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Representatives of eight village councils in central India first summoned a new Christian to give him an ultimatum in October. They interrupted a church service on Oct. 18 asking for Sattar Singh Markam. “I was conducting the church service when some men came to call Markam and asked him to present himself before the council,” pastor Chitrasen Sahu told Morning Star News. “He went to see them after the church service was over.” At the joint meeting in Bargaon, in Chhattisgarh state’s Gariaband District, they told Markam to renounce Christ or “leave with your Christian faith and never come back,” Pastor Sahu said. Markham, who was suffering three epileptic seizures a day before he put his faith in Christ 12 years ago, told them the Lord had healed him and given him life and that he would never turn away from his Christian faith. A week later, on Oct. 25, a tribal mob of about 300 people incited by radical Hindus attacked his house after his church, which meets there, had finished worship. Two women remained inside, praying, when the mob arrived and began manhandling and arguing with them while Markam was working in his field. The mob also damaged his house. When he returned, the

December 8, 2020. Washington, D.C – The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), an advocacy group that promotes religious freedom, expressed its deep disappointment with the U.S. Administration for their lack of resolve in naming India to the "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs). Although the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended in their 2020 Annual Report to place India on the CPC list, the Trump Administration appeared to lack the political will. The USCIRF report cited that in 2019, India's religious freedom conditions experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault. The national government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence. The Indian government headed by the Hindu nationalist BJP party continues to claim so conveniently that all such violence against Christians in India are isolated incidents and not the policy of the government. While it may not be the policy of the Indian government, it is public knowledge that it is the policy of Prime Minister Modi's Hindu nationalist political party in power. The Trump administration that showboats its advocacy for religious freedom in America, especially on behalf

Catholics in Delhi Archdiocese pray during an annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has reconverted 23 people from five Christian families to Hinduism. A reconversion ceremony on Nov. 29 was organized by Anant Kumar Hegde, a BJP leader and MP for Uttara Kannada district. “Hegde was handpicked by the Hindutva hierarchy to create communal divisions and tension in the coastal belt of Karnataka,” Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told UCA News. “After BJP victories in the 2014 and 2019 general elections, the Sangh Parivar [fanatic group] moved with the speed and cunning of a barracuda to attack and weaken the constitutional institutions needed to transform Indian society into a more equal and just one.” George said the BJP has used the twin weapons of a brute majority and communal polarization to implement laws and policies that have impacted most adversely those who are denied all rights and can make no claims to equality: women, Dalits, backward castes and tribal people. “This advance towards a Hindu Rashtra [Hindu nation] is viewed with concern and alarm by many, but as far as the majority

St George’s Orthodox Church in Cheppad is in middle of a dispute. Activists and Christian groups have launched a protest to save the building, including a hunger strike. The church’s 800-year-old apse contains prised murals and paintings. Under pressure, the authorities changed the original route, endangering the future of the church. Delhi (AsiaNews) – Protests, including an 11-day hunger strike, are intensifying in India over the fate of St George’s Orthodox Church in Cheppad, Alleppy district (Kerala). Recently the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) finalised plans to extend National Highway (NH) 66, which would require tearing down part of the church. Activists and Christian groups have geared up for a fight to save the building, which has over 800 years of history behind it. According to scholars, the church – famous for the antiquities and mural paintings on the walls of the apse (Madbaha) – dates back to the 12th century. Although the structure was rebuilt in 1952, the apse at its eastern end, has remained intact to preserve its value and identity. To fight its destruction, the faithful have set up a Facebook page, with thousands of members. “The authorities have laid stones marking the new alignment of the NH. Half the church building will

Tribal people from all religions take part in a mega-rally demanding recognition of their rights in Gumla district of India's. Jharkhand state on April 24, 2018. (Photo supplied) Right-wing Hindu groups in India have urged the federal government to bar tribal Christians from benefiting from a scheme intended for indigenous people. The groups, who started the campaign early this month and have submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were condemned by Catholic leaders. “Caste and religion are two different things which can’t be mixed. By birth we belong to a particular caste but religion is one’s choice. People who are campaigning against tribal Christians are ignorant of the Indian constitution,” Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian bishops' Commission for Tribal Affairs, told UCA News. “Article 25 of the constitution grants us the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. The federal government’s scheme for tribal people is only to help them socially and economically. “Those groups don’t want tribal people to come up in their lives and indirectly try to target Christian missionaries whom they always accuse of religious conversion. Their campaign is only to disturb the peace-loving tribal people. They work to

Tribal people attack the house of a Christian family in a village in India's Chhattisgarh state for refusing to abandon the Christian faith on Sept. 22. Some 100 Christians who fled three villages following the attack have returned after a court ordered in their favor. (Photo supplied)  Some 100 Christians have returned to their villages in India's Chhattisgarh state following a court order, almost two months after they were attacked and driven out of their homes. The state High Court in Bilaspur last week ordered the Kondagaon district administration to facilitate the safe return of the displaced Christians from three villages and to ensure their protection. "We have returned to our villages as the court has ordered our protection," Shiv Ram, one of the petitioners to the court, told UCA News on Nov. 17. Ram said all 66 Christians from 10 families driven out of his Kakrabeda village have returned to the village. Some 30 Christians from six families, who fled from two other villages, also have returned, he said. A mob of suspected Hindu right-wing activists attacked 16 houses in three villages in the state's Bastar region on Sept. 22 and 23. The attack came after Christians refused a demand to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ. They also attacked Christians,

Woman found dead in Jharkhand had been harassed by Hindu fanatics after converting to Christianity Catholics pray during a Palm Sunday procession in an East Delhi church on April 14, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News) Police have arrested four youths in connection with the murder of a Christian woman one month after a similar killing in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. She was the fifth Christian to be murdered in India in the last two months. The four youths, who were not identified, were being questioned over the death of Suman Munda, 25, who was killed in Redhadi, a village in Khunti district, on July 19, local media reported. “It is a matter of serious concern because the state witnessed a Christian man killed only last month in the same district. The administration as well as leaders should take note of it and take appropriate steps,” Bishop Binay Kandulna of Khunti told UCA News on July 23. “Persons of any faith are a creation of God and we have to respect all, but some vested interest groups are trying to target minorities in the state to spread hatred among various faiths who are otherwise peace-loving people. “We condemn the killing and appeal to the administration to

Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, condemns the verbal attacks by Hindu nationalists against Christians during the ceremony. For a former BJP lawmaker, “The conversion of the Dalits and tribals to Christianity will be opposed tooth and nail.” Official data show however that claims about conversion activities are false, George explains. Haliyal Taluk (AsiaNews) – India’s Christian community has condemned the verbal attacks by nationalist leaders during the “reconversion” to Hinduism of 23 Christians, in all five Christian families, in a ceremony held last Sunday in Haliyal Taluk (Karnataka) that was attended by Anant Kumar Hegde, a lawmaker with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). During the event there was an “outcry against the missionaries,” but this is “just propaganda designed to mobilise people for the Hindutva cause,” said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews. The 'Ghar Wapsi’ (homecoming) ceremony saw former BJP lawmaker, Suneel Hegde, hand over a saffron flag, the official symbol of Hinduism, to the "returnees" as a sign of acceptance and identification as Hindu. Speaking to the crowd, Hedge said that “The conversion of the Dalits and tribals to Christianity will be opposed tooth and nail. More

Cases of hate and violence against Christians in India increased 57 percent the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year, an advocacy group reported. The Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission (EFIRLC) documented 77 incidents of hate and targeted violence against Christians in January and February, up from 49 cases during the same period last year. The cases include the murders of one Christian in Odisha state and another in Chhattisgarh state, both in February. “We have reasons to believe that both men, who were in their 40s, were killed because of their faith,” the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the EFI, told Morning Star News. “We have recorded cases where Christians have been facing social boycott and have been excommunicated from their villages, and in a few instances have had to flee to save their lives.” Of the 77 incidents, 16 took place in Tamil Nadu state, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Maharashtra and five in Chhattisgarh, the report found. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and, surprisingly, Kerala each saw four cases, followed by other states, Lal said. The 49 cases recorded in the first two months of 2018 followed the documenting of

Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Dnh) and Daman and Diu are both former Portuguese colonies. The local Christian community is made up of about 100 thousand faithful. In all, there are 13 churches. Secretary of the Catholic bishops: " I hope that the majority community will once again stand by us and nullify the discriminatory acts of a small fundamentalist divisive people." For the first time in the country's history, two Indian territories have abolished Good Friday as a national holiday. These are Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Dnh) and Daman and Diu, both former Portuguese colonies on the west coast of the country. For Msgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI), "is very sad". He told AsiaNews: " This is very very sad. A clear discrimination is being practiced by the Administrator. We appeal to all including the Administrator of these centrally administered territories to respect the sentiments of the people and to avoid their divisive methods". The bishop goes on to explain that the cancellation of Good Friday as an official state holiday is even more serious because "only two Christian feasts are public holidays. Earlier there was an attempt to declare Christmas as Good governance day". Christians, he

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