March (Page 5)

Hindu extremists and police in eastern India this month ordered jailed Christians to stop gathering for worship, with the extremists threatening to bring a venomous snake to bite a pastor’s wife, sources said. The house-church pastor, his family and other Christians had been arrested in Jharkhand state after the hardline Hindus disrupted their worship, beat the pastor and live-streamed hostile commentary on Facebook, with one passerby telling the Hindu extremist leader the Christians “should be sacrificed alive.” Following the Sept. 8 attack on the house church in Domchanch village, Koderma District, police temporarily locked up and threatened pastor Manohar Prasad Varnwal – whose ability to walk is impaired by polio – along with his wife, children and some church members. Tensions have been high in Jharkhand state since the murder of a 23-year-old Christian mother in the suburbs of capital Ranchi last month. “The Bajrang Dal, youth militant wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad [Hindu extremist World Hindu Council] have become active in the state,” area pastor Rajesh Kumar Pandit told Morning Star News. “They are in talks with prominent Hindu leaders and police administration to stop Christian prayers.” Church leaders have received warnings that scores of Bajrang Dal members met earlier this month to plan an attack on

 A retired pastor, his wife and their sons are in hiding from police after a Hindu extremist mob injured them in a gruesome assault in northern India, sources said. Patram Mangala, retired Church of North India pastor now helping to run St. John School in Sohna, Gurugram District in Haryana state, sustained injuries to his nose when he was hit with a spade in the face, and his 28-year-old son Abhishek Mangala lost four front teeth and ruptured blood vessels in his eye in the Sept. 22 attack. Pastor Mangala’s 65-year-old wife Sarla Mangala sustained an injury under her right eye apart from internal injuries to her body, and their son Raj Kumar Mangala, 40, sustained internal injuries in the attack, which appeared to be rooted in a recent court judgment against the Hindus in their attempt to erect a Hindu idol on the property, the retired pastor said. The 68-year-old Pastor Mangala and his wife were cleaning their front yard in the early evening when a group of Hindu extremists with wooden sticks surrounded them and began to assault them, he said. Between 30 to 40 other people then joined in the assault. Pastor Mangala’s sons ran to help their parents but were also attacked.

Police broke up a congregational gathering of 6,000 worshippers in northern India on Tuesday (Oct. 15) after Hindu extremists leveled false charges of black magic, arms possession and forcible conversion against the pastor, sources said. An administrative officer from Bahraich District, Uttar Pradesh, arrived with police in Pandeypurwa village, in Hardi police jurisdiction, announcing that the outdoor venue for the gathering had to be vacated by 8 a.m., said 32-year-old pastor Santosh Jaiswal. “At least 6,000 were present for prayers, and within minutes the congregation scattered, and the police dismantled the stage and barricades,” Pastor Jaiswal told Morning Star News. “I have received information that I have been booked for insulting religious beliefs and for possessing arms, but I had never spoken about any religions. I don’t possess any weapons.” The administrative officer, Surendranath Tripathy, and officer Shankar Prasad investigated allegations of forced conversion and found no evidence against Jaiswal, but police ordered him to stop the worship services, the pastor said. He relocated to the area to proclaim Christ among rural villagers on the border with Nepal less than seven months ago, he said. Pastor Jaiswal said that officers Tripathy and Prasad accused him of performing black magic on Hindus. “About a week before

A pastor in western India suffered severe injuries to his head and back on Tuesday (Oct. 22) after Hindu extremists beat him unconscious for visiting a Christian in a neighboring village, sources said. The eight assailants left pastor Ramesh Pargi in a pool of blood after surrounding and assaulting him, pastor Shantilal Virabhai Kalaswa and his wife Malika Kalaswa as they made their way out of Jamboti village, Dahod District, in Gujarat state on their way home to Dhadhela village four miles away. “They broke my body completely,” Pastor Pargi told Morning Star News via video conference, visibly in pain as he spoke from his bed at Dhun Orthopedic Hospital in Jhalod, Dahod District. “As they beat me, they were repeating, ‘Do not come to our village either to visit or to preach – we do not want Christians to enter our village.’” His head injury required five stitches. “He lost about 1,500 milliliters [1.5 liters] of blood from his head on the spot where he lay unconscious,” said pastor Surmal Damor, displaying Pastor Pargi’s blood-stained shirt as he visited him at the hospital. “His shirt, trouser and undershirt are soaked in blood. It was so scary.” Pastor Pargi said he had no idea who

Followers of a Hindu religion in India seized a Protestant church and removed its cross and held a "purification" ceremony in the building that was once used to worship Jesus Christ.  UCA News reported that on Oct. 20, 50 tribunal people from the Sarna faith took down the cross from Vishwa Vani church in Khadnga village, Jharkhand state. They converted the building into a community hall following a purification ceremony. The Sarna people, who make up close to 5 million in India, have claimed that Christian missionaries have taken over thousands of acres of tribal land in violation of state law, buildings churches, schools, hospitals and other establishments with the mission of converting others to Christianity. Pastor Emmanuel Kujur, coordinator of the Protestant group in the state, said that the ground on which the church was built on was disputed, adding that it had been donated by a tribal Christian. He clarified that a local magistrate ruled that the land belonged to the government. "But that does not give anyone the right to capture the church. The dispute continues between the brothers. Until it is settled, how can someone take it over?" the pastor asked. Catholic Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega argued that there are political undertones

A Hindu extremist mob in northeastern India tried to kill a pastor and his family in an attack on their home Sunday night (Oct. 27), the church leader said. At 1 a.m. on Monday (Oct. 28), Hindu extremists brandishing swords, bricks and rods broke through windows and the roof of the home of pastor Palathingal Joseph Johnson in the Rajasan area of Vaishali District, Bihar state, he said. “10 to 15 Hindu extremists shouting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram! [Hail, lord Ram]’ trespassed into my house,” Pastor Johnson told Morning Star News. “They were using vulgar language declaring that they will kill me and my children and will outrage my wife’s modesty.” The assailants also carried wooden sticks and appeared to be drunk, he said. They were members of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he added. Pastor Johnson, his wife Shalomi, and their four children ages 7 to 13 hid themselves in one of the rooms in their two-room house. The attack was well-planned, the 44-year-old pastor said. “We heard their conversation from behind the closed door – they were talking like professional terrorists,” he said. “They did not call each other by

Police in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state have put several house churches under surveillance in order to stop worship, in violation of the country’s secular constitution, sources said. Police have told congregations to stop worship in homes in Anuperpalayem, Velampalayem, Kangeyam and several other villages in Tiruppur District, the Rev. Vijaya Kumar of The Synod of Pentecostal Churches told Morning Star News. “We are going through a tough time – there is immense pressure from the police administration in Tiruppur District that Christians are not allowed to gather for prayers even within the four walls of their homes,” Pastor Kumar said. “The pastors of these small churches have been harassed to seek permission from district officials to conduct prayer services.” Courts in India have repeatedly held that no permission is needed to worship in homes, said Nehemiah Christie, Tamil Nadu state coordinator for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India. “This level of opposition from government officials is undermining the secularistic values inscribed in the Indian constitution and could lead to deprivation of Christians’ right and freedom to practice their faith, which was upheld time and again in several judgments delivered by the Madras and Madurai benches of the high court,” Christie told Morning

A U.S. pastor attending a Sunday School conference in India is stranded in the country after he was arrested for failing to report money he was carrying. Pastor Bryan Nerren, 58, was traveling to Sikkim state in northeastern India for a Sunday school conference along with two U.S. pastors on Oct. 5 when they were detained at the Bagdogra airport, the closest airport to Sikkim. While the other two pastors were let go, Pastor Nerren was arrested when authorities alleged that he had violated the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Customs Act by not declaring the cash that he was carrying for his trip and for conferences in India and Nepal. “They showed me an email from the Delhi office directing them to detain and arrest me for breaking the law,” Pastor Nerren told Morning Star News. “I told them repeatedly that no one has told me that I need to declare this money. Not even the customs people [in Delhi] who interrogated us. “I also told them that so far I have not stepped out of the airport onto Indian soil, and that I can go back to Delhi, fill in the necessary forms and come back to Bagdogra, or

Heavy-handed revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy and statehood by the government of India three months ago has led to measures used against Christians, sources said. The government on Aug. 5 revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir state in 1949 that allowed it to have its own constitution. By thus abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A of India’s constitution, the government set back separatist movements within the Muslim-majority state while ushering in security measures that make it nearly impossible for Christian congregations to meet. Besides cutting off all communications and Internet access and imposing a curfew to forestall an uprising against the measure, the government prevented assembly by issuing an order, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Effective on Aug. 5 in Srinigar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, and in Jammu on Nov. 9, Section 144 prohibits assembling of four or more people, with those violating it subject to charges of rioting. Besides thousands of security forces sent to the area, Hindu extremists have used the order to prevent Christians from meeting for worship, sources said. Based on Section 144, police took pastor Mohan Lal Kaith of the Ranbir Singh Pora (R.S. Pora) area in Jammu District into

A pastor and his family in eastern India are facing police charges after Hindu extremists with an axe, bamboo rods and wooden sticks attacked them in their home, leaving the pastor for dead, sources said. The eight assailants, including a policeman, who attacked pastor Basant Kumar Paul as he prayed in his home at 6 a.m. on Nov. 12 in Parihara, Garhwa District, Jharkhand state, also seriously injured his mother, son, wife and brother. Pastor Paul, 45, fell unconscious from blows from wooden clubs, and members of his family were assaulted as they came to rescue each other one after the other, sources said. “Because he fell unconscious, he was saved, otherwise he would have been killed,” said pastor Gautam Kumar, presbyter of Indian Pentecostal Church in Nalanda Patna in Bihar. Pastor Paul said he sustained serious injuries to his head and the rest of his body. “I cannot even lift my finger without pain,” Pastor Paul told Morning Star News. “If I touch my head, it pains severely and feels swelled.” The pastor’s mother, Lakhpati Devi, sustained a head injury from an axe blow, as did his brother, Uday Ram. Pastor Paul’s wife, Shila Devi, sustained several internal injuries, and his 20-year-old son, Anugrah Raj,

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