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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Protest Rally Against Violence in India Brings Faith Communities Together

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DIMAPUR, NAGALAND (ANS) -- Thousands of people participated in a recent peaceful protest rally in Dimapur, Nagaland in solidarity with the persecuted Christians across India who are being targeted by the VHP, Bajrang Dal, and the Sangh Parivar organizations.

A section of peple participating in the protest rally

According to a report from Inato Y Shikhu, Publisher and Editor of the soon-to-be-published Christian newspaper in India, The Bearer Weekly, who witnessed the rally, the event was jointly organized by the Christian Forum Dimapur, Naga Council Dimapur, Naga Women Association, Dimapur Naga Students’ Federation, and Nagaland Theological Colleges Association.

All private schools and colleges around Dimapur also closed down to show their solidarity with those being persecuted and to condemn the atrocities committed towards the Christian minority in India.

In his report, obtained by ANS, Shikhu said protesters carried placards such as “Shame India Shame,” “We Want Secular India,” “Love Your Brothers Not Hate,” and “Stop Killing Christians in Orrisa.”

A banner calling for the banning of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal

A banner saying “We Want Ban of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal” was also displayed at the main intersection of the City Tower where the rally ended with a protest event.

Shukhu said that interestingly, the two-kilometer walk was also joined by the Hindu Community Dimapur and the Muslim Council Dimapur who showed their disapproval of violence against Christians in several states in India.

Part of the Hindu community rallying for peace

Shikhu writes that when asked about the prevailing situation of anti-Christian violence, the Swami who participated in the rally said through his spokesman that he lamented the violence towards Indian Christians, saying it is “against the Hindu Philosophy, beliefs, and teachings and should be condemned.” On a similar note, the Secretary of the Muslim Council Dimapur, Youth Wing, also condemned the violence and asserted that Christians and Muslims in India face similar challenges as minorities.

Hindus condemning the anti-Christian violence

The rally concluded with songs, prayers, and speeches by leaders from both church organisations and civil societies, Shikhu said. He reported that while chairing the event, the President of the Christian Forum Dimapur, Nagaland, strongly stated that, “their (VHP and Bajrang Dal, and RSS) ideology and aim is to turn India into a Hindu nation.”

Shikhu said the speaker also denied the allegation that Christians are forcefully converting the Hindus, and appealed to stop forcefully re-converting Christians to Hinduism by showing a picture of a mother and her five-year-old child being chopped and burned to death because she refused to re-convert to Hinduism.

Part of the Muslim community marching for peace

Further, the speaker criticized the Central Government and the State Governments of Orrisa and Gujarat for not doing enough to safeguard the Christians and cautioned that: “It’s a shame on Indian democracy and Christians in India will be forced to defend themselves.” He also appealed to Hindu leaders present by saying: “You know who is Bajrang Dal, VHP…please inform your people…”

Shikhu said that speaking at the rally, Naga Council Dimapur President, Savi Leigise, condemned the burning of 20,000 houses and churches and appealed to the Government of India and State Governments for “…not only statements but strong action.”

Addressing the rally consisting of people from different faiths, Naga Women Association President, Hukheli Wotsa stated that, “We should all be peace propagator and peace ambassador.”

While reviewing the violence against Christians, Dimapur Naga Students’ Federation President, Solomom Awomi said that, “We should not confront based on religion, and that Government is not for one community and religion (only).”

Describing the Hindu-Christian relations in Nagaland Mr. Awomi said: “We don’t force Hindus to convert or we don’t threaten them, but we pray for them and love them.” However, on a stronger note he demanded that the Government ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal or it will open a new avenue for similar groups to mushroom with further sinister objectives.

Dr. Hukashe Zhimomi, President of the Nagaland Theological Colleges Association who also teaches Religion at the Trinity Theological College voiced his opinion that, “India should uphold secularism and make it a reality.” Earlier, President of Baptist Pastors Fellowship, Rev. R.P. Murry expressed anguish over the continuous attack on Christians in India and said: “Only uncivilized people can do such barbaric act against innocent Christians.”

Shikhu says that Nagaland is one of the only two Christian states in India with a population of approximately three million with 95 percent of the population being Christian.

He commented that so far, there have been no reports of religion-related violence against Hindus, Buddhists, Jain, and Muslims in Nagaland.

According to the Christian Forum, Dimapur, Naga Churches and Organizations have submitted more memorandums to the Central and State Governments than any other states in India since the violence against Christians started.

Shikhu is the founder and Chairman of the “Shikhu Media and Publishers” in Dimapur, Nagaland. He has his educational degrees and diplomas from Senate of Serampore University, NCIBC Auckland, and NCIU Florida.

He is also the author of the book, “A Rediscover and Rebuilding of Naga Cultural Values: An analytical approach with special reference to Maori as a colonized and minority group of people in New Zealand,” which is published by Regency Publications (  ). Inato Shikhu can be contacted at:  

** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael's involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International.

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