Indian Hindu Militants Burn Down Church, Attack Pastors

Thursday, March 15, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Christians in India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday, March 14, were preparing to rebuild their church, hours after it was burnt down by Hindu militants, while elsewhere in the country several Christian leaders were recovering from injuries following violent attacks against them.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which represent churches and missionary groups, said "Hindu radicals" of the nationalist Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or 'National Volunteers' Union', "burnt down" an independent church late Tuesday, March 13, in the small town of Tadipatri, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the coastal city of Kakinada.

The attack against the congregation, which has about 40 families as members, was the latest in a series of incidents in the region, the GCIC said. "Fifteen days back one church was [also] burnt in the Tadiparti. Some agreement was made with political leaders by the anti-Christians that they would not disturb Christians. [However] again a group of people warned Pastor G. Premanadam on March 13 not to preach and proclaim Christ and they burnt the church building...", GCIC added.

Although the pastor informed police the Christian residents are reportedly living in fear of more attacks in the future. The violence came shortly after Hindu militants also attacked several pastors and Christian workers Andhra Pradesh and other regions of India, BosNewsLife established.


On Sunday, March 11, 48-year old Pastor B. Anand of the200-strong 'Bethesda Pradhana Sahavasam' in Andhra Pradesh's Ambojipeta village was attacked with wooden clubs by RSS militants, while on his way to a nearby village to participate
in church services, Indian Christians said.

Up to 20 RSS supporters and two police officers came to the house where the pastor was staying and "demanded him to go along with them to [local] Jhajipatri police station," the GCIC claimed. Later the police officers left and "the RSS radicals took him to a forest area outside the village and wooden" clubs "on his face and his legs," the organization said.

Pastor Anand was allegedly betrayed by an RSS spy who had posed as a church member. "Theradicals said he was using foreign money and that some Americans were giving him money to convert people to Christianity," the GCIC said. During the beatings the pastor reportedly proposed the RSS militants to seek first confirmation from local police and Christians whether he was involved in forced conversions.

"It was God's will that none of them spoke in favor of the radicals and so Pastor Anand was released at 3am," the GCIC said in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.


The same say Sunday, March 11, another church leader, identified as Pastor Matthew was attacked in the neighboring Indian state of Karnataka as he was returning home on his two-wheeler after translating the Gospel into the local Kannada language at a meeting in the northern part of the capital Bangalore.

After he filled his two-wheeler with petrol and left the petrol station, three men in an auto "ambushed him on a dark stretch of road," blocking his way by stopping
the car in front of his bike, GCIC investigators said.

One man, wearing a cap allegedly beat him on the head with a cricket stump and later apparently aimed a blow at his back which caused Pastor Matthew severe pain. "As it was dark, I could not see much. Also, the fact that I was wearing the helmet also obscured my vision, which is anyway not too good" said Pastor Matthew in a statement.

"I am in severe pain from the injuries which have caused large clots on my back and arms. I cannot sit up for long," he said, adding that he managed to seek medical help and asked supporters to "please pray for my early recovery."


Human rights observers linked the attack to Pastor Mathew's attempts to start a church, the Bethesda Prayer Hall in Cholanayakanahalli, a small village within Bangalore's city limits. He is the son of a pastor and several of his brothers are also involved in Christian activities.

One of his brothers, identified as Pastor Daniel, was reportedly harassed and forcibly evicted from three homes, one after another, by persons who apparently opposed his involvement in conducting prayers.

Elsewhere in the Bangalore area a Christian evangelist, identified as Bro. Bhaskar, was beaten last week, March 7, while distributing Christian tracts among some young ladies passing by on Hennur Road, the GCIC reported.

“Before handing the tracts over, he asked them what language they could read, and gave them the tract in their language. Seeing him do this, two men who were passing by on a scooter stopped, and questioned him. One pushed him against the wall and held his hands while another punched him twice on the face and said, 'Why are you giving these people tracts? If we see you doing this again we will get you arrested by the police,'" the GCIC said.


Besides these pastors, several other church leaders and members were said to have been attacked this month, including in the northeastern state of Punjab where Hindu militants forced the cancellation of a prayer meeting, after attacking the Christians, the GCIC said. At least four people were injured in the attack in Gobin Pura village in Punjab’s Bathinda district, Indian Christians said.

Earlier in Northern India Pastor Reginald Howell of the evangelical Good Shepherd Community Churches "was brutally beaten" last week, March 7, by a "fanatic group in Hanumangarh," a town in India's northern Rajasthan state, according to GCIC investigators.

"Pastor Howell went there to pray for sick people along with other Christians. He was beaten with an iron rod and suffered severe injuries on his back." Although "severely injured and bleeding" doctors at a local hospital allegedly refused to treat him as police did not want to "register" his case, Christian investigators said.

The reports of the attacks came as representatives of the Church of Nazarene in Nagpur, the third largest city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, tried to seek compensation from local authorities following an attack against them. The pastor, "'Rev. Ravi Shambhakar" and co-workers "Mr. Ramprakash Sahu and Mr. Satputeed" were severely injured" when Hindu militants allegedly began beating them. The militants also damaged and later robbed the equipment used to show the 'Jesus' film about the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the GCIC added.


"Mr. Satputeed was brutally beaten and lost five teeth in the attack [and] was later taken to the hospital," the group said. Police reportedly did not register a complaint, saying Christians were involved in "wrongdoing." Church representatives launched a court case against the treatment by local authorities. A hearing was scheduled Tuesday, March 13, but it was not immediately clear what the outcome of the potentially precedent setting case had been.

The violence against Christians comes amid growing concern among church observers about what they see as an organized Hindu movement against perceived "forced conversions" in several states of India, where laws have made it increasingly difficult for pastors and Christian missionaries and aid workers to function.

For instance, "Rajasthan state has a Freedom of Religion Bill which is used as a tool in the hands of the fundamentalists to harass the Christians," said GCIC National President Sajan George. "The cases of anti-Christian attacks in Rajasthan keep increasing, and the State Administration turns a blind eye to the persecution of Christians ."

India is a predominantly Hindu nation of 1.1 billion people, but Hindu groups have complained about the spread of Christianity in especially rural areas and among the 'lowest caste', also known as 'dalits'. Christians comprise less than 3 percent of the population. (With BosNewsLife reporting, BosNewsLife Research and reports from India).

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