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March (Page 3)

It was a different kind of Easter celebration this year for Pastor Anil Juit of Maranatha Full Gospel Church in eastern India. Opening the door of the historic church building in Arrah, in Bihar state’s Bhojpur District, on Easter Sunday (April 21), he found a gaping hole in the back wall, and everything inside had been gathered up and burned in a heap, he said. The mats the congregation usually sat on for services were charred in the ash heap. Pastor Juit and the 70 members of the congregation were shocked but remained for Easter worship. As he made his way out at the end of the service, Pastor Juit noticed that someone had written “Jai Sri Ram [Hail, lord Ram]” on the outside wall of the church building. “It is evident from the slogan that this is the work of some Hindu radicals,” he told Morning Star News, adding that he suspected the damage was done the previous night. The church has used the once-vacant building of the Holy Saviour Church of Arrah for its services for five years with permission from the district superintendent of the Methodist Church in India, he said. Local media portrayed the burning as part of a robbery, which he refuted. “Nothing

Village leaders in eastern India prohibited five Christian families from working on their farms or walking on the main road before district authorities this month revoked the order, sources said. Leaders of Banhardi village, in Jharkhand state’s Latehar District, told the five families in April to either convert back to their ancestral Sarna religion or face punishment, Christian leaders said. When the Christians refused to renounce their faith, the village on April 10 issued a decree instructing that their farmland be confiscated and prohibiting them from interacting with anyone, fetching water and buying or selling, they said. Before district officials arrived on May 13 and annulled the April 10 decree, the Christians had to go outside the village to look for food and other items to meet daily needs and were on the verge of starvation, said Motilal Oraon, one of the persecuted Christians. “We had to carry drinking water from some other village to our homes,” Oraon told Morning Star News. “They did not allow us to enter our own farmland or work in it. We went searching for work in somebody else’s farmland in a distant village, as we could not find work in our own village. Our families were starving.” After

Gornath Chalanseth, one of seven Christians jailed for life for the murder of a Hindu swami in the Kandhamal district of Odisha state in eastern India, has been freed on bail by India’s Supreme Court yesterday, May 21. The seven – three of whom are Dalits, the other four tribals – continue to maintain their innocence. However, only Chalanseth’s bail application was filed in the Supreme Court – after Odisha High Court had rejected it for a second time last December. Once given bail, there is no deadline to return to jail unless ordered by the Supreme Court. A former Supreme Court Justice Cyriac Joseph and former Kerala High Court Justice P K Shamsuddin, have criticized the delays in hearing the men’s appeal. “This (delay) is a failure of the judicial system. In the judicial process, appeal could be delayed for many reasons. But in this case there are no (technical) reasons to keep it pending. It seems to be deliberately delayed, perhaps so that it is brought before a suitable judge,” remarked Justice Joseph a year ago. “When we were convicted (in 2013), it was a shock. It was very stressful for me when I put behind bars for murder, despite being innocent” Chalanseth told World Watch

STATEMENTMAY 24, 2019, WASHINGTON, D.C. The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) is deeply concerned about the future of Indian Christians and the future of Indian democracy in the wake of just concluded national elections.In a world that is getting more and more polarized on religious grounds, the return to power of a Hindu extremist party is not surprising. Though all Hindu voters did not vote for extremist views of the Hindu party, many have. The assertion of extremist Hindus to claim a multi religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic country like the Union of India to their view of exclusive Hindu ideology is certainly troubling. Now this election has further deepened that to a crisis level. Though, there are several reliable reports about rigging and large-scale voter fraud combined with voter suppression not to mention the "malfunctioning" of Electronic Voting Machines, EVMs, in many parts of the country during the elections, for a student of Indian electorate, the margin with which the Hindu party is claiming victory seem very suspicious. (Interstingly, the "malfunctioning" EVM machines tallies votes only to the Hindu nationalist BJP party in every instance)The fact that the BJP Hindu party and Prime Minister Modi’s appeal failed in states like

When India's new cabinet was sworn-in on Thursday, the loudest applause was for a little-known, frail-looking man. Pratap Chandra Sarangi was virtually unknown outside the state of Orissa (now Odisha), until he became a social media sensation this week. A picture of the austerely-clad man leaving his bamboo hut to take the oath won him hearts in India, where rags to riches stories always strike a chord. But despite his newfound popularity, Mr Sarangi has a chequered past. He was the leader of the Bajrang Dal, a hardline rightwing group, when a Hindu mob brutally killed Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two children in 1999. Christian community leaders accused the Bajrang Dal of the killings, but an official inquiry found no evidence that any one group was behind the attack. After a lengthy trial, Dara Singh, a man with links to the group, and 12 others were convicted in 2003. But the high court in Orissa commuted a death sentence for Singh two years later. It also freed 11 others who were given life terms in prison, saying there was not enough evidence to support their convictions. Orissa-based journalist Sandeep Sahu says that Mr Sarangi has given several interviews, including to him, in which he spoke passionately against

In his second term, Narendra Modi assigned two ministerships of state to the Bharatiya Janata Party member who led locally the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu youth group involved in the death of the clergyman and his two sons. One of the members in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet has a chequered past. Pratap Chandra Sarangi was appointed Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries as well as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. A largely unknown figure, Sarangi is a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Odisha (Orissa). In the past, the “new Union minister was the coordinator of the Bajrang Dal when Graham Staines and his two kids were burnt alive” in 1999, said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). The Bajrang Dal is a right-wing Hindu fundamentalist group. On the night of 22-23 January 1999, Hindu extremists set fire to the station wagon in which the Australian missionary and his two sons, Philip and Timothy (9 and 7 respectively), were sleeping, in Manoharpur, a village in Keonjhar district (Odisha). In 2006, Gladys Staines, the missionary’s widow, returned to live in the Indian state, together with her surviving daughter, Esther, to pursue her husband's work with lepers.

The child's parents are both blind and the father is a Pentecostal pastor. Together with his family, he was tortured in 2016 for alleged forced conversions. A court later acquitted his father. His mother, hopes her “son grows up loving and serving God." Ruben, a nine-year-old boy, was arrested, stripped, beaten and held in prison for three days when he was six only because he is a Christian. Both of his parents are blind and his father is a Christian pastor in Madhya Pradesh. The child is their eyes and hands, helping them out at home, helping them walk and move around. Despite his tender age, he had to suffer the blind violence of some Hindu radicals who abducted him along with his parents, for allegedly carrying out “forced conversions”. Ruben's nightmare is not unique. To commemorate and protect minors who suffer violence in war and peace, the United Nations in 1982 instituted the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, marking the observance on 4 June, today. Children are the most vulnerable group to conflicts and religious persecution. Ruben is the son of Rev Balu Saste and his wife Bhuri. The father is the pastor of the Pentecostal church in Badwani. In January 2016

Authorities seized 12 tearful, fatherless children from a Christian ministry in eastern India last month after local officials demolished the ministry’s school and hostel, sources said. After Hindu extremists persuaded the district collector to demolish the hostel and school serving 250 students, child protection personnel and police on May 21 seized the six orphans and six other children whose fathers were killed by communist guerrillas known as Naxalites, said Vijay Kumar Pusuru, who founded the school near the village of Lichapeta in Odisha state. “The children wept bitterly and pleaded, not wanting to depart,” Pusuru told Morning Star News. “They caught hold of branches and trees. But ruthlessly they were snatched and taken away.” The children and Pusuru’s family were living under a tree due to the destruction of their home along with the hostel on May 13. The 44-year-old Pusuru said the school, about 40 miles south of Malkangiri in the forests of Malkangiri District, is the only one in a radius of 62 miles (100 kilometers) providing English-language education. The district collector sent 50 people to demolish the school and hostel, which housed 100 children, along with Pusuru’s house, after a local leader of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) began

Christians in various villages of Chhattisgarh state, India are going hungry as members of tribal religions deprive them of work and refuse to sell food to them, sources said. In the southern tip of Chhattisgarh state, villagers who practice tribal religion of ancestor and nature worship attacked the homes of three Christian families in Bodiguda village, Sukma District on May 23, leaving 25 people homeless, including four infants. “Their homes are in ruins,” area pastor Philip Veeti told Morning Star News. “They dumped food grains sufficient to feed the Christians for the entire year in the drain. The families are hardly able to fill their stomachs with the limited provisions they have.” The villagers on that day warned the Christians to abandon their faith or face death, he said. When the three families refused, a mob of about 150 people tore down the tiled roofs of the three houses of the tribal Christians, throwing out their clothes and other belongings. The only breadwinners of the families, Sariam Virma, Kurram Desa and Panda Suba, fled to Injaram village 22 miles away, fearing for their lives, Pastor Veeti said. Their families in Bodiguda are living under the scanty shade of a Tamarind tree in temperatures that

A Catholic family in Jharkhand is awaiting justice for a tribal man, who was lynched by cow vigilantes in the eastern Indian state nearly two years ago, a lay leader says. The death of Ramesh Minj “did not enter the discourse of persecution of Christians,” bemoans John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council and president of the All India Catholic Union. “Christian NGOs were not involved.” Meanwhile, “the family is still waiting for justice,” the Catholic lay leader told AsiaNews. A mob of Hindu radicals beat 37-year-old Minj to death in August 2017. “Minj lived in Tingaru, a village in Palamu district, Jharkhand. He married Anita Minj ten years ago. The couple lived in the predominantly Christian Oraon village,” Dayal said, adding that the victim had many talents. During the sowing season, “he drove a tractor;” off season, “he drove a Bolero taxi.” Two years ago, “A mob of 120 people beat him for slaughtering a bullock.” Minj was eventually arrested and taken to the police station in Bhandaria. His wife managed to see him before he died in jail. She said he had a torn leg and his body was covered in bruises. Police indicted 17 people in connection with his

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