India Evangelicals Resume Mission Operations Amid Terrorist Threats

Monday, August 14, 2006

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- One of India's largest evangelical mission groups continued operations Friday, July 11, after legal victories, but there were fresh terrorist threats by Muslim militants against areas where it has been active, including Mumbai.

In a statement to BosNewsLife officials said Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) received two positive rulings from the High Court in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, revoking a series of injunctions that had crippled humanitarian and educational outreaches in the city of Kota since February 20.

On Monday August 7, EMI President Samuel Thomas was granted bail on charges related to alleged anti-Hindu activities that prevented him from continuing his work in public since May 20, said Bill Bray, the spokesman of the organization's US supporter, Hopegivers International (HI). Earlier the Supreme Court of India granted EMI founder, Archbishop M.A. Thomas bail. No details were released on the bail payments.

"On Tuesday August 8, in a separate judgment the court [also] granted relief from bureaucratic restrictions that had frozen bank accounts and prevented Christians from operating Hope Home orphanages, schools, a hospital and other institutions in the state," Bray added. In a first reaction, Thomas said, "Glory to God, that's all I can say. Amen. All glory to God." In February, authorities revoked operating permits for all the institutions operated by EMI in Rajasthan and supported by HI based in Columbus, Georgia.


EMI, backed by HI, is involved in several humanitarian activities and a native church movement that supports 10,000 orphans, including many 'Dalits', also known as the "untouchables," as they are considered "the lowest caste" in India’s ancient system of Hinduism.

The mission group's activities apparently angered the Hindu-led government and militants in the region. Amid international pressure, Samuel Thomas was initially released in May after 47 days in prison on charges related to alleged anti-Hindu activities and "forced conversions" along with other workers, while his father had received an arrest warrant on similar accusations, including the publication of a perceived anti-Hindu book. The leaders have denied the charges.

The book 'Haqikat' or 'a bunch of truths', was written by a Kerala attorney, M.J. Matthew, who has been hiding in South India after death threats, BosNewsLife learned. However lawyers cautioned that the criminal and civil cases have not yet been discharged, although the High Court rulings were seen as a sign that the case is moving in favor of the Thomas' and the ministries of Emmanuel and Hopegivers.


"The lawyers are still working on the cases," said Samuel Thomas in a statement, "but meanwhile we have the right to go back to work, the registrations have been restored and our bank accounts are unfrozen. The government observers will have to leave all of our campuses and properties. All things can return to the way they were back in January."

He attributed the victory to "the prayers of Christians around the world," and urged them to continue to pray for the safety of his group and "that the rulings of the court this week will be implemented fully," and that future cases will be dropped.

However news of the legal victories was overshadowed by US Embassy claims Friday, August 11, that "foreign terrorists, possibly including Al-Qaida members," may be planning to carry out bombings in two major Indian cities, New Delhi, the capital, and Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the country's financial and entertainment hub.


EMI has been active in Mumbai, supporting street children and victims of a of the July 11 terror attacks there in which hundreds died. Its Bombay Street Child Rescue Outreach targets several hundred thousand children who live in the train stations and along the tracks where the bombs exploded.

The US Embassy in New Delhi said it learned that the foreign militants "intend to carry out a series of bombing attacks in or around New Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) in the days leading up to India’s Independence Day on August 15, 2006." In the statement monitored by BosNewsLife, it said likely targets included "major airports, key central Indian government offices, and major gathering places such as hotels and markets."

It said the Embassy had urged "American citizens to maintain a low profile, and be especially alert and attentive to their surroundings during this period." The alert came a day after US, British and Pakistani security and secret service officials unfolded a plot by Muslim militants to bomb 10 US bound planes. At least 24 people were detained in the United Kingdom and several more in Pakistan Thursday, August 10, while air traffic across Europe was delayed or cancelled. (With BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research and reports from India).

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