NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Fearing a possible bomb attack, 2,500 orphaned and abandoned children remained trapped inside a Christian orphanage in the city of Kota in India's Rajahstan state Wednesday, March 8, as Hindu militants backed by local police continued their siege of the complex for a second week, officials said.
The siege of the Emmanuel Hope Home is part of the most "severe persecution" in the 46-year history of Christian mission group Hopegivers International (HI), which supports the orphanage, explained HI-President Samuel Thomas who is in hiding inside India. Eight American volunteers are among the staff working to feed and care for the children at the Kota orphanage, the US-backed organization said.
The siege symbolizes "a well orchestrated campaign of terror...launched against the outreaches of Hopegivers International in Rajasthan...Every orphanage, church, clinic, hospital, and school has been affected," apparently with government support, Thomas claimed in a letter smuggled out of India and obtained by BosNewsLife.
"Encouraged" by Rajasthan's Minister of Social Welfare Madan Dilawar, representatives from Hindu hardline organizations Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal last month extended their month-long campaign of terror against Emmanuel and Hopegivers, who help care for more than 10,000 orphaned or abandoned children throughout India. The governing Bharatiya Janata Party embraces "Hindutva", which teaches that all Indians should be converted to Hinduism.
The government recently withdrew procedures against Hindu militants, including members of the influential Hindu nationalist organization Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council group involved in the massive distribution of tridents. The tridents, three-sponged speers, have reportedly been used to intimidate the Christian minority.
"Some militants would rather see 100 million children living on the streets of India than to see us care for 10,000 in the name of the Lord Jesus," said Thomas.
On February 28, police reportedly revoked without a process or hearing, all the operating licenses of Hopegivers-supported bookstores, churches, hospitals, leprosy and HIV-AIDS outreaches, orphanages, printing presses, schools and other institutions, according to HI officials.
"Hindu extremist agitators are inviting violence against innocent Christians and Dalits. Churches are being burned. Orphanages, Christian schools, Holy Places are being vandalized and desecrated. Bibles are burned and urinated upon by saffron-robed gangs of thugs," Thomas told BosNewsLife in the letter. He said pastors and other HI officials "are being systematically arrested, beaten and threatened."
Samuel Thomas and his father, HI founder and Bishop M.A. Thomas, say they have been threatened with death by Hindu extremists because of a controversial book, Samuel Thomas explained. They are apparently not able to leave India or travel inside the countries because "false warrants" have been issued.
Rajasthan Hindi language newspapers reported that a hard-line Hindu leader, identified as Mr. Agrawal, has offered a reward of $52,000 to anyone who will capture and behead the Thomas'. Agrawal is said to be a member and high-ranking official of the anti-Christian Hindu groups Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
"It appears to have started when religious terrorist groups incited mob violence towards Hopegivers because of a Christian booklet being distributed in India. These radicals falsely blame Hopegivers for printing and distributing the booklet entitled, "Haquikatt" by M.H. Mathew. The book allegedly denigrates Hindu deities. Let me state plainly for the record: Hopegivers had nothing whatsoever to do with the writing or publishing of this booklet," Samuel Thomas stressed.
"False accusations like this against our humanitarian ministry are not new. We have always been hated by those who despise our faith-based approach that results in changed lives," he added. "However, this time these angry radicals have infiltrated local police departments and government agencies in an effort to legitimize their latest wave of violence, mayhem and murder. We fear our pastors will start dying very soon- or one of the orphanages will be bombed. We are getting death threats daily."
So called "Saffron gangs" of paramilitaries already allegedly invaded the homes of family and friends of the Thomas' on Monday, March 6, searching for the two Christian leaders. In addition "we fear our pastors will start dying very soon- or one of the orphanages will be bombed. We are getting death threats daily," Thomas said.
He added that HI bank accounts in Kota have been frozen and offices closed. "We cannot get desperately needed food and supplies to our Kota orphanage in normal ways. We are only two weeks away from running out of food and basic necessities," he added. "The radicals say they will cut off water and power to the children and hospital patients next."
To counter "the well-organized campaign of terror, slander, frivolous lawsuits and intimidation," HI said it has started an Emergency Defense Fund to cope with "the illegal actions of the local government and the onslaught of civil and human rights violations that are occurring in the state of Rajasthan."
HI is also working with the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi to speed up an investigation from the central government. The organization urged the prime minister and president of India "to intervene for the sake of the children and to protect the lives of non-Hindus" all over the country. Human rights activists have also begun a letter-writing campaign to India's central government in New Delhi asking for emergency protection of the children and staff of HI’s 65 schools and 13 orphanages in Rajasthan.
"We are asking friends of human rights to fax and write letters today asking for investigators to begin examining what is going on in Kota," said HI Executive Director Mike Glenn, in a statement to BosNewsLife.
HI officials said that thousands of its sympathizers and supporters have "mobilized worldwide prayer in response to the shocking civil and human rights violations that have been committed against Christians in Rajasthan." Violence last month forced organization to postpone what would have been the largest graduation ceremony ever of Christian Dailits in Rajasthan, India's largest northwestern state. Smaller ceremonies were held in different locations.
Samuel Thomas told BosNewsLife in his letter that he is not planning to leave India. "We live today because He lives. We are trusting in the Lord for our protection," he added.
News of the tensions came amid fresh reports of anti Christian violence elsewhere in India, including in the eastern state of West Bengal where Hindu villagers reportedly assaulted Christian women from two different families March 2 and February 16.
In last week’s assault, six young men forced their way into the home of Kanai Kamelia in East Medinipur district, trying to sexually assault Renuka Kamelia, the wife of a Christian. The young men allegedly condemned the Kamelia family for attending a Christian prayer meeting.
Renuka Kamelia, who bled profusely after the assault, later went to the Bhupathinagar police station, where police were said to have reluctantly registered her complaint. But the officer in charge reportedly said he had "no knowledge" of the attack. In the February 16 attack, 13 local residents attacked the wife of influential Christian leader Biman Bandhu Patra, news reports said. Leading the attack was allegedly Patra’s brother, who had apparently been upset about his decision to become a Christian..
In addition Hindu groups Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have claimed that more than 600 Christians, mainly Dalits and tribals, were “reconverted” to Hinduism in the states of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. However human rights group International Christian Concern with website persection.org said it found "serious discrepancies," in those claims. (On the Web: www.hopegivers.org. With BosNewsLife reports, BosNewsLife Research, BosNewsLife News Center and more reports from India).
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