By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) — India's Supreme Court confirmed Monday, April 17, it granted the founder of a major evangelical mission organization "relief from an outstanding arrest warrant" for alleged anti-Hindu activities and ordered a hearing before a court in the tense state of Rajasthan Friday, April 21, officials said.
72-year old Bishop M.A. Thomas, the founder of Hopegivers International (HI) and its affiliate Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) said he had been forced into hiding for over two months because of death threats from radicals, including Hindu militants, and persecution by anti-Christian local authorities.
Other petitions for relief of arrest in various cases against EMI was to be heard in Jaipur Monday, April 17 and Tuesday, April 18, HI said. "This is great news," added HI Executive Director Michael Glenn, who was to return to the American town of Columbus Monday, April 17, from a fact-finding mission to the Indian capital of New Delhi.
However he stressed "we still need to keep praying and writing letters," to government officials amid concerns over the bishops' son and HI's co-founder Samuel Thomas who has been held for over a month in a Rajahstan jail on suspicion of causing of "communal disharmony", charges he strongly denied.
He told BosNewsLife recently that the authorities were angry about his work among Dalits, also known as the "untouchables", the lowest caste in India's ancient system of Hinduism.
Thomas said before his detention that Rajasthan's hard-line Hindu government is trying to shut down EMI operations, including Hopegivers-supported orphanages, the hospital and leprosy or HIV-AIDS outreaches, printing presses, bookstores, churches, schools and other institutions.
His bail hearing has been delayed three times and has now finally been set for April 24, added Glenn in a statement to BosNewsLife. During their trip to India, the HI delegation met the US ambassador and other American officials as well as key Indian Church leaders and Hindu officials. "We met with highest leaders of India—as well as the US ambassador, human rights leaders, and Hindu religious leaders.
We are confident that our efforts will lead to greater awareness and more religious freedom in India," said Don Wilhite, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, GA. who was part of the delegation.
The Thomas' came to symbolize growing concern over violence against Indian Christians and missionaries. In one of the latest reported incidents during Easter weekend several states in India were rocked by violent attacks against Christian believers.
In the southern state of Karnataka Easter Sunday, April 16, Hindu militants believed to be from the hard-line group Bajrang Dal reportedly attacked a Sunday morning church service, assaulting Pastor V.P. Paulouse, injuring his head and fracturing both hands. His wife was said to have been beaten as well. The nature of their injuries were not immediately clear.
Last Tuesday, April 11 near Mumbai, at least two pastors reportedly suffered injuries when about 50 Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad barged into a prayer meeting of 500 Christians and assaulted them with chains and iron rods.
Hindu militants also attacked two Christian schools and a private Christian gathering last week in Madhya Pradesh state and accused several Christians of carrying out "illegal conversions." Christians responded with a protest march in Jabalpur city on Monday, April 10, demanding justice and called for the arrest of several members of the Hindu group Dharam Jagran Sena (DJS). or 'Army for Religious Revival', news reports said.
After the final attack on April 7 against seven Christians, who were then charged with illegal conversion, Rev. Kishan Singh led two dozen church members to the police station to object, said Compass Direct, a Christian news agency.
The mob of about 80 people allegedly beat them as police looked on. Indian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Human rights groups have linked the violence to concern among Hindu radicals to lose influence over Dalits and tribals where Christianity is spreading. Over the weekend two Christian women accused of trying to convert people to their religion were arrested in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh, the Indo-Asian News Service said.
Officials said the women – Mariamma Mathew, 36, and B. Godwil, 65 – were arrested Friday after they were found distributing pamphlets telling people how they could overcome their problems by following the Bible. Several other "objectionable"' pamphlets seized from them, an official said.
In state capital Bhopal, Christians were also beaten up for allegedly holding a meeting to convert some children brought from outside the city, IANS quoted activists as saying. Christian groups have urged the central government to help make India, described as "the world's largest democracy" an open society towards all religions. (With BosNewsLife Research, BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from India).
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