Tuesday, January 17, 2006
By Satya Sundar Mishra, BosNewsLife India Reporter in Orissa
BHUBANESWAR, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in several tense Indian states were weighing their options Tuesday, January 17, after churches were attacked and believers apparently pressured to return to Hinduism.
In the Indian state of Orissa at least 136 persons of 25 families returned to Hinduism Monday at a what nationalist Hindu groups described as a ‘home-coming’ ceremony in Sundargarh district, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the state capital Bhubaneswar.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) group said the reconverted included 75 women from several villages. VHP Orissa official Gadadhar Sahu said the controversial ceremony included converts carrying small water pitchers on their head amid chanting of Vedic mantras. Rights groups have expressed concern over reports that Christians have been forced to return to Hinduism.
Outside Orissa, there were also tensions in the Indian state of West Bengal where demonstrations were reported of Christians whose church was destroyed by local authorities. Their church complex in Kalikapur area of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal was demolished by the city authorities for the construction of a wider road to the local airport.
The church, a Crèche, an women's hoste and school stood reportedly on the plot occupied by the mission organization Christ Mission Ashram, before they were destroyed on Sunday, January 15.
City authorities said that they are ready to give compensation, but church officials said that the local government has not offered any land top rebuild their church complex. Some Christians have said however they forgave those who allegedly persecuted them during the Christmas holiday.
ATTACKED AND INJURED
On Tuesday, January 17, the US-based based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) it has learned that six Christians in India's Rajasthan state were attacked and injured by local Hindu residents angry over conversions on December 19.
"A group of about 20 local residents launched an attack on us while we were getting ready to go for carol singing," said Pastor Rajender David of the Full Gospel Church of God (FGCG) in remarks published by ICC.
The FGCG is a Pentecostal church situated near Murdang Cinema Hall in Rajasthan’s Ajmer city.
"Although we had been facing opposition for a long time, it became worst on December 19, when a local man slapped a church youth for urinating in a nearby drain at 11:30 pm, and later a mob attacked several other Christians and ransacked the church building," David added.
The Christian youth, who was slapped, bled profusely from his mouth, David’s brother and church secretary Michael Bell received head injuries as they were hit with hockey sticks, while Bell’s wife Swati was hit on the chest, ICC reported. Another church member, identified as Narendra Damor, apparently suffered a fracture of the hand, while David sustained minor injuries.
David and other victims denied the allegation of conversion made by the perpetrators, but they refused to lodge a complaint against them. "They told the police that they had forgiven their attackers and that they did not want them to be punished or prosecuted," said ICC, which has close contacts with persecuted believers.
Like in other states, the religious atmosphere is tense in Rajasthan since the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) won the state assembly election in December 2003, ICC claimed.
The state government reportedly lifted the ban on distribution of tridents, three pronged weapons, by Hindu fundamentalist Organizations and declared that it would present an anti-conversion bill to the state assembly to ban "forced" conversions.
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