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India Church Worker Killed, Pastor Detained

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Police in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu were investigating Monday, November 27, the death of a church worker who was apparently killed at the start of a Sunday worship service.

The man, identified only as 60-year-old Jacob, was "stabbed and killed" late Sunday November 26 "within the church precincts" of the Church on St. Thomas Mount, a small 300 foot (100 meters) high hillock located in the state capital Chennai, said Sajan K. George, national president of advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

"When the assailant began to attack him, Jacob took refuge in another room. The attacker followed and stabbed Jacob on the face, chest and abdomen," George added. The assailant reportedly also threatened onlookers before fleeing. Jacob was rushed to a private hospital in nearby Porur, but was "pronounced dead" on arrival, George said.

He said the GCIC believes that Jacob, who managed the church sales of religious articles, was killed because of his faith in Christ. Local police reportedly said however the main motive may have been "a dispute over the price" of an article. Officials could not immediately identify the suspect, but in published remarks Greater Chennai Police Commissioner Letika Saran said there were "some strong leads" and that police was investigating.

OVERSHADOWING SERVICES

The attack overshadowed planned worship services at the relic-filled famous church, which built in 1523 by the Portuguese and stands at the summit of the St. Thomas Mount. The place was visited by late Pope John Paul II during his visit to India on 5th February 1986.

It also was the second high-profile murder of a Christian making headlines in India in less than a week. On November 21 prominent Christian worker Bashir Ahmed Tantray, 50, was shot and killed by suspected Islamic militants near Srinagar, the summer capital of the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

While "Bashir Ahmed Tantray is now safe in the arms of Jesus Christ, and has received a martyr's crown," he leaves behind "his wife, two daughters, and two sons," said Paul Hattaway, director of the Asia Harvest mission group in a statement to BosNewsLife Monday, November 27.

GROWING VIOLENCE

The murders come at a time when human rights groups have expressed concerns of growing violence against church workers and other Christians. One of these organizations, Washington-DC based International Christian Concern (ICC) with website www.persecution.org said Monday, November 27, that police in India’s Orissa State have arrested a young pastor "on charges of offending Hindu sensitivities."

Pastor Ashish Kumar Muna, 25, was still in a jail in Rourkela district Monday, November 27, nearly two weeks after he was detained, the ICC said. Muna was reportedly arrested November 15 after praying for a woman suffering from tuberculosis and kidney problems, not knowing that she was the wife of a local leader of the Hindu militant party Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

As he was praying, her daughters allegedly accused him of "forced conversion" and the pastor was soon later hand over by family members and neighbors to local police.

PASTOR ARRESTED

"The police arrested the pastor on charges of house-trespass, use of criminal force on a woman and hurting religious sentiments, under Sections 448, 354 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code. Muna was consequently produced before a court, which refused his bail application and remanded him in judicial custody," ICC said.

Elsewhere in India Hindu militants attacked one of the main speakers at a convention at the Seventh Day Adventist School in the town of Jagadhari in the northern Haryana state. The GCIC said Captain Samuel narrowly survived the November 15 beatings.

"They stamped him on his chest, beat him severely, dragged and beat him so badly that he could not breathe for a while," said GCIC President George, adding that the Christian refused to file charges with local police.

CHURCHES BURNED

Hindu militants have also been involved this month in other attacks, including the burning of a church in Andhra Pradesh while neighboring Kerala state saw an attack on four pastors, Indian Christians said.

A prayer meeting in Vishakhapatnam city in Andhra Pradesh was cancelled after the VHP or World Hindu Council lodged a police complaint with local police last week, November 23, accusing organizers of "evangelizing", news reports said. On November 17, Hindu extremists reportedly set fire to a church in Dubbaka village in Nizamabad district, and attacked a Catholic school in the same district on November 16.

In the same area on November 3, Hindu militants attacked an independent pastor in Nachupally village, while elsewhere extremists beat four pastors of an Assembly of God church in Kerala state’s Alapuzha district. The four were admitted to the government hospital in Harripad, said Christian news agency Compass Direct.

Christian rights investigators have linked the reported incidents to growing resistance among both Hindu and Islamic groups against the spread of Christianity in India, a mainly Hindu nation of roughly 1.1 billion people. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from India).

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