India State "Closes" Church For Singing Loud Amid Violence Against Believers

Thursday, March 29, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- There was concern Wednesday, March 28, about the plight of evangelical Christians in the Indian state of Kerala after reports that the local government for the first time shut down a church amid violent attacks against believers.

The US-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) with website said the closure was one of "three attacks" within a month in Kerala, which so far was considered relative safe for Christians because of the large Christian community there.

In addition, Hindu militants vandalized a Christian prayer center and invaded a Pentecostal church, "physically assaulting several of the attendees," said the ICC in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.

The ICC said the troubles began with the New Testament Pentecost Church, which was established 35 years ago and grew into 11 branches and various ministries since it managed to officially register with the government in 1996.


"Four weeks ago the church received a notice from the municipality showing that the church hall would be sealed if they sang songs or did any preaching. The next day the building was sealed without an order from the high court. For the last four weeks they have been worshipping in
another house," the ICC said.

The municipality accused the church of "causing a disturbance to the neighborhood," the ICC added. The group said it learned that Muslims living in the area sued the church after a Muslim family unsuccessfully tried for 12 years to "get rid of the church" by offering money to the pastor "disturbing" worship services "by shouting loudly over their singing."

Earlier the Pastor, Sam George, was reportedly already four times summoned to the local police station. "Twice the police were favorable to him, but the last two times the police became hostile," the ICC said in its findings.

Before the closure, police already halted Sunday services 22 times, verbally abusing the church members and attempting to arrest Pastor George, Christian investigators said. Police also gained a court order against the church, prohibiting their use of a sound system "because the sound was more than 55 decibels, the volume of a normal conversation," the ICC explained.


This was not an isolated incident. In two separate cases Hindu militants reportedly came on motorcycles and started throwing stones through the windows of Carmel Gospel Center on March 6 in Kooroppada village in the Pampady area near Kerala's Kottayam town.

"After a prayer meeting…we heard the sound of stoning coming from the room where our five-year-old son Barose and two-year-old daughter Basia were sleeping. We cried aloud and rushed to the room to protect them. When the attackers heard our voice, they stopped stoning and fled," the ICC quoted a Christian, identified only as Paul, as saying.

The attackers reportedly painted Hindu symbols, including the Nazi 'Swastika' on the walls opposite the compound of the Center. In a third reported attack, a radical Hindu mob allegedly vandalized a Pentecostal church on March 4 in Thiruvanandapuram district of Kerala.

"Extremists interrupted the Sunday worship service and started physically assaulting the congregation. The attack prevented the church from conducting the worship service," the ICC explained. The group suggested that the latest developments seem part of a trend in the state.


"That this sort of violence would occur in normally peaceful Kerala reveals the extent to which the xenophobic 'Hindutva' ideology has infiltrated India, as well as a growing radicalization of India’s Muslims. Rather than welcoming differences, those who follow [the] 'Hindutva' [ideology] seek to make India a country with only one religion: Hinduism."

Christians comprise 19 percent of the 31.8-million population of Kerala, according to estimates. Nationwide, only 2.3 percent of India’s population is Christian. "The fact that attacks are now occurring in Kerala will only embolden anti-Christian extremists elsewhere to attack the even more vulnerable Christians in their states," the ICC warned.

In one such development, 22 Christians were reportedly detained after being accused of "fraudulent conversion last week in Dharwad district" in the state of Karnataka. Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency, estimated that the number of incidents of persecution of Christians in has not state reached 16 in the first three months of this year.

The March 20 arrests were reportedly made in Baad village after local residents claimed the distribution of Christian literature was accompanied by insults to Hinduism and by money offered for conversion. All of the accused were later released on bail. In published remarks, the Global Council of Indian Christians , a major advocacy group, said the complaints were "false" and "baseless."

Compass Direct News quoted Christian leaders as saying that with 16 attacks thus far this year, "the number of attacks in the state could cross 60 by the end of 2007 without intervention of government and other agencies." (With reports from India and BosNewsLife Research).

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