Wednesday, October 3, 2012
India: unrelenting persecution
-- a call to pray for the church in India
By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 179
Special to ASSIST News Service
(ANS) -- Persecution of the Church in India is unrelenting, primarily due to the Hindu nationalists' incitement of racial and religious hatred; the impunity afforded to violent persecutors; and the authorities' lack of political will. The following incidents were recorded by the Evangelical Fellowship of India. They are typical -- and the tip of the iceberg.
On 24 September, 12 Hindu extremists disrupted a prayer meeting in Kandhamal, Orissa, verbally abusing the believers and chasing them out into the forest. When junior pastor Mantu Nayak tripped and fell, the Hindus beat him mercilessly, leaving him with head injuries and fractures in both arms. On 11 September police in Kashganj, Uttar Pradesh, accused Christians of 'forcible conversions'. The next day, a mob of armed Hindus arrived and threatened the believers, demanding they 'return' to Hinduism. Reacting against news of an impending Christian inter-caste marriage, the Hindus drove the bride-to-be and her family out of the area. On 7 September Pastor John Pargy was distributing gospel tracts quietly when he was accused of insulting Hinduism. He was then assaulted and arrested. On 4 September Pastor Anand Nirala was arrested in Jangir Champa, Chhattisgarh, after Hindus accused him of 'forced' conversions, insulting Hindu deities and disturbing social harmony. On 1 September Hindu extremists in Balod, Chhattisgarh, stoned a church and beat the pastor and believers. The next day, a 600-strong mob returned and terrorised the believers, eventually driving them from their homes. On 26 August a large mob of Hindu extremists burst into a prayer meeting in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, and violently attacked the believers, leaving two Christians seriously injured. Accusing the believers of 'forced conversions', the Hindus rampaged through the village. One local Christian, Edwin Raj, was beaten to death.
On 29 August the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) had a minor and partial victory when the High Court of Himachal Pradesh struck out one section of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (HPFR Act), a law that regulates conversions. The judge struck out section 4, which mandated that anyone intending to change their religion must inform the district administration 30 days before conversion takes place -- essentially to obtain permission -- or else face a fine. Whilst the judge ruled that section 4 violated a person's right to privacy, he did not agree with the EFI that the HPFR Act, which criminalises religious 'force', 'fraud' and 'inducement', violated the constitutional right to religious freedom. ['Force', 'fraud' and 'inducement' are defined in a way that effectively criminalises virtually all Christian witness. In India, 'freedom of religion' is essentially understood as freedom from religious 'interference'.]
According to the High Court, freedom of religion must be subject to the interests of public law and order. As such, though Christians are said to have full rights, in practice conversions and Christian witness must be restricted if they lead to Hindu rioting. This is exactly the same backward thinking involved in Islamic blasphemy legislation. Confident they will be appeased, religious dictators incite violence, blame the victim and extract concessions. Though governments might find appeasement expedient in the short term, in the long term it is disastrous as it legitimises intolerance, justifies violence and fuels persecution.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
Persecution of the Church in India is unrelenting, primarily due to the Hindu nationalists' incitement of racial and religious hatred, the impunity afforded violent persecutors and the authorities' lack of political will. 'Religious Freedom' laws define 'force', 'fraud' and 'coercion' in ways that criminalise virtually all Christian witness. Such laws are a gift to the Hindu nationalists who incite violence, blame the victims and are appeased with impunity and restrictions on egalitarian Christianity that the high-caste Hindus recognise as a threat to their own caste privilege. The government is reluctant and even afraid to tackle Hindu propaganda. Consequently it advances, fuelling religious hostility and creating an incendiary environment. The situation is extremely dangerous. Please pray for the Church in India.
KENYA: TERROR THREAT. On 14 September police in Nairobi uncovered a large cache of weapons, foiling a massive terror plot due to be launched against churches. Unfortunately, on 30 September a Sunday School class was bombed, killing one child and wounding nine.
EGYPT: EXPULSIONS. Christians have been ethnically cleansed out of the Sinai. What started as jihadists' terror was completed by the government of Mohamed Morsi.
PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY CASE. The three Muslims who gave sworn testimony against the imam Khalid Chishti have withdrawn their statements, claiming to have been coerced. They had testified that he had tampered with evidence so that the illiterate Christian, Rimsha Masih (14), might be accused of blasphemy and all Christians subsequently driven from the slum (see RLPB 173).
To view this RLPB with hyperlinks visit the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog.
With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church between 4 -11 November. 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
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