India to Release Jailed Bishop Thomas On Bail

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- The president of one of India's largest evangelical mission organizations will be released on bail after 47 days of imprisonment on charges related to alleged anti-Hindu activities, officials said Monday, May 1.

Bishop Samuel Thomas who leads Hopegivers International (HI) was to be released Tuesday, May 2 from Kota Central Jail in the Indian state of Rajasthan, his organization told BosNewsLife.

Thomas, known worldwide as 'Dr. Sam', was detained in Rajasthan on March 16 on charges of "creating communal disharmony" for his alleged involvement in publishing an anti-Hindu book, accusations he strongly denies. His 72-year-old father Bishop M.A. Thomas, the founder of HI and its Indian affiliate Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), was also granted bail April 20 after being sought on similar charges.

News of Thomas’ release was expected to be welcomed by supporters of the humanitarian mission around the world who had held prayer vigils and organized letter campaigns. United States and other officials have been pressuring the Indian government to intervene in the case, which has come to symbolize concerns over religious rights violations in India, a mainly Hindu nation of over one billion people.


"We praise the Lord for this decision. The Lord has heard our cries and those of his children around the world," said his wife and HI Program Director Shelley Thomas after hearing news her husband was to be released. She told BosNewsLife that his imprisonment had been difficult for the family.

"Now it is time to get back to focusing on what we do best, caring for abandoned and orphaned children," she added. HI has been supporting thousands of orphans and abandoned children in India. Most of them are Dalits, also known as the 'untouchables', as they are the lowest caste in the country's ancient system of Hinduism.

HI and its partner EMI were also involved in other projects including education, church building and medical programs. Thomas' arrest has been linked to anger among Hindu-militants and the Hindu-led government over the rapid spread of Christianity among Dalits.


He told BosNewsLife recently that Rajasthan's hard-line Hindu government is trying to shut down EMI operations, including Hopegivers-supported orphanages, the hospital and leprosy or HIV-AIDS outreaches, printing presses, bookstores, churches, schools and other institutions.

While it was pleased with Thomas release, HI cautioned in a statement that it is "still waiting on decisions from the courts for their operating licenses to be restored and for their bank accounts to be unfrozen in Rajasthan." It was not immediately clear when and if that would happen.

However "our hope is in Him," Shelley Thomas said in earlier remarks, a reference to Jesus Christ who she regards as the driving force behind HI and EMI. (With BosNewsLife reporting and BosNewsLife News Center).

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