Church Burnt Down
Wednesday, 27 December 2006,By BosNewsLife News Center
Christians in India protest religious persecution.
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Evangelical Christians in central and eastern India were recovering from injuries Wednesday, December 27, after Hindu militants attacked them for singing Christmas carols while elsewhere a church was completely destroyed, Christian leaders said.
Pastor James Ram reportedly said the troubles began at The Church of God in Jalanpur village in the central state of Chhattisgarh after church members and students of its Bible school started a week-long Christmas program.
"They started on the 21th [of December] distributing free gifts of New Testaments in several [nearby] villages. On [December] 23 they did this in their [own] village," the pastor said in a statement distributed by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
But their activities were noticed by local militant Hindu groups. "On 24th at about noon [local time] some activists of the Bajrang Dal and the Dharam Raksha Sena [groups] burnt some of the Bibles in public in the centre of town…"
The militant allegedly attacked about 20 young people holding a procession with a Santa Claus, balloons, and singing carols while wearing t-shirts that read “Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
As they were also distributing leaflets inviting people to contact the church if they wanted to know more about Christmas, "a gang of activists from the BJP [party], Bajrang Dal and Dharam Raksha Sena [groups]" became angry, said the GCIC.
They,” objected to the believers singing carols and distributing Christian literature, and attacked the church members and beat them up," the advocacy group added. Indian Christians said they were dragged to a nearby town where militants stopped a woman on her way to the toilet, carrying a vessel of water.
"The group was forced to drink this water and to say “Jai Shri Ram” – a slogan of the Hindu radicals, along with the beat of drums and slogan-shouting," the GCIC claimed. One of the believers, Sunder, allegedly lost his hearing due to blows while a student, identified as John Digar, apparently had a hand fractured.
Christian investigators said five believers were injured, while a total of eleven persons including Pastor James Ram were arrested on "false charges" of "illegal conversion." The pastor was released on Christmas Eve, while the other believers were released Christmas Day, BosNewsLife learned.
In two separate incidents in the state in recent days, a Christian woman, Reena Vishvakarma was "falsely" implicated in distributing Bibles in her school by the school principal and beaten up "by Hindu extremists groups," the GCIC said.
Pastor Phillip Jagdalla of the Jehovah Pentecostal Church in Chhattisgarh's Raipur area was accused of distributing toffee (Candy) to Sunday school students and therefore "was badly beaten" up by police, the group claimed.
The violence in Chhattisgarh came as in the eastern state of Orissa militants set on fire a church in the Boriguma area of Koraput District, said GCIC Coordinator Asit Kumar Mohanty in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.
He said the arson attack took place late Saturday, December 23, when in his words "the persecutors completely burnt the same Church which was decorated by local believers for Christmas celebrations."
He said he had urged churches to pray for the "aggrieved believer families who are presently unable to worship Jesus Christ and celebrate Christmas cheerfully together as their worship center has been set on fire."
Christians are also forced to spend this Christmas season outside their towns and villages in some areas, investigators said.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Deputy Commissioner in the southern state of Karnataka's Mysore district to investigates reports that eight 'Dalit' families were expelled from a village there.
The Dalits were allegedly "ostracized" for not obeying the orders of those belonging to the upper castes. Dalits have long been regarded as the 'lowest caste' in India's ancient system of Hinduism. However churches report a growth of Christianity among Dalits and other groups in rural areas of India, a development that has led to tensions with Hindu militants.
Most of India's 1.1 billion people are Hindus. Christians comprise roughly 2.3 percent of the population. (With BosNewsLife reporting and BosNewsLife Research).