Indian Prime Minister Urged To End Anti Christian Violence

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Indian insurgents who threatened to kill evangelical leaders and "totally destroy" the country's leading mission organization backed down as Christian leaders urged the prime minister to help end anti Christian violence, officials said Saturday March 12.

Gospel For Asia (GFA) President K.P. Yohannan said a Thursday deadline set by "the most powerful insurgent force" in India's northeastern Assam state had passed without incident and suggested the group no longer demanded a ransom of $186,000 dollars to avoid bloodshed.

"The official hierarchy of this insurgent group, one that has never backed down in the past and enforced its demands in blood, told our leaders in Assam that they were giving more time so they could "study" our work and ministry among their people," said Yoannan.

In a statement seen by BosNewsLife, insurgents stressed earlier they would target US-backed GFA and especially the organization's five Bible Colleges, 70 Bridge of Hope schools, and over 750 Believers Church congregations in India's troubled north eastern state of Assam.


It has remained unclear who was behind the threats, but analysts have suggested that the main insurgent groups active in Assam are the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The ULFA wants independence for Assam while the NDBF seeks an own state carved out of the region.

News about the apparent breakthrough in negotiations with the insurgents came as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly assured Christian leaders he would pressure officials to end tension in states ravaged by anti-Christian violence.

"We cannot tolerate violence against minority communities," Singh told Christian leaders who met him Friday, according to a transcript obtained by the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau. The prime minister received an 'Unofficial White Paper' listing cases of violence against Christians in 2005 from the delegation, which included the Delhi Archbishop and officials of the All India Catholic Union and India Christian Council.


The White Paper cites BosNewsLife news agency and other sources to explain what Christian officials describe as a "series of serious and violent developments in several states" linked to Hindu militants, in which at least two prominent church leaders were killed last month. In the state of Orissa "on February 17 Gilbert Raj, a pastor with Missions India, died after being beaten and tortured. [On] February 27, Pastor Dilip Dalai [of] the Orissa Follow-Up community, was stabbed to death at his home in Begunia, 60 km from the state capital of Bhubaneswar," the White Paper claims.

The document also cites other incidents, including Hundu violence against Christian schools and students, "forced conversions" and the persecution of tribal Christians who refuse to abandon their religion, as key concerns for churches.

"We are sure this White Paper..will help evolve comprehensive security and economic empowerment for the minority communities, and in particular for the 2.3 per cent Christians in India," the delegation said in a statement to the prime minister. The Christians said however they were "pained" to share with the government examples of hundreds of violent incidents against Christians this year which had "caused consternation and apprehension in the Church and in the minds of Christian Clergy, men and women."


"Various church agencies and NGOs have rerecorded upto 200 cases in the last two months - most of them in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh. These states are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata party and its allies. However, there have been sporadic violent incidents in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala."

They also urged the Indian government to "take steps for the economic empowerment of the [Christian] community" especially Dalit Christians who delegates said have suffered discrimination because of their religion.

The term Dalit refers to the estimated 240 million "Untouchables" or the "Outcastes" in the subcontinent of India, who have traditionally occupied the lowest place in the complicated caste system of Hinduism. Human rights groups call them "a people broken, forgotten and exploited," as many of them work in the fields or carry out slave work for the much richer men and women of the "higher caste."

There has been a growing Christian movement among the mainly Hindu Dalits, and militants are known to have attacked churches and Christians, human rights watchdogs say. (Based in New Delhi, Journalist Vishal Arora, 32, has covered persecution and other hard hitting news stories for a variety of international and national publications. He has traveled around the country on invitation by NGOs for seminars and talks on human rights, communalism, and religious persecution. Vishal Arora can be contacted at e-mail address or visit his website )