I've Always Been A Christian : Obama
Barak Obama in An American Church during prayer.Washington DC (USA), November 6 : Christian Fort.Com congratulates Mr. Barak Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America. According to the facts, his birth father was a Muslim, though Obama says he never practised Islam. His mother Ann Dunham was a Christian and, when she divorced, she remarried another Muslim. The family lived in Indonesia for a while and the young Obama was enrolled at the Catholic school in Jakarta as a Muslim. Obama himself insists he has always been a Christian and never practised Islam. But many of the Islamic faith believe that is not the question; once a Muslim, always a Muslim - and converting to another faith makes you a murtadd and the punishment for that is death.
Christians Assaulted In Uttarakhand
Dehradun, November 5: The Christian community on Tuesday staged a dharna in Dehradun demanding stern action against the workers of Vir Savarkar Morcha, who allegedly assaulted three Christians including a pastor and tried to burn the copies of Bible at Choela Butuwala village last evening.
Nearly 50 people allegedly belonging to Vir Savarkar Morcha and other Hindu outfits reached a one-room makeshift church in the village here and gathered copies of Bible and other religious literature from there. When the pastor Hemant and his two associates Suraj and Ranjit resisted their move, they were beaten up, police sources said.
The workers also took away with them the literature and later tried to burn the copies of the Bible. Meanwhile some local residents informed the police, which intervened in the case. The police also picked up three people from the site but later they were let off.
Uttarakhand Director General of Police Subhash Joshi said that three people were arrested in the case but since their crime was bailable, they were released on bail.
On the other hand, the main opposition Congress has claimed that the police has made no arrest in the case and said the people of the Christian community would soon meet the DGP to press for immediate arrest of the culprits.
“The BJP and the government is patronising such extremist Hindu organisations and minorities are feeling unsafe in such a scenario,” alleged senior Congress leader Surya Kant Dhasmana, adding this was the fourth such incident of attack against Christians in the state and police has failed to make any arrest so far.
Dhasmana said the party would soon launch an agitation over the issue state-wide.
Anti-Christian Attacks In India Entered 3rd Month
New Delhi, November 4: The Fundamentalists' attacks on Christians in India have entered their third month amidst pleas to Indian authorities to end the violence. Pope Benedict-16th recently (on 26th October) added his voice to those calling for new efforts at religious harmony. He also called on Indian government and religious leaders to help end acts of “cruel violence” and intolerance and to restore the rule of law so that “honest and legal citizens may know they can count on adequate protection from the state.”
The violence first erupted on Aug. 24, the day after an 85-year-old Hindu leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, and four associates were gunned down in Kandhamal district of the state of Orissa in Eastern India. Saraswati had campaigned against Christian missioners for decades. Hindu extremists immediately blamed Christians for the murders, even though a Maoist group repeatedly claimed responsibility for killings. Newspapers reported that several Hindu monks at a memorial service for the slain Hindu leader Sept. 6 made vows to eradicate Christians from Kandhamal district. The monks reportedly described the murder as an attack on Hinduism and called for Hindus to counter a move to “make India a Christian nation.” Indian Christian groups, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations of the murder as baseless and aimed at inciting sectarian violence that could polarize voters ahead of the country’s next general election, due in early 2009.
Baptist Pastor Among Injured In Assam Blasts, Guwahati Church Damaged
GUWAHATI (Assam), November 3 (ICNS): A Baptist pastor was among those injured in one of the 13 blasts in Assam, which left at least 77 people killed and 300 seriously wounded on Thursday. In Guwahati, which reported six explosions, the wounded include a Baptist pastor. A blast in the city’s Pan-bazar market area also destroyed some portions of his Guwahati Baptist Church, UCA News reported.That blast also destroyed about 15 shops belonging to the church, Reverend M. Haokhothong, a senior Baptist pastor in the city, told UCA News. “The front portion of the church building and half of the pastor’s residence were destroyed, and the pastor was injured,” Reverend Haokhothong said. The Catholic Church is extremely sad the explosions in popular shopping areas killed so many innocent people, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati said. “Placing ourselves on our knees, we earnestly urge all people concerned to work together for peace, because we all belong to one humanity irrespective of our creeds, castes and communities,” Archbishop Menamparampil told UCA News. The Salesian archbishop, who has worked in and around Assam for the past four decades, has initiated intercommunal peace groups and worked with people of various religions in the region, which is troubled by insurgency and ethnic violence. Migration of Muslims from neighboring Bangladesh is a factor in some of the violence.
Kerala Offers Protection To Orissa Christians
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), November 1: : In a significant humanitarian and political move, the Kerala Government has offered protection to 56 Christian families from Orissa, who had fled the state after being ‘harassed’ in the name of religion.
The delegation of the 56 families, including children, met Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan. He consoled them saying the state Government would protect them.
Those who had fled from Orissa have been staying at a prayer centre at Chalakkudi till now. They contacted the Chief Minister after an intervention by a Thrissur-based human rights forum.
The Chief Minister said the state government would accommodate them in various centres under the social welfare department.
The refugees were mentally and physically weak and their requirement for treatment, food and clothes would be taken care of by the state government, Achuthanandan said.
The state would also bear the expenses for education of the children in the group. All protection would be given to the group. Peter Digal, a member of the group, said the sufferings of the last one year had ended with the assurance by the Kerala Government.
The Sangh Parivar organisation dealt the Christians in a cruel way, he alleged. “We are Christians and we do not harm anyone. But the saffron flag-holders burnt our Churches and destroyed our houses,” he charged.
They had taken refuge in forests to escape from the attacks for over a month. He said they escaped the trauma after reaching nearest railway stations in different groups.
Social Welfare Director Usha Titus would co-ordinate the protection offered to the families.
UN Should Intervene Against Anti-Christian Violence In India : Shahbaz Bhatti
Islamabad (Pakistan), October 31: Condemning the egregiously shocking mistreatment of religious minorities in India, the Chief of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and a member of National Assembly, Shahbaz Bhatti, has called upon the United Nations to ensure protection of lives and properties of minorities in India.”Gross treatment being meted out to religious minorities in India is a cause of deep concern for peace-loving people in Pakistan and across the world,” Shahbaz said. ''You cannot go on claiming to be secular and liberal when minorities in your country continue to be victimized, threatened, harassed and pressured,” said Shahbaz pointing to India, whose treatment of its minorities has become “miserable than ever.”The anti-minorities violence has shaken the conscience of moderates, liberal, progressive and enlightened people across the globe, said Shahbaz Bhatti. “Churches are under attack in Jharkand, Karnatka, Madhya Pradesh and other states, he regretted.Violence against minorities in India has surged as the fanatic and extremist elements have gone unpunished, said Shahbaz.He feared that violence against already vulnerable minorities will only escalate and the anti-peace elements will continue to target minorities if they were not brought to book. It is time the Indian government took stringent action against elements who, he said are causing harm to minorities in India.
In Kandhamal, Residents Display Saffron Flags To save Life & Property
Kandhamal, Orissa, October 30 (IANS): Madhuri Dalbehara was stringing flowers under a saffron flag quite assured that no one would torch her house in anti-Christian violence-hit Kandhamal — a telling indication of the fear that Hindu fundamentalists have spread across the district.
“We have displayed these flags to ward off any attack on us,” said Dalbehara, who is a Christian.
“There is Hindu-Christian violence in our region. This flag is an indication that we are Hindus. No one has attacked our house so far,” she smiled, asking a visiting IANS correspondent if he had “come from abroad to do research in the district over the violence.”
“It is a sensitive area and by hoisting the flag, we have made sure no one does any harm to us,” she added.
Thousands of houses across the district display saffron flags to give the impression that the residents are Hindus while, in fact, they are Christians.
“It’s better to protect your house and if a flag can save our lives then there is nothing wrong in displaying it,” said Nabghan Chinara, a resident of the G. Udaygiri neighbourhood, pointing to the tiny flag fluttering on the roof.
“There is no animosity between tribals and Christians here. We were all living happily but outsiders are spreading hatred. They might have some political motive,” said Rajesh Pradhan, another resident.
Anti-Christian violence has been boiling in Kandhamal ever since the Aug 23 killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu religious leader, and four of his supporters. While the Maoists have claimed responsibility for the murders, Hindu fundamentalists insist that Christians were behind the murder.
“I am not branding Hindus as criminals or fundamentalists but activists of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are trying to bring in fascism in Orissa. We won’t allow Orissa to become another Gujarat,” said Swarupanand Patra, president of the Orissa Minority Forum, while referring to the anti-Muslim pogrom in the western Indian State following the Feb 27, 2002, Godhra train burning.
“They are asking our Christian brothers to convert into Hinduism or else face death. Is this democracy? Why is the state government so slow in punishing the culprits?” asked Patra, who is also president of the Orissa YMCA.
True to his allegation, there are posters and wall writings in Kandhamal asking Christians to convert to Hinduism. One such in Gadar Gaon read: “If Christians want peace, then they must adopt Hinduism...if you will not adopt Hinduism then the district will continue to boil”.
“This is a Hindu country and only Hindus will stay here,” said a message inscribed on a torched house.
At least 38 people, including a Central Reserve Police Force trooper, have lost their lives in communal clashes in the district following Saraswati’s killing. While over 3,000 houses, mostly belonging to Christians, have been gutted or vandalized in Kandhamal, over 23,000 people have fled from their villages, fearing death.
Pope Decries Christians’ Killings In India & Iraq
VATICAN CITY, October 29 (FRANCES D’EMILIO of AP) — Pope Benedict XVI decried the killing of Christians in India and Iraq and appealed for political and religious leaders to defend them. In India, anti-Christian riots and rampages by Hindu extremists have claimed at least 50 lives since late August, destroying dozen of churches and leaving as many as 100,000 people homeless. Attacks against Christians and other minorities in Iraq had tapered off amid a drastic decline in overall violence nationwide before some 13,000 Christians were chased away by threats and extremist attacks in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in recent weeks, according to the U.N. Sunni extremists are believed to be behind the campaign. The pope reiterated a call for “religious leaders and to all men and women of good will about the tragedy that is developing in some Asian countries, where Christians are victims of intolerance and cruel violence, killed, threatened and forced to abandon their homes and wander about in search of refuge.” “I am thinking above all of Iraq and India,” Benedict told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
“I am sure that the ancient and noble peoples of those nations have learned, through centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contribution that the small, but hardworking and qualified, Christian minorities contribute to the growth of their common countries,” Benedict said.
He insisted that the Christians “are not seeking privileges, but desire only to be able to continue to live in their country together with their fellow citizens, as they have always done.” Benedict called on leaders to “spare no effort” so that “honest and loyal citizens can count on adequate protection” from national authorities.
I Don’t Want To Be Victimised By Orissa Police: Sister Meena
NEW DELHI, October 27: The nun who was raped by a rioting mob in Kandhamal district of Orissa on August 25 on Friday demanded that the case be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Her face covered, Sister Meena Lalita Barwa made a statement in full view of the media, at a press conference under the aegis of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. Her decision to meet the media comes two days after the Supreme Court rejected an application by the Archbishop of Cuttack, Raphael Cheenath, for a CBI probe. Fighting back tears and choking on her words a couple of times, Sister Meena of the Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre, who was working in the K. Nuagaon area, said: “I was raped and now I don’t want to be victimised by the Orissa police. I want [a] CBI enquiry.” The State police had “failed to stop the crimes, failed to protect me from the attackers, they were friendly with the attackers, they tried their best that I did not register an FIR, not make complaints against police, police did not take down my statement as I narrated in detail and they abandoned me halfway.” Reading out her handwritten statement in English, Sister Meena narrated her harrowing experience including the rape on a veranda of the Janavikas building. Recalling the traumatic hours, the nun said she managed to escape for a while during which time she heard the crowd looking for her and say “come let us rape her; at least 100 people should rape.” According to Sister Meena, the mob wanted to tie her and Father Chellan together and set them afire. The two pleaded with the Orissa State Armed Police to save them — with the sister taking refuge with the policemen and sitting between two of them to protect herself. But the two were once again pulled away by the mob. The crowd then decided to hand them over to the Block Development Officer, who, along with the mob, took the two to the Nuagaon police outpost. Sister Meena said the mob was very friendly with the policemen. The inspector in charge of Balliguda — where they were taken — heard her out and asked whether she was interested in filing an FIR and whether she knew of the consequences of doing so. Sister Meena said she was taken for a medical examination around 10 in the night. The police were afraid of the mob attacking the police station and so took the two missionaries to the Inspection Bungalow. The next day, when she was giving her statement for filing an FIR, the head constable asked her not to go into great detail. “So I rewrote it for the third time in one-and-a-half page. I filed the FIR but I was not given a copy of it,” Sister Meena said.
India's Space Journey Was Started From Kerala's Village Church
Thiruvananthapurm (Kerala), October 25 : Far from the research stations and labs, India’s space programme began at a church in what was once a tiny fishing village called Thumba, not far from Thiruvanathanapuram airport in Kerala. In 1962, when the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was established, father of India’s nuclear programme Homi Bhabha, along with Vikram Sarabhai, evaluated a number of sites in Kerala to establish a rocket station. Finally, they zeroed in on Thumba. But there was a hitch. Fisherfolk of the village, emotionally attached to the place, particularly the St Mary Magadelene’s Church had to be convinced to give up the place. The task fell on a former bishop of Thiruvananthapuram. During a Sunday congregation, he spoke to the villagers about the advantages of a space programme. He then asked if they had any objections if the village was handed over to the space department. The villagers paused only a while, and chorused, “Amen”, indicating that they were ready to give up their village. Space experts later commented that that it was an auspicious beginning for India’s space missions. The project was initiated with the blessings of the villagers who were resettled. The small place of worship became the mainstay for the team of rocket scientists, including A P J Abdul Kalam. The first drawings of some of the earliest rockets were made in this church, now a space museum. The conditions were anything but comfortable. Scientists travelled daily from Thiruvananthapuram in rickety buses, carrying lunch bought at the railway station. Thumba was soon turned into the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station. The first sounding rocket, Nike Apache supplied by NASA, was launched in November 1963. After this, many sounding rockets, which study the atmosphere, lifted off from Thumba including those from the US, Russia, Japan, France and Germany. Many rocket parts were carried by the scientists on bicycles from one place to another within Thumba. Even today, sounding rockets take off every week — only it is now a modern station. Encouraged by the success of the sounding rocket programme, Sarabhai told his team that India had to develop its own satellite launch capability. For this, Sriharikota in AP was taken over by the space department from the Yanadi tribals. This too received the support and cooperation of the locals. India hasn’t quite gone cycling to the moon, but scientists and villagers will all remember the church where the space expedition began in right earnest.
No Compensation For Churches: Orissa Govt.
Miscreants are Busy in violence against ChristiansNew Delhi, October 24 : The Orissa government on Monday told the Supreme Court it would not pay compensation for churches damaged in the state during communal riots or accept a Central Government probe of the violence. “The suggestion of archbishop (of Cuttack) to sanction a sum of Rs 3 crore to compensate against demolition of churches and destruction of properties during the violence is not acceptable,” said the state government. “That compensation towards religious institutions is not coming (does not come) under the secular policy of Orissa government,” it said in response to a plea filed by the archbishop. It refused to let the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe the rape of a nun in Kandhamal district, saying that the state police’s Crime Branch has made substantial progress into the investigation. The Crime Branch’s probe is being monitored at the highest level. “The Crime Branch, which is investigating into the case has made substantial progress. Eight accused persons have been arrested on the basis of available evidence,” said the state government in an affidavit filed by its Principal Secretary.
The affidavit insisted there was only a day’s delay in lodging an FIR based on the nun’s complaint. “Though the alleged incident took place on August 25 at about 0100 hrs IST, the FIR was filed by the victim only on August 26 after due consultation with her colleague, Father Chellan, and her advocate Robin Sahu,” it said.
“In this context, it is respectfully submitted that there are no grounds or any need for transfer of the investigation of this case to CBI,” state government said.
The government rejected allegations that the police knew about the identity of the attackers and referred to the statement of the nun in which she has not named any accused though she stated that she could identify them if they were produced before her.
Christianity Is Part Of India’s National Heritage : PM
Saint Thomas with Jesus Christ, Seeing His wounds to believe in the Saviour.New Delhi, October 22 : Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh observed that “Christianity is part of our national heritage” when the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), called on him at his residence in New Delhi on 18 October 2008. “We are extremely pleased to hear this assertion from the Indian prime minister,” Kobia told a news conference after his meeting with the prime minister. Prime minister Singh’s comment is a rebuttal of the Hindu nationalist groups that describe Christianity as a “foreign religion” in justifying their campaign targeting the Christian community in India. Christians account for 2.32 percent of India’s over one billion people. In fact, Christianity in India is older than in the Christian strongholds of Europe and other Western countries. According to tradition, the apostle Thomas reached Kerala on India’s southwestern coast in the company of spice merchants from the Middle East in the year 52, laying the seeds of the vibrant Christian community in the “land of coconuts”.
During the 30-minute audience granted to the WCC general secretary, Prime Minister Singh said the United Progressive Alliance coalition government he heads is committed “to restore normalcy” and curb attacks on Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissa and other parts of the country.
When Kobia expressed his “deep concern” over the atrocities committed against Christians, especially in Orissa, Singh pointed out that the Indian constitution “guarantees freedom to practice and propagate one’s faith” and assured Kobia that his government will take measures to restore the confidence of the Christian community.
Besides promises to extend financial assistance from the federal government to rebuild destroyed and damaged churches, Singh said his government will support Christian families that have lost their dwellings and other possessions in the violence.
Pak Minorities Protest For Orissa Christians
LAHORE, October 21: Glorious Ministries staged a peaceful protest demonstration against the killing of Christians, burning of their property and churches in India. A large number of protestors from the Christian community including women participated in the demonstration led by Rev Iqbal masih outside the Lahore Press Club here on Sunday. The participants were carrying banners and placards inscribed with different slogans such as - UNO must take action against terrorism in India and stop violence against Christian etc. Various organizations including Fathers Rights Society of Pakistan, Minority Wing PML-N, People’s Association, Christian Lawyers Association strongly condemned the cruel incidents taking place in India and demanded Pakistan government, UNO and organizations of human rights to take notice of the aggression.
Mohapatra Commission Commences Probe Of Orissa Violence
Bhubneswar (Orissa), October 21 (IANS) : A judge probing the August 23 killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader in Kandhamal district of Orissa and the subsequent attacks on Christians that have been going on for months said on Monday the investigations could take one and a half years to complete. SC Mohapatra, a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, was appointed last month by the state government to probe the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at Jalespata ashram and the ensuing violence in Kandhamal district. Mohapatra, who is on a four day tour of the district since Saturday, visited Jalespata ashram, met inmates and visited several villages where churches and houses were burnt. He also held discussions with district and administration officials. “The situation is not grave now,” Mohapatra told a TV channel by phone from Kandhamal, some 200 km from here. “I visited several villages and people told me they are prepared to welcome those who want to return. It may take at least one and a half years to complete the probe.” At least 36 people, most of them Christians, were killed and thousands of homes burnt in the district during the violence. On Saturday night, a Hindu man was critically injured after some unidentified people opened fire on him in a remote village under Katingia police station in Kandhamal district. The homes of a Hindu and a Christian were torched in G Udayagiri area the same night, police said. Curfew has been lifted since Friday night in many part of Kandhamal as normalcy is gradually returning, barring some isolated incidents.
Miscreants Burnt Century Old Christian School In Kerala
Thiruvanthapuram, October 20 : The 100-year-old St Mary’s Higher Secondary School in Kerala’s Kottayam district was set on fire a couple of days ago. The incident has shocked the Christian community in the state. Coming close on the heels of attacks on churches and other Christian institutions across the country, it has created doubts about the security of such institutions in Gods Own Country. School authorities claim it’s a planned attack against Christian institutions. “Someone has done this purposefully. We have suffered a loss of Rs two crore. So far we are satisfied with the investigations being conducted by the police,” said Father Joseph Malayaparmbil, the school manager. A special team has been set up to investigate the incident. Though over 100 people have been questioned and forensic and explosives experts have conducted detailed searches at the site police are yet to get any clues. St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School has a long history and former President of India Mr. K R Narayanan is one of the celebrated alumni of this prestigious institution. This is one of the premier school which opened its portals for the dalit students in spite of the strong opposition from the upper caste Hindus.
“There are so many allegations. It may be a planned incident. Some are saying it could be handiwork of anti-socials. We are looking into all aspects of the case. Incidentally, a copper bell and coins worth Rs 2000 are missing from the building,” said Jacob Job, the investigating officer. Local people are quite upset and want the case to be cracked soon. “This institution has given knowledge and light. It has got huge recognition and is the pride of the people. We all used to look upto this institution,” said one of the resident.
Spiritual Musical Evening cum Revival Meeting at Pinjore
A Choir of Chandigarh Jiwan Jyoti, Chandigarh performing in Spiritual Musical Evening cum Revival Meeting at Pinjore (Dt. Panchkula, Haryana) and Chief Guest Mr. Narinder Sharma. Photo : Shahbab Samuel.
The Whole World Worries For Christians Of India
London (England), October 19 :The whole world is really worried about the Christians of India. USA, European Union and Amnest International have already expressed concerns about it. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester said that the real cause of the violence against Christians in Orissa, and now elsewhere in India, is the fear among extremist Hindu movements that many “untouchable” and “tribal” people will turn to the Christian faith because of the appalling treatment they receive from their caste-ridden communities and the love and care they are shown by Christian humanitarian organisations. Some of those who receive such care, but by no means all, become Christians of their own free will. Is this so unacceptable in secular and democratic India? Scores of Christians have been murdered. Their homes, churches, presbyteries, convents and charitable institutions have been destroyed, allegedly in retaliation for the murder of a Hindu swami and some of his followers, probably by Maoist insurgents. During this time, it seems that the state authorities have not allowed Christians from other parts of India, let alone elsewhere, even to bring relief to fellow believers. The Federal Government also appears to have been paralysed and ineffective. There is an outcry when a single Hindu is killed, and Christian leaders have strongly condemned any such incident. Christians in Orissa are, however, rapidly running out of cheeks to turn. Extremist Hindus are accusing Christians of deception and murder. This would be risible if it were not tragic: the disenfranchised Christians of Orissa are in no position to force anyone to convert. Such accusations must be taken as threats of further violence. I have already suggested a fact-finding mission by an international delegation of religious, political and civic leaders. I hope this happens quickly so that the world can know the truth. In the meantime, the Government of India has a solemn responsibility to prevent violence against Muslims and Christians by extremist Hindu groups. Christians in Orissa should be allowed to return to their lands, under armed protection, if necessary. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali is Bishop of Rochester. He grew up in Pakistan and was previously Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan.
Pandemonium In Rajya Sabha Over Attacks Upon Christians
New Delhi, October 18 (IANS) : The Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice on Friday over the India-US civilian nuclear deal and the communal violence against the Christian community in various parts of the country. The house was first adjourned at 11.25 am to meet at 12.00 noon. However, as the protests continued, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the house at 12.20 pm till 11.00 am on Monday. As the house assembled at 11 am, there were obituary references to seven former members, including Harkishan Singh Surjeet of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and K K Birla of the Congress, as also former Indian Army chief Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Thereafter, Ansari asked members to observe a minute’s silence in memory of those who had died in terror attacks across the country and in the floods in Bihar. The opposition was immediately on its feet, asking why the victims of communal violence were also not being remembered. Failing to restore order, Ansari adjourned the house. The protests continued as the house reassembled, this time the nuclear deal also becoming an issue. As opposition MPs advanced toward’s the chairman’s podium, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tabled a bill to amend the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, one of the measures that had been recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission in its sixth report presented last month. As the pandemonium continued, Ansari adjourned the house for the day.
Maoists Were Hired To Kill Laxmanananda: Police
Bhubaneswar, Oct 18 (PTI) : In a major breakthrough the Orissa police today claimed that the mastermind behind VHP leader Laxamananda Saraswati’s killing had been identified as a group had hired the Maoists to execute the crime.
“Maoists were given money to train certain youths of a particular community to eliminate Saraswati,” Inspector General (IG) of Police, crime branch, Arun Ray told PTI asserting the mastermind of the killings had been identified. Stating the mastermind had fled Orissa, the IG said “we will trace them soon.” The plan to eliminate Saraswati was made immediately after the December, 2007 communal violence in Kandhamal, he added. Elaborating the probe by the crime branch, he said investigations also showed that a group had collected money from some villages in Kandhamal which was given to the Maoist group to train their youths for the purpose. At least 60 youths were given arms training by Maoists, the IG said dwelling on the inputs from three arrested persons. Ray said members of a particular community were unhappy with Saraswati and held him responsible for the riots which took place during Christmas in 2007. They requested a Maoist group to assist them in killing Saraswati, he said. Confirming that six Telugu-speaking persons fired at Saraswati and others, the crime branch investigation revealed that the trained group were guarding the ashram at Jalespeta in Kandhamal during the incident. Refusing to divulge identity and religion of the mastermind behind the killing which sparked communal violence in Kandhamal, IG said Maoists only executed the crime. While the motive behind Saraswati’s killing was clear, the sleuths gathered evidences against people who planned the crime not realising that it would trigger such a largescale violence, he said.
Christmas Comes Two Months Early At UK Stores
Islington, (United Kingdom), October 17 :IT is only mid October, the leaves have barely begun to turn brown on the trees, and Islington has spent the last week basking in an unexpected Indian summer. But no one has told the borough’s shops - with many labouring under the misapprehension that Christmas 2008 is already upon us. We visited some shops around Islington and found that Christmas trees, snowmen and Santa Claus were very much in evidence. Most of the supermarkets are already selling a plethora of Christmas related goods - leading one priest to speak out against the commercialisation of the Christian holiday. At the new Tesco’s Metro store in Holloway Road, Highbury, we found: 13 different types of Christmas pudding, 14 different types of Christmas cake, Six different types of mince pies, A selection of Christmas tree decorations.
A member of staff at the store, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s a bit sad really. We’re only just into autumn. The shelves don’t seem to need restocking much, so I don’t think people are buying much.” Budgens in Upper Street, Islington, is currently offering a glittering array of Father Christmas-shaped chocolates and biscuits. Meanwhile Butler’s home shop in the N1 Centre, Islington, has already mocked up a Christmas lunch table and is stocking a huge selection of seasonal decorations. Father Howard James, of the Church of St John the Evangelist in nearby Duncan Terrace, Islington, said: “It shows Christmas has become very commercial. And the same people who say they have no regard for religion are the ones trying to make money from it by selling Christmas stuff in October.” He added: “It is starting earlier and earlier now - but I hardly even see it, because there are so many things I am thinking of before Christmas.” And Father Jim Kennedy, of the Blessed Sacrament Church, Copenhagen Street, said: “It is marketing trying to get money out of us. We don’t start selling Christmas materials until the beginning of advent. It is typical of the materialist society we live in nowadays.
Racists Target Rushpark's Christian family
Rushpark (Newtownabbey, UK), October 17 : Police are investigating a racist attack in the Rushpark area at the weekend. The home of an Indian family in Bracken Way was targeted by a gang shortly after midnight on Friday (October 10). It is understood the family have been targeted by racist thugs on several occasions in recent months. During the latest attack a group of around ten 16 to 22 year olds gathered in the street near the house. They smashed a window at the property and damaged a car parked outside before running off in the direction of the Rathcoole estate. Kathy Wolff of the Community Relations Forum called for an end to the attacks. “This is a lovely Christian family and their neighbours are all being very supportive and are disgusted at what is happening. These people are good people and they don’t deserve this. It has to stop,” she said. The identity of the Christian family has not been disclosed. Police confirmed that they are treating the incident as a hate crime and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them on 0845 600 8000.
Two Indian Christian Women Murdered in Toronto
The deceased Ms. Susan John, 43, and Ms. Saramma Varughese, 65 of Toronto Toronto (Canada), October 16 : Two women are dead, one man is facing murder charges and a neighbourhood is in shock after the early-morning quiet was destroyed by a woman screaming for help. Several residents of Rotary Dr., near Sheppard Ave. E. and Meadowvale Rd. in Scarborough, said they were awakened yesterday by a woman pleading for help just before 7 a.m. “I heard a loud noise,” said Bobby Harrilal, who lives only a few doors away from the house at 81 Rotary Dr. where the bodies of two women were found. “Now there is blood all up and down the street, on my walkway, everywhere.” The victims were identified last night as Susan John, 43, and Saramma Varughese, 65, both of Toronto. Both women suffered stab wounds and were pronounced dead at the scene, Toronto Police said. Nathaniel O’Brien, 31, of Toronto, has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and one of attempted murder. Forensic identification officers scoured the street as far away as 89 Rotary Dr. — four houses away. Shortly after Toronto Police arrived, a 31-year-old man was taken into custody, said homicide squad Det. Ali Ansari. “Officers found the signs of a violent struggle in the house and subsequently found the bodies of two female adult victims with obvious signs of trauma to their body,” said Ansari, about 10 hours after police were called to the home. Another nearby resident, Nesan Vadivel, said three women lived in the house — a 19 or 20-year-old woman, her mother and her grandmother.
“They are very quiet and nice people,” Vadivel said. “They are not troublemakers; there’s never been any problems I’m aware of.”
He said the women were from southern India and he had spoken to the youngest one about tutoring his son. “My neighbour said it sounded like the youngest of the three women who was going from door to door pounding on the doors looking for help,” Vadivel said.
“Nothing ever happens here — I’m shocked,” added neighbour Stanley Kubotta. “The most that happens here is the squealing of tires ...”
Karnatka Christians Lose Faith In State Govt.
Bangalore, October 16 : A Christian delegation on Tuesday met Union home minister Shivraj Patil and sought Centre’s intervention since it has lost faith in the State government in the light of attacks on churches in Karnataka. In a memorandum to the home minister, the delegation led by Bangalore Archdiocese Vicar General Rev T S Amruthraj, expressed their “growing sense of insecurity and increasing disappointment in the wake of continuing attacks on our churches in Karnataka. We come to you in all earnest to seek the intervention of the Centre in coming down heavily on the State Government for its inability to control and curb violence against Christians.”
Stating that Christians in the state had lost their faith in the assurances of security given by chief minister Yeddyurappa after a fresh case of vandalism occurred at the St Antony’s Church at Yedavanhalli, he said, “Police officers have widely proclaimed that the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit. They have tried to downplay the issue and wash their hands off any responsibility despite the state-run electrical inspectorate making no mention of short circuit as the cause.
There is ample evidence to suggest that it was the work of miscreants.”
In the letter, Rev Amruthraj said the Yeddyurappa-led BJP government is indifferent and non-committal in its promise to stop the violence. He said: “The Archbishop, in his memorandum dated September 22 (handed over personally to the chief minister), sought immediate and urgent intervention by the state, but there has neither been a response to the memorandum nor any trace of action on the part of the government. On the contrary, the state Home Minister - on one occasion - was reported as saying that the destruction of statues at a church in Rajarajeshwarinagar was because of children playing cricket!” “We are perturbed by the callous and unconcerned way in which the Government is responding to our appeals for protection of the minority Christian community,” he said, adding that the Centre must intervene with urgency in the matter.
Scared Christians In Kandhmal Turn To Hinduism
(Photo: ND TV) Kandhmal (Orissa), October 15 (Sampad Mahapatra) : On Sunday, Pope Benedict the 16th made a pointed appeal for an end to violence against Orissa’s Christian minority. The Archbishop of Cuttack has petitioned the Supreme Court seeking CBI probe into the Nun rape case. The Supreme Court had earlier directed the Orissa government to protect Christians and arrange for extra security in the relief camps. The situation in Kandhmal, one of the worst affected districts, remains tense. Terrorised by the communal riots and having to choose between faith and survival, dozens of Christians in Kandhmal are embracing Hinduism, only to ensure they get back to their homes and live in peace. On Sunday, 18 Christians in Sarangad, who converted to Hinduism, claimed it was purely a voluntary decision. “We were born to Christian parents and stuck to the faith for so long. But we have realised we get nothing out of being Christians. So we decided to return to Hinduism. No body has forced it on us,” said Krishna Chandra Nayak, former Christian, Sarangad. Under the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act of 1967, anyone seeking religious conversion needs to apply to the Collector and wait for proper police verification to ensure it is not being done under coercion or inducement. But in Kandhmal on Tuesday the rules are different. You have to apply only to the local VHP head in a prescribed format and the wish will be quickly granted. “These people had on their own given a written undertaking that they had joined the Christian faith but now they want to return to Hindu fold. I am only catering to their wishes,” said Adikand Patra, Hindu priest. The 12,000-odd Christians, who are still in relief camps fear they will be killed if they don’t become Hindus. But the state government has done little to allay such fears.
Pak Christian Father & Daughter Arrested To Save From A Muslim-Mob
Chak Jhumra (Distt. Faislabad, Pakistan), October 15 (Asia News) – A Christian man, Gulsher Masih, and his daughter Sandal have been charged with blasphemy under Article 295 B of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly tearing some pages from the Qur’an last Thursday in the village of Tehsil Chak Jhumra, in Faisalabad district. Without police intervention they could have been lynched by an angry mob.
Some Muslims who walked by the Gulsher home said they saw Sandal Gulsher and her father Masih tear some pages from the Qur’an and throw them into the street. The story eventually made to the village mosques so that by Thursday evening an enraged mob, including people from neighbouring villages, marched through the village calling for the death of the blasphemers.
Deputy Inspector Faryad told AsiaNews that once the mob was at the Gulsher home they began stoning the building, striking doors and windows with sticks (see photo). They also stoned a nearby Protestant church.
Police took the entire Gulsher family into custody for their “own protection,” he added. “Vans full of Muslims were driving to the village but were stopped by police.”
A local Christian resident, Ayub Khawar, told AsiaNews that at one point the mob seemed poised to attack other Christian homes. Frightened beyond belief he ran home where he turned off the lights; in total darkness he told his family to keep absolute quiet.
Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian lawmaker and chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), told AsiaNews that the charge is a total fabrication. For him “there is no direct evidence and the police has not investigated the case.” Blasphemy charges are made against Christians just to strike at them. Only a few days ego the Gulshers had a public row with some Muslims.
AsiaNews went to the village to investigate the affair a day after the incident and spoke to various Muslims about it, finding that people have different versions of the alleged blasphemy.
One Ghulam Ghaus said that three Christian kids from 10 to 12 years of age, including a son of the Gulshers, stole a Qur’an from a local mosque. They tore off some pages to play with and then left them on the ground where they were found. Eventually someone accused Sandal and the rumour spread.
Master Kamal, a teacher at a Christian elementary school, said that Sandal found the pages among rubbish in the street. After picking them up she gave them to a Muslim woman who then accused her of blasphemy.
Divisive Forces Threaten Unity of India By Attacking Christians : PM
New Delhi, Oct 14 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today said that the country known for the co-existence of different ethnic groups and religions cannot afford spread of divisiveness for narrow partisan ends. Inaugurating the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting here, Dr. Singh said there is a need to collectively consider whether short term narrow political ends are driving some to encourage forces of divisiveness which threaten unity of the people.
The recent communal violence in Orissa, Karnataka and Assam have pained all right thinking persons. There have been clashes between Hindus, Chritsians and Muslims and tribal groups and an atmosphere of hatred and violence is being artificially created, he said.
There are forces which are deliberately encouraging such tendencies and also spawning militant outfits who engage in irrational violence, he added.
He said that most disturbing and dangerous aspect is the assault on our composite culture.
Those who are threatening communal harmony, integrity and peaceful coexistence deserve a very deterrent punishment, he added.
Holding that there has been considerable debate in the country on ways to handle issues of sectarian and communal violence, he said, “There cannot be two views on the fact that such attempts must be thwarted with the full power of a state that is intent on protecting its democratic foundations.
Commenting on Left wing extremist on violence, Dr. Singh said, it can not be ignored that naxalites are armed with sophisticated weapons and are adept at guerilla warfare techniques and have claimed the lives of many innocent people and security personnel.
The day-long meeting is being attended by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers of all States and Union Territories, which have legislatures, leaders of national political parties and of regional political parties, Chairpersons of National Commissions, eminent public figures and representatives from business.
World War-II Indian Christian Fighter Has To Live In Orissa Camps
BHUBANESWAR, October 14: The sight of a frail but fair frame with distinctly non-local features accommodated at a small corner of the YMCA-run camp for Kandhamal refugees here immediately catches the attention. The name Joginder Singh also rings a bell. As you sit with the man and spend some moments by his side, you realise who you have hit upon. Amid the overpowering atmosphere of despondency in the camp is a man who still believes peace and harmony will return to the land which took him in as its own about 50 years back. The 88-year-old has undergone so much in life —— from miraculously escaping an air crash (he was a fighter pilot with Royal Air Force during World War II) to losing parents and family to the bloody Partition riots in Amritsar to making way to Orissa, starting family and settling down in Kalingia under G Udaygiri till being uprooted again by the recent communal outburst in the region.
‘All these years, the Hindus and the Christians had been living in perfect harmony. The bond of co-existence had been so strong and I do pray that the severance is temporary and would be restored soon,’ he says struggling to fight back tears welling up in his tired eyes. Born Sikh to Dr Ganga Singh, a civil surgeon in Madras Presidency during the colonised era, Joginder’s convent education had generated an inclination for the religion within him. He was selected to RAF at the age of 19. He converted and took part in anti-German operations followed by the action against Japanese advance from Burma (now Myanmar) between 1939 and 1945. It was during a strike when his Spitfire fighter craft was shot down about 10 km away from Mingaladon airport in Burma. His co-pilot died. He was recuperating in hospital when Partition was announced and suddenly the news of his family’s annihilation came. The soldier in him could only enable him to internalise the tragedy and move on. He was then posted in the Exploratory Tubewell Organisation (now Central Groundwater Board) and sent to Orissa on deputation to develop Lift Irrigation systems. He was absorbed into Orissa Government Service and retired as Mechanical Engineer (drilling) in 1975.
In Kalingia, he met Taravati Nayak and married her and settled down. His son Pradeep (30) is a lecturer with Christian College under Gospel for Asia at Brajarajnagar.
The couple has been at the camp for about 20 days now. ‘Everything has changed suddenly. The fire of communal backlash after Swami Lakshmanananda’s death has blackened the beautiful land, both within and outside. Best of friends are deadliest of foes. I and my wife were asked to reconvert by the very people who did not have any objections one and a half months back and forced to leave,’ he lamented.
‘But this phase will definitely pass. More assertive action on the part of the Government and interaction between communities can make it happen. I just want to go back,’ he says.
Pope Worries For Indian Christians & Creates First Woman Indian Saint
Vatican City, October 13 : Pope Benedict XVI created India’s first woman saint (i.e. Sister Alphonsa) on Sunday and denounced anti-Christian violence in that country and in Iraq. He raised concern over the attacks on Christians in some states of India in a meeting with Indian delegates. “My prayers are with Christians there (in India) in these difficult times,” said Pope. Recently, there have been attacks on the Christian community in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The attacks began after the death of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanand Saraswati at Kandhmal in Orissa. The canonization of Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception is seen as a morale boost to minority Christians who have been attacked by Hindu mobs in eastern and southern India. Catholic bishops in India have said at least 40 Christians have been killed.
After the ceremony in St. Peter’s Square to canonize Alphonsa and three others, Benedict told Indian pilgrims among the crowd of tens of thousands that Alphonsa’s “heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial.”
“As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time,” he said in English.
“I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love,” Benedict said.
Till now, all eyes had been on Mother Teresa’s sainthood process. Sister Alphonsa’s name came up suddenly in March this year. It was then realised that the Kerala nun had been in line for sainthood long before Mother Teresa died in 1997. The sainthood was announced at a ceremony at the Vatican. The mortal remains of the Catholic nun were taken to the Vatican in two small packages on Wednesday by the mother general of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, to which Sister Alphonsa belonged. “It’s a matter of great joy for the Indian Christian community that one of its believers is being canonised,” Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Rev Dominic Emmanuel said. “The Christian community here is excited... we believe there is one more saint in heaven for India to pray to.” Sister Maryamma, 91, who spent nine years with Sister Alphonsa in the convent, still remembers her first meeting with her. She says she was asked to sing a song. Sister Alphonsa approached her and offered to sing along. “She said let’s sing together and we sang together,” said Maryamma. Born Anna Muttathupadathu in 1910 in Kudamaloor, near Kottayam, Sister Alphonsa lost her mother at an early age and was brought up by her maternal aunt. The family wanted to marry young Anna off, but she was keen on following the religious path. She assumed the name, Alphonsa, after joining the Franciscan Clarist convent in Bharananganam in 1927. Sister Alphonsa died when she was 36 after a prolonged illness and a life of immense suffering. She had accidentally stepped on burning embers and badly burnt her feet and legs up to her knees. But the incident also earned her a reprieve from the marriage. After joining the convent, she had bouts of haemorrhage, malaria, pneumonia and even tuberculosis and was mostly confined to bed. Her beatification was ordained by Pope John Paul II in February 1986. In June 2007, Pope Benedict XVI authorized her canonization after he approved a miracle attributed to her. After lengthy deliberations, the Vatican identified the healing of a one-year-old boy in Kerala, Jinil, who could not walk because of a congenital disability. Jinil began walking the day his parents took him to Sister Alphonsa’s tomb for prayers. Sister Alphonsa is the second Christian saint from India after Gonsalo Garcia and the first woman.
Hanged for being a Christian in Iran
Tehran (Iran), October 13 : A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled “Islamic Penal Code”, which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.
Imposing the death penalty for changing religion blatantly violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights.
Rashin Soodmand is a 29-year-old Iranian Christian. Her father, Hossein Soodmand, was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the “crime” of abandoning one’s religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1960, when he was 13 years old. Thirty years later, he was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision.
Today, Rashin’s brother, Ramtin, is also held in a prison cell in Mashad, Iran’s holiest city. He was arrested on August 21. He has not been charged but he is a Christian. And Rashin fears that, just as her father was the last man to be executed for apostasy in Iran, her brother may become one of the first to be killed under Iran’s new law.
Not surprisingly, Rashin is desperately worried. “I am terribly anxious about him,” she explains. “Even though my brother is not an apostate, because he has never been a Muslim – my father raised us all as Christians – I don’t think he is safe.