By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) — Tensions remained high Monday, March 26, in a Christian area of the Indian state of Orissa after Hindu militants threatened to set homes of Christians on fire while elsewhere in India evangelists and missionaries were attacked.
The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), a major advocacy group representing churches and mission groups, said 20 Christian families in Nuagad village in Orissa's Ganjam District "are living in fear of their lives" as hard-line supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or 'Indian People's Party' threatened "to burn them alive."
The troubles reportedly began March 17 after a BJP official became furious over his defeat in recent municipality elections in the area, the GCIC said. Seven Christians and nine BJP supporters were apparently detained in skirmishes in which Christian Abraham Burdhan, lost a finger and suffered "serious cuts to his hand," the GCIC added in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.
It came amid reports of growing violence against pastors and evangelists in India Monday, March 26, when evangelical Pastor Rajendra Chauhan of Uttar Pradesh state was expected to be released on bail following his detention a day earlier. The pastor, who attracts up to 5000 people for his Sunday worship services in Kundra village every week, was detained after being accused by Hindu militants of "forced conversions," GCIC said. The pastor has denied the charges.
Other Christian workers were also attacked this weekend, including in the state of Kerala where a group of evangelists of the Salem Voice Ministries (SVM), a major mission group, were apparently beaten up Saturday, March 24, by what the organization called "Muslim fundamentalists" in the village of Mullakkudi in Idukki District. Just two days earlier evangelists of the evangelical Brothren Church were also attacked in Idukki District, SVM added.
The attacks were no isolated incidents. On Friday, March 23, Christian workers were beaten up in the city of Shri Ganganagar in Rajasthan state by "Hindu fundamentalists," the GCIC said. Those attacked were identified as Rev. P Abraham, an independent Gospel worker and Jacob Thomas, a well-known professor who won a 2006 presidential award for computer literacy programs.
Human rights groups have complained that Indian police often either allow or even encourage attacks against Christians. On March 16, for instance, Police in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh state arrested two young pastors after local people filed a complaint charging the pastors had "hurt their religious" feelings, said GCIC National President Sajan George.
He said the arrests of 24-year-old Juan Singh Sesobia and fellow worker Thogabai, 25, were prove that, "the whole Government machinery in the Central state of Madhya Pradesh is orchestrated by the radical Hindus to intimidate the tiny Christian population." At least 28 people were reportedly arrested under the state's controversial anti-conversion law between July 2005 and June 2006.
Police was also reluctant to intervene the same day in Karnataka state where Hindu militants apparently slightly injured independent Pastor John Selvan, 29, and his 24 year-old brother, Vijay Selvan. The GCIC said in published remarks that a group of about 40 men, armed with sticks and axes, driving on motorcycles, were involved in the attack. Analysts say anti-Christian attacks increased in the state since the Janata Dal-Secular party, in coalition with the BJP, took power from the Congress Party in February last year.
Earlier in Karnataka three unidentified men on March 11 reportedly hit independent pastor Massek Matthew, in the capital Bangalore. There was apparently outrage over his work in Cholanayakanahalli village in the Bangalore area.
A few days earlier on March 7, Pastors Reginald Howell and Sat Nam of the evangelical Good Shepherd Community Churches were beaten by Hindu militants in the area of Hanumangarh in the state of Rajasthan, said GCIC National President George. "Pastor Howell was severely injured and bleeding…" but he did not receive medical treatment because local police "refused" to register his case, George added.
As in several other states of India, "cases of anti-Christian attack in Rajasthan keep increasing, and the State Administration turns a blind eye to the persecution of Christians," he said.
Another church worker, SVM Pastor Ashiras, was attacked March 6, this time by "a group of masked men" in the town of Kupwara in the state of Jammua and Kashmir on his way home from prayer meeting in a small nearby village, SVM said.
"Suddenly a group of masked people attacked him with steel pipes and wooden sticks. He was severely beaten [and] became unconscious…" He was "seriously injured and one of his legs was broken," said SVM, which added that the pastor's wife, Tahira, and their four month old child Noorul Masih "are also under threat." Last month a missionary, identified as Raju, was also beaten up in Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh state, apparently by religious militants, Christian investigators added.
The same day in Madhya Pradesh state, up to 20 Hindu militants, allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal groups, beat Pastor Binoy Kuriakose, 30, of Indian Gospel Church and two other believers as they were distributing Christian literature in Sailana village, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the town of Ratlan.
Human rights groups have linked the attacks to growing fear among Hindu groups and organizations about the spread of Christianity in India, a predominantly Hindu nation of 1.1 billion people. (With BosNewsLife reporting and BosNewsLife Research).
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