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Religion

12/30/2021: The Missionaries of Charity runs many leprosy homes and orphanages in Odisha. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked District Collectors to be in regular touch with organisations run by the Missionaries of Charity in Odisha. On December 30, Patnaik directed District Collectors to ensure that no inmate of these organisations suffered, especially from food security and health related distress. "Wherever needed, funds from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund can be utilised for this purpose," the Chief Minister said. The Union Home Ministry had recently refused to renew the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic religious congregation established by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa in 1950. The FCRA registration is mandatory for any NGO or association to receive foreign funds or donations. The Centre’s decision had come under criticism in various quarters. Read the story in www.frontline.thehindu.com

12/18/2021: The pro-Hindu government in Karnataka plans to ignore protests and go ahead with the introduction of an anti-conversion bill in the southern Indian state’s legislative assembly. Latest information indicates that the bill titled the “Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021,” will be presented in the assembly on December 20. The bill proposes a 10-year jail term for forcible conversion of persons from Dalit and Tribal communities, minors and women, to another religion. “Why do we need any anti-conversion laws when there are enough safeguards enshrined in the constitution and the existing legal system in the country to punish the guilty?” asks a press statement from the Bangalore Archdiocese, signed by its Archbishop Peter Machado. Several protest meetings were held and the Karnataka Regional Bishops’ Council and ecumenical council met the chief minister asking him to withdraw the decision, but radical Hindu groups strongly campaign for the bill. Attacks on Christian groups, pastors and priests are also on the increase in Karnataka since the debate on the bill started. The archbishop’s statement says Christians are alarmed after several Church groups were attacked in the past two months. Archbishop Machado told the latest protest rally on December 6 that the anti-conversion bill will give

12/08/2021: Archbishop Sebastian Durairaj of Bhopal seeks action against the culprits and dialogue between the Church and its accusers. Archbishop Sebastian Durairaj of Bhopal has urged authorities to end the continuing violence against Christians in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. “A section of our community is feeling insecure. That is why we met Home Minister Narottam Mishra, who has assured us of appropriate action,” the archbishop is reported to have said in a video message released after his meeting with the minister on Dec. 7. He also appealed for action in the recent attack on St. Joseph School in Vidisha district by a 500-strong mob of Hindutva activists alleging the school management was converting students to Christianity. The newly appointed archbishop, who is based in state capital Bhopal, told UCA News that he raised the issue of increasing attacks against Christians and their institutions in the state. “He asked me ‘Do you convert people?’ and I replied ‘No, we don’t,’” Archbishop Durairaj said about his interaction with Mishra. “The minister patiently listened to our concerns and agreed to help us. He promised action against those who attacked the school.” We need to reach out to all those who have misconceptions or misunderstandings about us

Rights groups record more than 300 attacks on Christians and their religious places in the first nine months of this year. New Delhi/Roorkee, India – In late October, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met and invited Pope Francis to India, the country with the second-largest Christian population in Asia. However, in a speech about two weeks earlier, Mohan Bhagwat, head of the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), warned Hindus about religious conversions and alleged “demographic changes” in India’s northeastern states, which have a large Christian population. In his annual speech on October 14 to mark the Hindu festival of Dussehra (also known as Durga Puja), Bhagwat said: “Rising population and demographic imbalance need to be addressed and population policy is to be redesigned. And that policy should be applicable to all irrespective of caste and creed. Illegal immigration in bordering districts and conversions in [the] northeast have changed the demographics further.” The RSS aims to create an ethnic Hindu state out of India. As the head of Sangh Parivar, the umbrella group of Hindu nationalist organisations including the BJP, Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech is considered an agenda-setter for the year. Rise in attacks on Christians across India As

11/24/2021: Tribal animists influenced by Hindu extremists in central India last month forced Christians to exhume the body of a 25-year-old man buried on relatives’ private land because they didn’t want a Christian interred in their village, sources said. Laxman Markam had been dead for two days when about 50 residents of different villages armed with axes and wooden clubs on Oct. 29 forced his Christian widow and brothers to exhume his body in Gumadpal village, in Chhattisgarh state’s Bastar District, said Methodist Church pastor Samson Baghel. “They demanded Laxman’s corpse be exhumed,” Pastor Baghel told Morning Star News. “When the family asked the crowd as to where should they bury Laxman then, the crowd told them to take it wherever they wanted, but that they would not let a Christian remain buried in the village.” The deceased’s brother, Sitaram Markam, said villagers claimed that ownership of the land where he was buried was disputed. After more rancorous objection and threats, the Christians were forced to exhume Markam’s body, and the villagers demanded that it be taken to Pastor Baghel’s village for burial 15 miles away. Pastor Baghel then called local police. Laxman’s corpse lay exhumed on the private land for hours before police arrived, the

11/17/2021 – On Sunday morning, October 10, Vijendra Prasad was playing the Dolluck, an Indian leather instrument, as he joined 70 other Christians in singing worship songs in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. The worship music suddenly stopped when a mob of enraged Hindu nationalists burst into the hall and began yelling. The mob accused the Christians, including Prasad, of engaging in illegal religious conversions and began a physical assault. Following the attack, seven Christians from the congregation were arrested and sent to jail for violating Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law. International Christian Concern (ICC) recently interviewed Prasad, age 46, to follow up on the attack and the false forced conversion accusation that was leveled against him. Because of this false accusation, Prasad, along with his wife and son, spent two weeks in the Central Jail in Mau. “Neither have I heard of nor attended a dharmantharan (conversion) ceremony,” Prasad told ICC. “Seven years ago, in 2014, I was on my death bed and was taken to several hospitals. At last, the doctors in Lucknow told me that they were going to amputate my leg, but they said this would not guarantee I would survive.” “I was brought home and lost all hope,” Prasad continued.

November 5, 2021 - In a village in Bijapur district, extremists Christians forced to perform a religious ritual in order not to lose homes and property. Local law does not consider a “return” to the “ancestral” religion as conversion, even when involving members of tribal who were never Hindus. Christians in Jaitaloor, a village in Bijapur district in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, were forced to "return" to Hinduism. To achieve this goal, Hindu extremists shaved their heads and put coconuts in their hands as part of a Hindu religious ritual. Such acts were accompanied by the threat of seizing land, homes and properties owned by Christians and having them denied access to publicly owned forest land if they did not comply. “This is a barbaric act and an evident forced conversion," said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews. This, George explained, is “A violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom and respect for the dignity of every person”. It is “also a way to publicly humiliate, mock and insult Christians, whose daily life is constantly in the crosshairs of right-wing extremist nationalist groups.” What is more, it “is not an isolated incident. Christians in Chhattisgarh live

Q&A: ‘Religious freedom conditions in India greatly concerning’ Al Jazeera speaks to US Commission on International Religious Freedom chair Nadine Maenza on deteriorating religious freedom in India and how Biden administration should address it. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Nadine Maenza [Courtesy: USCIRF] 28 Oct 2021 Boston, United States – In April this year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal government commission, recommended India be placed on a religious freedom blacklist for the second year in a row. In its annual report for 2021 (PDF), the commission, which makes religious freedom and foreign policy recommendations to the US president, the US Congress, and the Department of State, called for India, the world’s largest democracy, to be designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for “egregious religious freedom violations”. Hate campaign in India against Urdu for being a ‘Muslim’ language Kashmir students who cheered for Pakistan booked under terror law ‘To dehumanise, terrorise us’: Muslims evicted in India’s Assam ‘Shown their place’: Muslim livelihoods under attack in India India shares the CPC list with 14 other countries, which include Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Syria, Russia, Vietnam and Turkmenistan. The report also recommended

It was a stifling July afternoon when the crowd moved into the small district of Lakholi, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, and gathered outside the house of Tamesh War Sahu. Sahu, a 55-year-old volunteer with the Home Guard who had begun following Christianity more than five years previously, had never before had issues with his neighbours. But now, more than 100 people had descended from surrounding villages and were shouting Hindu nationalist slogans outside his front door. Sahu’s son Moses, who had come out to investigate the noise, was beaten by the mob, who then charged inside. As the men entered the house, they shouted death threats at Sahu’s wife and began tearing posters bearing Bible quotes down from the walls. Bibles were seized from the shelves and brought outside where they were set alight, doused in water and the ashes thrown in the gutter. “We will teach you a lesson,” some people were heard to shout. “This is what you get for forcing people into Christianity.” Sahu’s family was not the only one attacked that day. Four other local Christian households were also targeted by mobs, led by the Hindu nationalist vigilante group Bajrang Dal, known for their aggressive and hardline

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