Anti-Christian violence in India

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A Christian girl who was burned during religious violence in Orissa[1]

Anti-Christian violence in India refers to religiously-motivated violence against Christians in India, usually perpetrated by Hindu nationalists.The acts of violence include arson of churches, re-conversion of Christians to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.[2][3] Violence against Christians has been seen by Human Rights organization as a tactic used to meet political ends.[3] According to a Human rights Watch report that was published in September 1999, the number of incidents of anti-Christian violence rose in the months following the victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in March 1998.[3]

Background[edit]

From 1964 to 1996, at least 38 incidents of violence against Christians were reported. In 1997, 24 such incidents were reported. Since 1998, Christians in India have faced a wave of violence.[4] In 1998 alone, 90 incidents were reported.[2]

The Sangh Parivar and related organisations have stated that the violence is an expression of "spontaneous anger" of "vanvasis" against conversion activities undertaken by missionaries.[5]

Overview[edit]

Incidents of violence against Christians have occurred in nearly all parts of India, it has largely been confined to north, central, and western India, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the capital area of New Delhi

In June 2000, four churches around India were bombed. In Andhra Pradesh, church graves were desecrated. A church in Maharashtra was ransacked.[6] In September 2008, two churches were partly damaged in Kerala.[7][8] Christian leaders described the events of September 2008 as deliberate acts by anti-socials and denied any religious motive in the attacks.[9]

Jammu and Kashmir[edit]

Further information: Apostasy in Islam

Muslims in India who convert to Christianity have frequently been subjected to intolerance,[10] harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims.[11] In Jammu and Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, a Christian convert and missionary, Bashir Tantray, was killed, allegedly by militant Islamists in 2006.[12]

The Government of Jammu-Kashmir in 2010 asked Jim Borst, a Dutch Catholic missionary, who was at that time one of the two members of the Institute Mill Hill missionary in the Kashmir valley, to leave the valley. Borst was also in charge of two schools there. According to Islamic officials the charges were forced conversions,[13] similar accusations of complicity in ″luring Muslims″ to convert to Christianity were thrown against pastor Chander Mani Khanna and Gayoor Messah also. Nevertheless the spokesperson for Indian Christians, John Dayal rejected the claim that any forced conversion took place. John Dayal stated, "A fact finding team which went to Srinagar in the wake of the arrest of Rev Khanna, and interviewed Church personnel, Ulema, school authorities and the police, found no evidence of force or fraud in baptisms that have been carried out over a period of time. Each baptism has been proved to be voluntary".[14]

In January 2012, Sharia court of Kashmir announced 'Fatwa' against Christian schools in Kashmir. It asked three priests to leave valley with the charge that they were "luring Muslims to Christianity". The court not only instructed Jammu and Kashmir government to monitor such activities in future but to also take over the management of the Christian missionary schools.[14]

In April 2012, a Christian couple was arrested with that accusation of "promoting enmity". The policemen later explained that the arrest was made "as a precaution to prevent tensions in the area." However, their children tell a completely different tale: "Our parents went to Srinagar on April 16 last year to attend a wedding. The next day, while doing some shopping at the market, talking to a salesman our father said he was Christian and they were insulted, beaten and finally arrested by local police."[15]

In May 2012, in a premeditated arson attack Muslims set fire to a Catholic church.[16]

Concerning these issues Father Mathew Thomas, pastor of Holy Family commented "With these gestures, the Muslim community is trying to intimidate the Christian minority. But there are not even 400 Christians in Srinagar: I appeal to Omar Abdullah, chief minister, a Muslim who studied in Christian institutions. He must protect the entire population of Srinagar, including minorities."[16]

A Muslim mob with Imprimatur of Local Imam, in April 2013, attacked a group of seven British Christians including five women and two children, who were living in Shivpora for about four years. Muslims hurled stones at their vehicles and house. The reason they claimed was to stop conversion to Christianity.[10]

On February 5, 2013 eight Americans and four Koreans were attacked by an Islamic mob at 10 pm because of allegations of forced conversions propagated from a Facebook page. Some of the ruffians threw stones at the walls outside the hotel where the tourists were staying, but owing to the intervention of policemen, injuries were avoided. The Facebook page showed an image of three oriental women and first line of a long caption stated, "Attention Kashmir!!! Islam in Kashmir is under attack, Christians trying to convert Muslims,"[11]

Madhya Pradesh[edit]

In Madhya Pradesh a church was destroyed and bibles were burnt. Several community leaders said the attacks on Christians started to increase when the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power back in 2003 and again in 2014.[17]

Kerala[edit]

A Christian priest, K. K. Alavi in Manjeri, a 1970 convert from Islam,[18] thereby raised the ire of his former Muslim community and received many death threats. An Islamic terrorist group named "The National Development Front" actively campaigned against him.[19] Muslim clerics are known to hold up Alavi as a prime example of an enemy of Islam even during prayers.[19] In that area traditional Christianity is considered blasphemy.[19]

In the southern state of India, Kerala which has an ancient pre-Islamic community of Eastern Rite Christians, Fundamentalists chopped off the hand of Professor T.J.Joseph due to allegation of blasphemy of prophet.[20] On 4 July 2010, a group of eight people in a Maruti Omni waylaid the Professor near his home at Muvattupuzha. Joseph was pulled out of his car along with his sister and 85-year old mother. They were attacked with knives, swords, axes and home-made bombs. Professor Joseph’s right hand was chopped off at the wrist and thrown away. He also suffered wounds to other parts of his body. His left hand from the wrist also has been severely damaged. His sister and aged mother of 85 years old also suffered injuries.[21][22][23] According to police, the attack was carried out by an eight member team consisting of Savad of Asamannoor, Pareeth of North Vazhakkulam, Shobin of Kothamangalam, Nazar of Aluva, Shajil of Muvattupuzha, Shamsuddin of Perumbavoor, Shanvas and Jamal.[24]

Karnataka[edit]

Destroyed property inside Adoration Monastery, Mangalore, after it was vandalized by activists belonging to the Bajrang Dal, during the September 2008 attacks on Christians in Mangalore

The 2008 wave of attacks against Christians in Karnataka includes attacks directed against Christian churches and prayer halls in Karnataka by the Bajrang Dal, with the ruling BJP government accused of involvement. The violence started from 14 September 2008 when about 20 churches were vandalized in Mangalore, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, and in other districts of Karnataka. Minor violence was later reported from the border state of Kerala.

Incidents of mob attacks against Jehovah’s Witnesses have been reported with increasing frequency in Karnataka. The attackers gather in gangs of 20 to 50 individuals to intimidate small groups of Witnesses engaging in the peaceful Christian ministry that they are well known for. Some of the mobs threaten to murder and rape the Witnesses.

Orissa[edit]

In a well-publicised case, Graham Staines, an Australian Christian missionary, was burnt to death along with his sons Timothy (aged 9) and Philip (aged 7), while they were sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Orissa in January 1999. He was running the Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj, an Australian missionary society.[3] Claims of Staines' "distribution of beef & desecrating Hindu Deities" were the primary justification for this attack. In 2003, Dara Singh was convicted of leading the gang responsible.[25]

An outbreak of violence started on 24 December 2007 at Bamunigam village of Kandhamal District. Some Hindu activists forcefully removed a Christmas decoration, put up on a site traditionally used by Hindus during Durga Puja.

In August 2008, Swami Lakshmanananda, a Hindu monk and spiritual leader, was attacked and killed.[citation needed] The violence that followed resulted in the death of one Christian and two Hindus. The violence later spread to 300 villages in 14 of the 30 districts in the state, resulting in 4,400 burnt houses and 50,000 homeless. Fifty-nine people were killed, while 18,000 were injured.

In 2011, the supreme court upheld a life sentence for Dara Singh. The court commented regarding the murder of Graham Staines and his two young children, stating that "the intention was to teach Graham Staines a lesson for his religious activities, and not to kill him." Many Christian leaders are concerned about the supreme courts' comment and view it as ambiguous and dangerous because they seem to justify anti-Christian violence.

Gujarat[edit]

In 1997 in Gujarat, 22 churches were burnt or destroyed, and another 16 damaged.[26] Recently, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on Christians. A Hindu group claims to have converted 2,000 tribal Christians to Hinduism. The attackers had vandalized places of worship and thus caused strike terror among the tribals. On 18 September, the Central Government issued an advisory under Article 355 of the constitution to the Orissa government along with Karnataka.[27][28]

Politics[edit]

Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are the most accused Hindu organizations for violence against Christians in India.[3] Sangh Parivar and local media were involved in promoting anti-Christian propaganda in Gujrat.[3] It is evident from the ruling BJP governments in Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Karnataka that serious lapses in handling the violence against minorities as the police failed to solve the issue effectively and the BJP was found directly responsible for allowing bloodshed to spread.[29][30]

Response[edit]

US State Department[edit]

In its annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians."[31] The report on anti-Christian violence listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. The incidents listed in the report were attributed to local media reports and information gathered by Christian groups in India, and was not independently verified.[31]

National Commission for Minorities[edit]

In light of recent Anti-Christian violence in Karnataka by the Bajrang Dal activists, the National Commission for Minorities have said that the Karnataka government of serious lapses in handling the situation and they found directly responsible for allowing violence to spread, and said the police failed to solve the issue effectively as the violence continues. They also clarified that there were no reported complaints of forced conversion registered in the state.[29][30]

National Integration Council of India[edit]

On 13 October 2008, the National Integration Council of India called a special meeting chaired by Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India and raised the voice against spreading anti-Christian violence in India. The Prime minister strongly condemned the violence supported by the hands of Hindu militant Hindu organizations such as Bajrang Dal, VHP etc.[32] The prime minister had earlier publicly admitted that the ongoing violence against the Christian communities was a matter of great "national shame". [33]

Pope Benedict XVI[edit]

On 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI criticized the continuing Anti-Christian violence in India.

On 28 October, the Vatican called upon the memory of Mahatma Gandhi for an end to the religious violence in Orissa. In a written address to Hindus, the Vatican office said Christian and Hindu leaders needed to foster a belief in non-violence among followers.[34] Although the Mahatma had been very strong in his opposition to conversion, he had always denounced violence as an appropriate response.[35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Violence in Orissa (slide 8 of 30 – A Christian girl whose face was burnt during the recent religious violence, sits in a shelter at Raikia village in Orissa August 31, 2008.)". Reuters. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Vinay Lal. "Anti-Christian Violence in India". Manas: India and Its Neighbors. UCLA College of Letters and Science. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Anti-Christian Violence on the Rise in India". Human Rights Watch. 29 September 1999. Attacks Against Christians in India, details violence against Christians in the months ahead of the country's national parliamentary elections in September and October 1999, and in the months following electoral victory by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party, known as the BJP) in the state of Gujarat. Attacks against Christians throughout the country have increased significantly since the BJP began its rule at the center in March 1998. They include the killings of priests, the raping of nuns, and the physical destruction of Christian institutions, schools, churches, colleges, and cemeteries. 
  4. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (6 November 1999). "Pope Lands in India Amid Rise in Anti-Christian Violence". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  5. ^ "A hate campaign in Gujarat". Frontline. January 1999. Retrieved 2014-07-31. 
  6. ^ "Anti-Christian Violence in India". 
  7. ^ "Xian, Hindu priests chant for peace at historic Kerala summit". Gulf-times.com. 1 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "Police recover bike used during church attacks". 
  9. ^ "Attacks on churches decried". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 30 September 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c Gheddo, Piero. "INDIA Indian Kashmir, two Christians arrested on false charges of forced conversions - Asia News". Asianews.it. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  11. ^ a b Gheddo, Piero. "INDIA Kashmir, false accusations on Facebook: mob tries to lynch 12 tourists - Asia News". Asianews.it. Retrieved 2013-05-15. The violent reaction was triggered by a photo published on the Facebook page Gulmarg News. The image shows three oriental girls, while the caption warns, "Caution Kashmir! Islam in Kashmir is under attack, Christians trying to convert Muslims," recounting the testimony of a boy, who in exchange for chocolate would have been forced to recant Islam and convert to Christianity. 
  12. ^ Christian convert from Islam shot dead in Kashmir,SperoNews.
  13. ^ Gheddo, Piero. "INDIA Missionary forced to leave Kashmir because his schools are "too good" - Asia News". Asianews.it. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  14. ^ a b "'Fatwa' announced against Christian schools in Kashmir, 3 priests asked to leave valley - The Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  15. ^ Gheddo, Piero (2012-04-20). "INDIA Indian Kashmir: Christians arrested for "promoting enmity" - Asia News". Asianews.it. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  16. ^ a b Gheddo, Piero (2012-05-25). "INDIA Indian Kashmir, "unknown arsonists" set fire to a Catholic church - Asia News". Asianews.it. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  17. ^ http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/christian-persecution-feared-in-indian-state-after-church-is-razed-26701
  18. ^ "IN SEARCH OF ASSURANCE" by K. K. Alavi
  19. ^ a b c Convert from Islam in India Remains on Death List,Christian Examiner
  20. ^ Special Correspondent (2010-07-28). "No report yet on ‘Taliban-model' courts: Kodiyeri". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  21. ^ "Taliban writ in God's own country". The Times of India. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  22. ^ "Controversial lecturer’s palm chopped off". The New Indian Express. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  23. ^ "Attackers cut off Newman college prof Joseph's hand". Mathrubhumi. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  24. ^ "Home". Manorama Online. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  25. ^ The Staines case verdict V. Venkatesan, Frontline Magazine, 11–23 Oct 2003
  26. ^ "Anti-Christian Violence in India". 
  27. ^ "Gujarat : More anti-Christian violence". 
  28. ^ "Hindu extremists convert 2,000 Christians in India". 
  29. ^ a b NCM blames Bajrang Dal for Karnataka, Orissa violence Press Trust of India – 21 September 2008
  30. ^ a b Udupi: No case of forcible conversion- Qureshi, Mangalorean.Com, 17 Sep 2008
  31. ^ a b "US rights report slams India for anti-Christian violence". 27 February 1999. Retrieved 17 December 2007. 
  32. ^ "National Integration Council Debated on Hindutva Terror Christian Members". Newsblaze.com. 13 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  33. ^ "India under siege". Economictimes.indiatimes.com. 18 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  34. ^ "Vatican invokes Gandhi in plea to end Orissa violence". In.reuters.com. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  35. ^ "His faith, our faith". Hindustan Times. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bauman, Chad M. (August 2013). "Hindu-Christian Conflict in India: Globalization, Conversion and the Coterminal Castes and Tribes". The Journal of Asian Studies 72 (3): 633–653.