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Posts Tagged ‘Violence’

Hindu Fundamentals are Under Attack

Posted by jytmkh on October 14, 2008

Shashi Tharoor

There are basically two kinds of politics in our country: the politics of division and the politics of unity. The former is by far the more popular, as politicians seek to slice and dice the electorate into ever-smaller configurations of caste, language and religion, the better to appeal to such particularist identities in the quest for votes. But what has happened in recent weeks in Orissa, and then in parts of Karnataka, and that threatens to be unleashed again in tribal districts of Gujarat, is a new low in our political life. The attacks on Christian families, the vandalism of their places of worship, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, and the horrific rapes, mutilations and burning alive that have been reported, have nothing to do with religious beliefs – neither those of the victims nor of their attackers. They are instead part of a contemptible political project whose closest equivalent can in fact be found in the “Indian Mujahideen” bomb blasts in Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad, which were set to go off in hospitals, marketplaces and playgrounds. Both actions are anti-national; both aim to divide the country by polarising people along their religious identities; and both hope to profit politically from such polarisation.

We must not let either set of terrorists prevail.

The murderous mobs of Orissa sought to kill Christians and destroy their homes and places of worship, both to terrorise the people and to send the message ‘you do not belong here’. What have we come to that a land that has been a haven of tolerance for religious minorities throughout its history should have sunk so low? India’s is a civilisation that, over millennia, has offered refuge and, more important, religious and cultural freedom, to Jews, Parsis, Muslims and several varieties of Christians. Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St Thomas the Apostle (‘Doubting Thomas’), who came to the Kerala coast some time before 52 AD and was welcomed on shore by a flute-playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christian well before any European discovered Christianity (and before the forebearers of many of today’s Hindu chauvinists were even conscious of themselves as Hindus). The India where the wail of the muezzin routinely blends with the chant of mantras at the temple, and where the tinkling of church bells accompanies the gurudwara’s reading of verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, is an India of which we can all be proud. But there is also the India that pulled down the Babri Masjid, that conducted the pogrom in Gujarat and that now unleashes its hatred on the 2% of our population who are Christians.

As a believing Hindu, I am ashamed of what is being done by people claiming to be acting in the name of my faith. I have always prided myself on belonging to a religion of astonishing breadth and range of belief; a religion that acknowledges all ways of worshiping God as equally valid – indeed, the only major religion in the world that does not claim to be the only true religion. Hindu fundamentalism is a contradiction in terms, since Hinduism is a religion without fundamentals; there is no such thing as a Hindu heresy. How dare a bunch of goondas shrink the soaring majesty of the Vedas and the Upanishads to the petty bigotry of their brand of identity politics? Why should any Hindu allow them to diminish Hinduism to the raucous self-glorification of the football hooligan, to take a religion of awe-inspiring tolerance and reduce it to a chauvinist rampage?

Hinduism, with its openness, its respect for variety, its acceptance of all other faiths, is one religion which has always been able to assert itself without threatening others. But this is not the Hindutva spewed in hate-filled diatribes by communal politicians. It is, instead, the Hinduism of Swami Vivekananda, who, at Chicago’s World Parliament of Religions in 1893, articulated best the liberal humanism that lies at the heart of his (and my) creed. Vivekananda asserted that Hinduism stood for “both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” He quoted a hymn: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.” Vivekananda’s vision – summarised in the credo Sarva Dharma Sambhava – is, in fact, the kind of Hinduism practised by the vast majority of Hindus, whose instinctive acceptance of other faiths and forms of worship has long been the vital hallmark of Indianness.

Vivekananda made no distinction between the actions of Hindus as a people (the grant of asylum, for instance) and their actions as a religious community (tolerance of other faiths): for him, the distinction was irrelevant because Hinduism was as much a civilisation as a set of religious beliefs. “The Hindus have their faults,” Vivekananda added, but “they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he never lights the fire of Inquisition.”

It is sad that this assertion of Vivekananda’s is being contradicted in the streets by those who claim to be reviving his faith in his name. “The Hindu militant,” Amartya Sen has observed, presents India as “a country of unquestioning idolaters, delirious fanatics, belligerent devotees, and religious murderers.” To discriminate against another, to attack another, to kill another, to destroy another’s place of worship, is not part of the Hindu dharma so magnificently preached by Vivekananda. Why are the voices of Hindu religious leaders not being raised in defence of these fundamentals of Hinduism?

(Originally published in the Times of India, September 29, 2008)

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Pope condemns violence against Christians in Iraq, India

Posted by jytmkh on October 13, 2008

VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Pope Benedict XVI condemned on Sunday violence perpetrated against Christians in India and Iraq.

“I invite you to pray for peace and reconciliation as situations cause concern and great suffering…. I think of violence against Christians in Iraq and India,” he said after a ceremony in which he canonised India’s first woman saint.

The pontiff addressed Indians who made the trip to Vatican City for the canonisation of Sister Alfonsa, who died in 1946 aged 36.

India’s Christian minority, making up little more than two percent of the population, has felt particularly threatened in recent months.

Attacks by Hindu extremists on Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissa have left 35 people dead since August

“As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time,” Pope Benedict said.

“I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love,” he said.

In Iraq, the government said it dispatched nearly 1,000 police to the northern city of Mosul on Sunday to protect Christians fleeing the worst violence perpetrated against them in five years.

Nearly 1,000 Christian families have fled homes in the city since Friday, taking shelter on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province after at least 11 Christians died in a spate of attacks in recent weeks.

At least three homes of Christians were blown up by unidentified attackers on Saturday in the Sukkar district of Mosul, which is regarded by US and Iraqi security forces of one of the last urban bastions of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

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Terror in Orissa

Posted by jytmkh on October 13, 2008

A Christianity Today editorial

Religiously motivated terrorism is constantly in today’s headlines, and Islam has faced its share of scrutiny of late (see, for example, “Islam According to Gallup,” page 38). This is not surprising, given that we are barely seven years removed from Osama bin Laden’s attacks against the United States. Yet no faith has a corner on the terror market. Bloodshed darkens the ranks of every religion.
India, the world’s second most populous country, has long been wracked by sectarian violence. In the six-plus decades since Indian independence, Hindu mobs have attacked Sikhs, Muslims, and other Hindus. In fact, a Hindu assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
It’s time for India to start acting like the world’s largest democracy
Christians, too, who constitute about 2.4 percent of India’s 1.1 billion people, have long been easy targets for those who believe that to be Indian is to be Hindu. This summer, terrorists in Orissa launched a pogrom against the state’s defenseless Christian scapegoats after Maoist rebels assassinated a prominent Hindu swami (see page 15). As local police looked the other way, dozens of Christians were murdered, hundreds of homes were destroyed, scores of churches were torched, and thousands of Christians fled to nearby forests for safety. Some faced this stark choice: Become a Hindu or be killed. The mayhem quickly spread to five more states. Pledging aid to the victims, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—whose secular government did too little, too late—called the violence a “national shame.” What an understatement that is.

An Attack Every Three Days
The real embarrassment to the world’s largest democracy is not this incident. No, it is the fact that this flashpoint is not all that unusual for India. Orissa witnessed other attacks against
Christians just last Christmas. According to All India Christian Council, which defends the human rights of the nation’s long-oppressed Dalits, somewhere in India an attack against Christians occurs on average every three days. Readers of this periodical will likely recall the grisly murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa nearly a decade ago (ct, March 1, 1999).
Freedom of religion is currently under threat in India. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom notes “a marked increase in violent attacks against members of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians” in the late 1990s. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy (irpp) counts four Indian states—Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh—that formally restrict the right of Christians to share their faith with non-Christians.
Anti-Christian activists use these laws to punish followers of Jesus who attempt to obey the Great Commission, often claiming that Christians illegally bribe the poor to convert. This is a distortion at best. There is no doubt that many downtrodden Indians advance economically when they break the millennia-old chains of caste. How could they not? When you are at the very bottom, any move is a move up. Not to mention that many prefer the freedom Christ offers to Hinduism’s caste system.
As Doug Bandow of the irpp dryly observes, “Rather than address the horrid treatment of lower-caste Indians, Hindu militants prefer to attack Christians.” George Orwell could have been referring to the evils of caste when he wrote, “Imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Many Dalits have decided to shout, “No!” to the caste system’s pitiless boot, and convert.
State anti-conversion laws contradict India’s sprawling constitution, which formally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The charter also recognizes that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion.”
These pernicious state laws also go against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 60 years ago, right after India’s independence. That document recognizes “the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Article 18, which highlights the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, notes, “This right includes freedom to change … religion or belief, and freedom … to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” It’s time for New Delhi to get serious about religious freedom.

‘Where Does It End?’
Prominent Hindus who rightly see their nation as an emerging world power are beginning to turn away in disgust from the militants. “I am a Hindu myself,” Indian television talk-show host Rajiv Bajaj says. “Hinduism is a strong, ancient, rich tradition. Are we so insecure about our identity and heritage that it should lead to this kind of mindlessness? First the Sikhs, then the Muslims, now the Christians. Where does it end?”
Columnist Karan Thapar, meanwhile, believes “the time has come for the silent majority of Hindus—both those who ardently practice their faith as well as those who were born into it but may not be overtly religious or devout—to speak out.” They will find ready allies in Christians, who have blessed India since the first century, building schools, feeding the hungry, and standing up for the God-given dignity of all people. And we will continue to do so, come what may from the terrorists.

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Church attacks miff Centre; states warned

Posted by jytmkh on September 19, 2008

Centre has decided to invoke the Constitution to issue warnings to the Karnataka and Orissa governments after a series of attacks on churches and Christians.

This comes amid reports that members of the Sangh parivar like the VHP and Bajrang Dal are carrying out these attacks with the tacit approval of the state governments.

The Home Ministry will soon be issuing a warning to these states to put a stop to these attacks or face the consequences.

Sources say the warnings will be issued either under Article 355 or Article 365 of the Constitution– a last warning before the imposition of President’s Rule.

Article 355, which is an emergency provision, says it’s the duty of the Union government to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbances.

Article 365 says that the President can hold that the state is not acting in accordance with the Constitution. This is basically a ground to act against the state. (NDTV.com)

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Rights body to probe anti-Christian violence in Orissa

Posted by jytmkh on September 17, 2008

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will send a team to Orissa to probe the recent violence against Christians that led thousands of them to flee their homes.

The panel’s move follows a petition submitted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, seeking protection from violence at the hands of Hindu radicals.

“The petition raises serious questions about human rights violations and therefore the panel has sought a report from Orissa’s chief secretary and DGP (Director General of Police) within two weeks,” an NHRC official said.

Orissa’s Kandhamal district was hit by communal violence after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four others were shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his Jalespata Ashram in the district Aug 23.

Though police said Maoist rebels could have killed the VHP leader, Hindu groups blamed the Christians for the murder and went on the rampage against them. Christian groups have repeatedly denied the allegation.

The state has witnessed targeted violence since Aug 23 in which thousands of Christians have been rendered homeless.

“Some organisations had pointed fingers at the Christian community for the murder, and targetted the community,” the petition said.

It alleged that despite the assurance of protection from the government, the Hindu radicals were moving about with lethal weapons threatening Christians.

The petitioners said that the “destructive activities of the fundamentalists” even in the presence of police were forcing Christians to flee their homes and take refuge in the forest or even leave Orissa. (Hindustantimes)

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No let-up in Orissa, Karnataka violence

Posted by jytmkh on September 17, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: The faith-fuelled fire that erupted three weeks back continued to burn through tribal tracts of Orissa on Tuesday.

A policeman was fatally shot when a 500-strong mob of tribals stormed a police station in Gochhapada in a Naxal-style operation. The area is about 35 km from Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhmal district, where scores of churches and prayer halls have been attacked and mobs have targeted Christians to vent their anger over conversions. ( Watch )

The latest hate fire was sparked off by the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati at his Jalespeta ashram three weeks back. The VHP leader had been in the forefront of opposing conversions and leading the campaign to re-convert those who had recently embraced Christianity to Hinduism.

Late Monday-Tuesday night, the tribal mob, which included women, burnt the police station and two vehicles and five motorcycles parked there. The tribals then proceeded to Balandapada, about 20 km from there, and torched the police outpost. At both places, they attacked other police establishments as well.

Anger among non-Christian tribals have been rising as police have arrested several from the community for attacking Christians and torching prayer halls in Kandhmal. DIG R P Koche said 26-year-old sepoy Bibhudendra Biswal was on night duty when the armed villagers launched the attack.

“We have deployed one company of CRPF in the area. Police action has been initiated, but there has been no arrest as yet,” the DIG said. This was the first police casualty reported in the state during the current phase of violence. On Saturday, one CRPF jawan had been shot during mob violence at Krutamgada, about 160 km from Phulbani, where three villagers had been killed in the police firing.

Police sources said that ahead of launching the attack on the police station, the tribal protesters had felled trees and blocked all roads leading to the area with huge logs. As they mounted the attack, most of the cops in the station fled. Biswal, who had recently joined the force, was on sentry duty but without a weapon. He, too, tried to flee when a bullet first hit him in the leg and then a second one in the head. Over 250 people have been arrested in Kandhmal district in connection with the communal violence. Night curfew is still on in several towns.

In Bhubaneswar, chief minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the worsening communal split at a high-level meeting attended among others by the chief secretary, home secretary and the director general of police. The government has decided to retain about 43 companies of CRPF in the state, including 26 companies in Kandhmal district alone, till October-end.

Knives were out in Mangalore as 10 people were stabbed on the city’s outskirts and fires stoked by religious fundamentalists continue to burn the bustling commercial city for the third consecutive day. All schools and colleges were shut, shops remained closed and roads were deserted as Sri Rama Sena forced a shutdown in the city to protest the stabbing of an activist on Monday evening.

Even as the police claimed that all the stabbing incidents were not related to violent attacks on churches, dozens of people were taken into custody by the police. Around 175 people have been arrested in the city so far, over 50 of them for attack on churches and the rest for clashes with Hindu groups and police on Monday.

The trouble started here a couple of days back as Hindu groups began to target churches and prayer halls for the alleged conversion activities of some Christian groups, particularly a sect called the New Life Fellowship. The attacks on minorities in Karnataka seems to be taking a serious turn as violence continues in Orissa and shows no signs of abetting.

On Tuesday, even as Karnataka home minister V S Acharya was in the city to discuss with government officials and community leaders the measures to contain the uninterrupted violence, the city was in the grip of fear and anxiety. (TOI)

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Attacks on Churches and Christians in India – Violence in Mangalore

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

Kim

Section 144 has just been clamped on Mangalore city.

Police resorted to lathi charge and throwing tear gas grenades at peaceful protesters where a number of nuns and women were injured and had to be taken to hospital.

What the hell is wrong with our country and its people? (I would not normally use such strong language in print, but it doesn’t even begin to demonstrate how strongly I feel)

Today morning between 9am and 10am, Bajrang Dal activists attacked and destroyed 4 churches in Mangalore City.

Why? Because New Life members distributed pamphlets which said “Do not Worship Hindu Gods”
While I admit that this could be an incendiary statement, does this justify attacking people and churches who do not even agree with the methods used by the New Life preachers?
Does this justify attacking members of a church, who have not had anything to do with conversions or preaching and just listen?

Let’s look at the issues here:
1. The Bajrang Dal resorts to violence because of something that is printed that they do not agree with.
2. When the Bajrang Dal says that conversions are illegal, (and all the other things they do with tis as their cause) aren’t they infact enforcing that “you cannot worship any God other than a Hindu God”
3. The New Life Church is a relative newcomer, known to be more hardline than most other churches which distance themselves from them. Shouldn’t the Bajrang Dal have at least distinguished that?
4. Even if they did not agree with what was printed by the New Life church in India, couldn’t they try having a dialog with them first, before resorting to violence.
Looks like the hooligans behind these attacks are only interested in breaking bones and getting their adrenaline pumping rather than really trying to sort out any kinds of problems or misunderstandings.

The ruffians broke all the religious statues in the Sisters of Poor Clare’s Adoration Monastery. They threw the Holy Eucharist on the ground and desecrated it.

Is this OK, just because it is being done against Catholics/Christians in India who have historically been as non-violent as the Jains and buddhists (other minorities) in India?

Concerned members of the churches gathered in the church grounds during and after evening mass in a peaceful way to seek assurance and guidance from the priests and other religious. Wasn’t this a peaceful gahtering compared to mobs rampaging and torching buses because of some mud smeared on Meenatai’s statue? or The countrywide riots following a desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Kanpur? The second incident was also of smeared mud. Both the desecrations happened on public roads. This does not make it right, but compare this to religious statues being broken on private property, the Holy Eucharist (which Christians believe is the body of Christ once it is blessed) thrown on the ground. Do not Christians have a right to congregate to discuss their fears following such incidents.

Remember the Christians were gathering in peace outside their place of worship (since the insides of the church were full) not going out and torching buses or hurting other innocent people.

To add fuel to the fire, the police arrived. No issues with their arriving where crowds had gathered, but they started lathi charging the gathered people and seriously injured nuns and women among the crowd and threw tear bombs inside the church where Sunday evening mass was being held. A religious ceremony, a peaceful ceremony, held everyday inside these churches.

Was this responsible on the part of the police to use force and violence against unarmed, peaceful members of the public?

People present at the scene said that the police themselves were pelting stones at the crowd and caning them, hurting both people and damaging property in the vicinity.

The news channels started to broadcast about this and then completely hushed up. I turned on my India feed of NDTV which promised for 15 minutes to show an update and news about Mangalore city and suddenly it stopped showing those banners without showing any news about what had happened. Looks like someone high in the political chain, got to them and yanked the news off the air.

Now take 2-3 other incidents into perspective.
On 29th August over 40,000 Christian Educational Institutions across India stayed closed to register a peaceful protest against the continuing violence against Christians in Orissa which has now spread to 13 out of 30 districts.

On the same day, the government of Karnataka announced its decision to take action against Christian schools in the state for closing without prior permission.

This same government has yet to take action against the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishat and RSS workers, who had launched violent protests when the JD (S) failed to hand over the state reins to the BJP last year.

Is it any surprise that both Karnataka and Orissa currently have the BJP in power?

The VHP held violent protests in Madhya Pradesh and other places asking why the Christians had killed Saraswati? (by shutting educational institutions for a day) What about all the occasions when the BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal/Shiv Sena and other Hindu organisations force schools, colleges and business to shut shutter for their own bundhs which destroy all normalcy in the cities?

Why are these double standards in play? Why are Christians being given the short end of the stick? Religious Christian institutions have a large role to play in education, medicine, caring for the orphans, abandoned, old and dying in India. Christians have been one of the most tolerant minorities in India (imagine what would have happened by now if by chance the Bajrang Dal hooligans had desecrated a mosque this morning) who have contributed immensely to the growth of the country. Why this treatment? Do they deserve it?

Do they deserve a government that is apathetic to their religious sensibilities being trampled upon?

Christians have always believed in being peace loving, patient and tolerant. Will the Christian youth of today continue to be as tolerant when they see the atrocities being committed against their brethren in Orissa and the North East?

Why are these atrocities against Christians being downplayed in the media? (Try googling for the attack against Christians in India and see how many Indian media links pop up) Why aren’t they being given coverage? Is it because the powers-that-be know that they aren’t doing a thing to control, controllable situations and the miscreants in their party? Is it because the powers-that-be know that the Christians haven’t ever retaliated with violence? How long will the Christians community be able to react with tolerance and peace? (2 values that a lot of Indians in the news seem to have completely forgotten about)

Final note of irony: Union minister of labour and employment Oscar Fernandes (a Christian) was in Mangalore today to inaugurate the opening of a (Hindu) temple.

And so we debate endlessly in the media about terrorism coming in from across the border while we burn our own own citizens in their homes and places of worship.
(desicritics.org)

Posted in Karnataka | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

Communal rage: New face of violence

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

NEW DELHI: The communal violence and retaliation by security forces claiming two more lives in Kandhmal in Orissa on Saturday, and Bajrang Dal-led attacks on Christians in Davanagere and Chikmagalur in Karnataka, no longer appear to be isolated incidents. Conversion related violence is on the rise and tantamount to opening up of yet another front apart from the ones that jolt us out of our revery now and then: Islamist terrorism and Maoist extremism.

The attacks on Christians are being sought to be justified on the ground that people are being forcibly converted from Hinduism or tribalism to Christianity.

But on closer scrutiny, it appears the issue isn’t merely of conversion. In Kandhmal, for instance, it’s the increasing prosperity of the Dalit Panas after they converted to Christianity that seems to have become a trigger for violence against them.

In times of blind hatred, there is no independent verification of the charge levelled by the majority Kandha tribals against the Dalit Panas: that they claim Hinduism as their religion in certificates for job benefits as SCs but practice Christianity for a jump in their social profile. Orissa has the highest percentage of Hindu population of all the states, almost 95%.

While Hindu numbers have decreased marginally over the last three decades, there has been a corresponding increase in Christian population. This possibly points at the cause — but not the justification — for the attacks against Orissa’s Christians.

In West Bengal’s Nadia district, the last reported instance of violence against Christians was on Christmas 2002, when a priest and 14 others were injured after a group of about 50 armed men attacked the church during the special midnight mass.

They threatened about 1,000 worshippers with dire consequence if they didn’t immediately disperse. Says George Pattery, head of Jesuits of Kolkata, “Sitting in West Bengal, we can’t imagine the struggle that missionaries are going through in Orissa. They are being targeted because they have been able to bring a change in the lives of the poorest of the poor. However, as always we will continue with our work.” In Karnataka, where a couple of days before the Davanagere prayer hall was torched, the local administration locked up two churches in the town.

Two students of Bible college too were attacked. Says former Bangalore city police chief and BJP MP H T Sangliana, who voted with the UPA on the July 22 trust vote, “The impression among people is that the attacks on Christians have increased since the BJP government came to power in the state. The freedom of religion has been violated.” He refutes the charge of conversion against the missionaries and says, “No one has produced any evidence.” In Chhattisgarh, a relatively unknown group of fundamentalists, Dharma Sena, has been periodically attacking Christian congregations and prayer meetings.

On Christmas eve in 2007, Pastor James and 10 other Christians were beaten up by “Dharma Sena” lumpens. Then, only last week, four Catholic nuns were forced to get off a train at Durg railway station along with four infants by Dharma Sena activists who claimed the children were Hindu and were being taken for religious conversion.

It later came to light that the babies were willingly handed over to the nuns of Missionaries of Charity by unwed mothers. Religious conversion is a social issue needing address by community leaders through dialogue.
Its degeneration into violence is a reflection on the shrinking liberal space where all differences are sought to be sorted out through physical intimidation and, worse, liquidation. (TOI)

 

Posted in Catholics, Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Guest Commentary: Anti-Christian Violence in India: A Perennial Calvary

Posted by jytmkh on September 10, 2008

By Santhosh Sebastian Cheruvally
9/10/2008

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

“In the wake of this latest violence, it seems that for Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India, their daily life and existence have become a Perennial Calvary.”

 

Even in Refugee camps, suffering Christians are being harassed by Hindu extremists and being coerced into what the radicals call
Even in Refugee camps, suffering Christians are being harassed by Hindu extremists and being coerced into what the radicals call “re-conversion” under dire threat to life, limb and freedom.
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ROME (Catholic Online) – This article is based upon a talk given at St. Paul’s Pontifical College in Rome after the first cycle of anti-Christian violence was unleashed by Hindu fanatical organizations in Orissa, India last Christmas season. The second cycle of anti-Christian violence,apparently perpetrated by the same Hindu fanatical organization, was unleashed after the condemnable murder of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader of the Kandhamal area.

The violence is a sign of growing venomous hatred against the Christian community in India among Hindu extremists. In a preplanned, nonsensical and very undemocratic manner, Christians were wrongly accused of the murder. As citizens they have a right to the constitutional protections of the legal system of this Nation. Their poor treatment raises serious questions concerning the democratic structures of India. In my speech I observed that ‘Christians do not celebrate Good Friday on Christmas Day. But for the Christian brothers and sisters in the district of Kandhamal and its adjacent areas in Orissa, India, Christmas turned out to be a Good Friday, ‘a veritable Calvary’!’ Now, in the wake of this latest violence, it seems that for Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India, their daily life and existence have become a Perennial Calvary!

Orissa has a dark history of communal violence and hatred. There is the burning to death of Graham Staines and his two young sons in 1999. His family was engaged in the care of leprosy patients. However, this time, the intensity of the violence has grown into inhuman and unimaginable proportions. It has also done great damage to the age old coexistence and diversity of India, both at home and abroad. The gang raping of nuns, burning alive of human beings, destruction of churches, setting fire to the orphanages and houses of the poor, beating up and public humiliation of priests are not marks of a humane culture and true democracy. Yet in India, they thrive and survive!

The trump card of forced conversion has also been played by the fanatics this time. Certain media ‘analysts’, of a pro-Hindu fundamentalist nature, have been vocal in demonizing missionaries and even the Pope, who is the supreme spiritual head of the Catholic Church. A close scrutiny of these articles reveals them to be a bundle of lies patched together. They forget centuries of differences coexisting. Some portray missionaries as only engaged in the tribal areas; conveniently forgetting the fact that majority of urban India is served and supported by the missionaries and benefits from their energy through a chain of elite schools and affordable hospitals.

The fanatics have tried to portray the missionaries as devilish, making others forget they are sons and daughters of this country and are constantly engaged in groundbreaking humanitarian services for the promotion of human dignity. The perpetrators appear to be right wing Hindu radical organizations such as VHP, RSS, Sangh Parivar and Bajrang Dal. The hate talk continues as reports show that the security situation is vulnerable. That is despite the lofty assurances of the central and state governments. Because of the helplessness felt by the Christian community at the hands of the prevailing governments, the archbishop of Cuttack-Bhuvaneshwar was forced to approach the Supreme Court seeking a CBI enquiry into the masterminding and commitment of violence against the Christians. A question must be asked here: was not this tragedy avoidable if the governments had acted in time? This must be answered by the citizens of India who still have faith in the power of the constitution of this Nation. The nature of the problem of the ongoing antichristian violence calls for a deeper reflection at three levels.

1. As a Political and Social Problem

The Christians in India are law abiding citizens. India guarantees the freedom to practice and propagate one’s faith. They are attacked without respect for Indian law or human dignity. Hence this amounts to a constitutional violation of the rights of an entire community. It is therefore highly condemnable and an offense under Indian law. Accordingly, the Church has drawn the attention of the authorities at the state and central level. The Church feels that the ‘inaction’ of the state machinery to intervene effectively and pacify the situation, despite the repeated representation of these concerns, was akin to a political condoning of the actions. As a socio-political problem, various political parties and national organizations for minority and human rights, along with other NGOs, have strongly reacted and sought swift action.

2. As a Christian Missionary Issue:

The Christians are falsely accused and brutally targeted specifically because of their Christian faith. At this level, our response must be spiritual, praying for the suffering communities and for the perpetrators, as we pray for our enemies. As Christians when are attacked, in our martyrdom of suffering, we are bound to witness to the Love and Forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church in India, from the South to the North and East to the West has demonstrated spiritual and charitable solidarity. Thus, the ongoing sufferings of these innocent and poor Christian brothers and sisters continue to augment our faith and sense of ecclesial identity and shared mission. This is obvious from the recent pastoral words of Archbishop Cheenath and Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, CssR.

3. As an Ideological Problem. The Need for a theological and philosophical Response

We will examine these elements in my next installment.

Santhosh Sebastian Cheruvally belongs to the diocese of Gorakhpur and holds a doctorate in Christology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.

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