Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Christians beaten and arrested on allegations of “forced conversions” in India


New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) – Christians involved in social work, schools, or in preaching the Gospel are the main targets of Hindu (as well as Buddhist) extremist groups who accuse them of "fraudulent and forced conversions." Recent episodes reported to Fides took place in the states of Karnataka, Jammu, and Kashmir.

On October 24 in Bengaluru, Karnataka, a Christian teacher at Holy Cross Catholic School was attacked by members of Hindu extremist groups who accused him of forcing conversions among students. The extremists - self-proclaimed supporters of the Hindu nationalist party the "Bharatiya Janata Party,” the ruling party - blocked the exit of the school and beat him violently. The militants also contacted the local media to expose their accusations and complaints. The teacher is in the hospital. Some members of the All India Christian Council, a forum that brings together Christian leaders of all denominations, have visited him and tell Fides that the motivations of the aggression are spurious and that the assault was only due to his Christian faith.
Also in Karnataka, a serious act of intimidation was carried out against the Protestant pastor Andrew Mallappa Hanumanthappa in the village of Bellakatte, located in the district of Chitrdurga. This past October 20th six radical militants stopped him on the street and beat him up. Then they went and set fire to the room used by the small local Christian community for their services. Police arrested four men, who were later released thanks to the intervention of influential local politicians.

The problem, a local Church source tells Fides, is that "the state government of Karnataka, in the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), plays on both sides: on the one hand, it says it wants to maintain order, safety, and legality; on the other, it protects the Hindu fundamentalist groups (under various acronyms) that form the basis of their electorate. Christians are suffering the consequences of this ambiguity." The allegations of conversion, the source continues, "are magnified with the specific intention of creating insecurity and animosity between communities of different religions in respect to Christians. These accusations are politically motivated."
In Jammu and Kashmir, however, six members of the "Sunehara Kal" ("Golden Future"), a Christian-based non-governmental organization, were arrested last October 23 on charges of kidnapping children and trying to convert them to Christianity. The young children, some of whom are orphans, are victims of floods in the area of Leh, and NGO members were taking care of them. As Fides was told by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), an association that defends the rights of Christians in India, those who filed the complaint against the NGO were members of the Ladakh Buddhist Association. They have convinced some of the parents of the boys to say that their children had been taken from them without their consent. Local Christians, deploring this act of manipulation of information carried out by the "Ladakh Buddhist Association" - which in the past has falsely accused Christians – are calling on Buddhists to reflect on their suffering in Tibet before persecuting Christians. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/10/2010)


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