silence of the international community" through trade relations. This year has continued to see unregistered churches in the country raided or forced to close. There is increasing surveillance as authorities in some areas have forced registered churches to install CCTV cameras. Christians also report some churches having to put up posters proclaiming communist beliefs.  "The government of President Xi Jinping is increasing its 'clean up' of anything that does not advance the communist agenda," Release partners said. "They appear to believe that they can achieve this by systematic opposition." The Chinese authorities "have bought freedom from censure due to trade with China. Many countries now regard this trade as essential to their own economies," they added. The report warns that China has exploited the pandemic to increase its grip of churches, particularly unregistered ones. Release partner Bob Fu, the leader of ChinaAid who has faced bomb threats this year for his religious liberty work, says the Chinese government has accelerated the forced removal of crosses from churches during the pandemic. "The

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