On 20 May in Janjgir, Champa district of Chhattisgarh, alleged Hindu extremists attacked a Christian for not paying heed to their advice to stop following Christ. Rev. Akhilesh Edgar reported that the extremists accused a Christian convert, called Tarzan, who follows Christ and sings gospel songs, of ‘misbehavior’. The extremists had threatened the Christian earlier on 20 February to stop worshiping Christ or face harm. On Friday, the extremists led by Jharu Ram Manhar attacked him as Tarzan continues to believe in Christ. They beat him up, damaged his house and also stopped him from using the village pond. The next day (21 May) the extremists filed a police complaint against the Christian of ‘misbehavior’. The Christian also filed a police complaint against the extremists but no action was taken by the police.
Construction Work of Pastor Stopped in Uttar Pradesh
On May 19 in Khopura, Sahidabad, Uttar Pradesh, Hindu extremists threatened Pastor Sanju Mahananda from the Believers Church to stop constructing the pastor’s quarters or face harm. According to information, Pastor Mahananda was constructing a pastor’s residence cum prayer hall when the extremists came and threatened to demolish the construction. They warned the pastor and the contractors to stop the work immediately or face dire consequences. Pastor Mahananda stopped the construction work.
Mother Teresa didn’t concern herself with globalization, but took full advantage of the globalized Church to serve a greater number of poor people, says Indian author and Salesian priest Antony Vayalil in a new book. In Mother Teresa and the Globalizing World, which was published May 27, the Kolkata priest asserts that “Mother Teresa’s life and mission was not deterred by the paradoxes and ambivalence she found in the Church and society.” The 355 page book, published by Calcutta Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, focuses on Mother Teresa as a universal missionary sans frontieres, whose primary objective was to help the poorest of the poor, deprived of a life without basic human dignity.
Dr. Vayalil argues: “If the Church has to be much more relevant and effective for our challenging times, of economic growth and prosperity on the one side and spiritual and material degradation and poverty on the other, then it has to become clearly a sign of hope. It is this mission identity that Mother Teresa lived in a heroic degree.” He insists that the experience of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 to 1997) is applicable in today’s globalized world. He further shows that Mother Teresa is the role model for missionaries as she “masterfully balanced the elusive margin between a contemplative and active missionary.”
He concludes that “Mother Teresa never entertained the question of globalization and its effects on the world, but plunged herself in serving the poor through whatever means she could.” He quoted Mother Teresa’s characteristic reply to critics who considered her global mission to be a failure: “My contribution is like a drop in the ocean, but even then, the ocean would be poorer by one drop if I did not contribute to it.” The book is Dr. Vayalil’s doctoral thesis for his PhD in Missiology, which he obtained from the Gregorian University, Rome, in 2008. Dr. Vayalil is currently with the Salesian community in San Callisto, Rome, engaged in the catechetical ministry and faith formation of pilgrims visiting the famous catacombs there.
He said it was a bad sign that a parliamentary special committee for charter change is proposing to keep the Islamic phrase Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim (in the name of Allah the most merciful) in the preamble and Islam as the state religion. Both the amendments were inserted by rulers who wanted to gain political achievements, said Dasgupta. The leaders also demanded the removal of the Vested Property Act, a controversial law that allows the government to confiscate property from individuals it deems an enemy of the state.
Before independence in 1971, when the country was part of Pakistan, it was known as the Enemy Property Act and is still commonly referred to as such. It is officially estimated that about 75 percent of all Hindu land in Bangladesh has been seized using this act. David Baidya, 59, a Protestant and joint secretary of Bangladesh Minorities Group recalled that when his brother left home to go abroad his properties were confiscated. “If reinstatment of the 1972 constitution not ensured and the vested property act is not removed, we the minorities will refrain from voting in next general election,” he said. Special committee co-chairman and veteran parliamentarian Suranjit Sengupta, a Hindu, told the meeting he hopes that if they continue pressing the government, it will consider their demands.
The Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh says state government interference is forcing it to go to the High Court to protect its right to run its own educational institutions. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal is accusing the state government of “misusing” a new education law to “interfere” with the running of Christian schools in the state. The federal government last year introduced the Right to Education Act to provide free and compulsory education for children between six and 14 years old. The act became law on April 1, 2010, but will be implemented for the new academic year beginning in July. Now the state government is using it as a tool to harass Christian educational institutions, he says.
“Representatives of the district education officers are telling us who should be given admission and are insisting they be part of the decision-making apparatus in our schools,” the prelate said recently. This, the prelate said, violates Article 30 of the constitution and several court orders that grant functional freedom to minority schools. According to the prelate, Article 30 outlines the right to admit students, appoint staff, take disciplinary action against staff members, constitute a governing body and set a reasonable fee structure.
Archbishop Cornelio said a state government circular, issued in March, regarding implementation of the Right to Education Act in Madhya Pradesh deliberately ignored the rights of minority institutions and demonstrated it is trying to take over the administration of Christian schools. “We are being forced to go to the court to save our educational institutions. Our petition will also challenge the circular and seek a stay on its implementation as it is infringing upon on our right to provide quality education,” he said. “Government officials are also opposed to giving admission to economically-disadvantaged Christians in the 25 percent quota for poor children,” he added.
Mumbai, Maharashtra, 28 May, 2011: The CSF, the activist community NGO has in a memorandum to the chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan and education minister sought their intervention in striking down the order to derecognize the prestigious Jesuit-run St. Mary’s High School in Mazagaon, south Mumbai. It is certainly an attack on a minority institution, in violation of our constitutional right to set-up and manage institutions, without interference – political, communal or otherwise. It seems to be a clear sign of vindictiveness, with malicious intentions, particularly since it seems, the complainant Nanasaheb Patil’s son’s admission was cancelled, resulting in his hitting back. Principals are under great pressure, especially priests and nuns. The order of the deputy director, education department, is in scant disregard for thousands students and parents, who are affected. If the authorities are serious, they should take cognizance of similar glaring and even more grave violations by other schools in the vicinity and elsewhere. The reasons given do not call for such serious action, particularly in case of a 78 year old Jesuit run institution, that has all through its history rendered yeoman service to all, irrespective of any distinction.
The Government of Maharashtra has also inordinately delayed non-salary grants for aided schools, with many Catholic schools being denied grants for almost a decade! since St. Mary’s School has not received since 2004 any non-salary grants. The entire non-salary expenditure has been borne by the management through its own resources. The aided schools, unlike the elite unaided ones, serve the lower and middle strata of society with similar high quality education at a lower cost. Non-receipt of non-salary grant has compelled aided schools to charge students or utilize their own resources, leading to complaints by parents. The CSF will be forced to call for closure of, at least 125 Catholic schools, as a sign of solidarity, if a solution is not found. The parent-teacher association (PTA) has strongly supported the principal and school, who are filing an appeal against the order.
There are other instances of government interference and harassment. Fr. Baptist Pinto, a former Principal of St. Xavier’s School, Mumbai (for ten years) was transferred by the Society of Jesus to St Mary’s High School (SSC) in June 2010. The education department refused to accept him as principal and has kept the proposal pending till today. Instead it nominated a teacher as Acting Principal, denying the priest his dues. The CSF learns that priests and nuns will suffer harassment and bureaucratic hassles from now on, as it will not be able to transfer them easily, according to the government rules. Even though they may belong to the same Archdiocese, if the school trusts are different, then they would have to undergo a tedious procedure of resigning from one and getting appointed by another – which was not the case so far.
Fr. Baptist Pinto, St. Mary’s School principal told The CSF “The Education Department, without notice to the School, also lodged a complaint with the Economic Offence Wing of the Mumbai Police alleging that the School had illegally collected huge amounts and misappropriated them. The Economic Offence Wing, after detailed investigations, has concluded that the complaint is false and has closed the case. The Dy Director of Education, however, on the very same charge, with some other frivolous and flimsy grounds and without considering a detailed explanation supported by documentary evidence, has by an ex-parte order dated 24th May, 2011 de-recognized the St Mary’s High School (SSC). The order has been deliberately passed close to re-opening to jeopardize a recognized, private and minority educational institution of repute”, he said.
The CSF observes that as in case of St. Mary’s and many Christian schools, less than 5 % of the students are Christians and these institutions serve quality education to lakhs of non-Christians, with no discrimination. There are also many Catholic/Christian schools within a small radius in Mumbai. It may be better for the Church to consider sending all Christian students to one school and freeing the other schools to be used for professional/postgraduate institutions (medical, engineering, etc.) or colleges. In this manner, all Christian students, passing from our schools, will get admission in good Christian colleges or institutes of higher learning, rather than clamouring for and being refused admission in the couple of colleges, that the community has.
Shri. Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Tel: 022 22854166 / 22024901 / 22025151 / 22025222
Fax: 022 22817068 / 22029214
Shri Rajendra Jawaharlal Darda, School Education Minister
Tel: 22025188 / 22024654 / 23630286 / 23630609
London, UK, 27 May, 2011 (Telegraph): It was the elephant in the room: the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Britain talked of missiles and green house gases, Libya and Afghanistan, and how to barbecue a perfect burger. But they studiously avoided raising the plight of 250 million Christians who face persecution around the world. For two days the most important men in the free world had a chance to draw up a plan to help their co-religionists who face torture and death in Egypt, India, Pakistan, Sudan and China; they blew it. Copts, Evangelicals, Catholics, Greek Orthodox: the persecutors are indiscriminate. Their means include arson, shooting, rape and pillaging; and their methods are often legitimate in their own country, as in Pakistan, where under its blasphemy law, any dissent from Islam is unlawful. The anti-Christians’ aim is to eradicate a religion they consider subversive, because it challenges the oppression of totalitarianism and extremist Islam.
Yet the same two world leaders who stepped in to save Libyan civilians (mainly Muslim) from the tyrannical Colonel Qaddafi, Afghan Muslims from the tyranny of the Taliban, are abstaining from weighing in to help fellow Christians in the Middle East, Africa or Asia. Why? I worry that their cowardice stems in part from fear of Islam. Most of the persecution of Christians is taking place in Muslim countries, and at Muslim hands. This puts Barack Obama and David Cameron in an awkward spot: they risk the support of their domestic Muslim communities if they so much as raise the issue. Yet just as there are American and British Jews who do not condone Israeli violence, so there are many American and British Muslims who do not condone the persecution of Christians. Perhaps Obama and Cameron worry that Muslims in the west are coming under attack as it is; by pointing out that Islamic extremists are torturing and killing people simply because of their faith, Western leaders fan the flames of anti-Muslim feeling. But this argument, which has surfaced again and again since September 11 2001, cannot hold any longer. The West cannot hold up values – only to make exceptions for a minority that can attack and murder as it sees fit.
As Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, writes, the West can and should tie its overseas aid to the protection of Christian communities. (In terms of Britain’s foreign aid alone, think how much a fraction of its £12 billion budget could do to save Christians.) Checking the success of such a scheme may prove difficult; but the message it sends out is clear: leave these people alone. It will reach the persecutors and the persecuted, and remind Americans and Britons that there is such a thing as ethical foreign policy.
- Cristina Odone
Sri Lanka, 27 May, 2011: A Jesuit priest and five other people who were accused of having links with Tamil Tiger rebels have been acquitted after a court hearing on Tuesday. Father Paul Satkunanayagam and the others, all ethnic Tamils, were arrested in Dambulla on February 9. They were freed two days later. The Jesuit priest and others appeared in court on March 23 for their first hearing but the case was postponed until May 24.
“The Crime Investigating Department, Terrorist Investigating Department and Security Intelligent Service went through my life history, my counseling centre history, funders who help me and my accounts,” said Father Satkunanayagam. Father Satkunanayagam said he was acquitted from charges of being affiliated to “violent groups.” Media reports said the priest and five others arrested were allegedly in possession of CDs containing war songs that were sung by Tamil Tiger rebels. Father Satkunanayagam, who is in his 70s and is in poor health, works at an NGO center in Batticaloa where he offers counseling. He studied in the United States where he obtained a doctorate in psychology.
Chennai, India, 24 May, 2011 (ucan): Two Christian delegations met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and extended their greetings to her. The first delegation comprised of eight bishops led by Archbishop A.M. Chinnappa of Madras-Mylapore. The second delegation was led by CSI deputy moderator G. Devakadasham that included 12 other bishops from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Jaffna, CSI treasurer, legal advisor and former minister. It also included CSI moderator S. Vasanthakumar. During the interaction with the Chief Minister on May 25, the representatives hoped that she would solve all the problems faced by the minority community.
With the new members of Tamil Nadu’s legislative assembly having taken their oath, Christian leaders in the southern Indian state are looking to the future with caution. Last week, J. Jayalalithaa of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam party was sworn in as state chief minister. Her party and its allies won 203 seats in the 234-seat legislative assembly, decimating and dethroning their rival the Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (DMK) party. Jayalalithaa’s massive win surprised even hard-boiled political analysts, who expected her to win but not by such a large margin. Jayalalithaa says the vote was in support of her party’s policies, but analysts believe issues such as the corruption scandal surrounding telecom licenses and nepotism turned voters away from the DMK. As Jayalalithaa settles in to address the key issues that affect Tamil Nadu, Christians hope their issues will also receive some attention.
The Church tried to play a neutral role in the elections. Church bodies and communities circulated pamphlets detailing the DMK “score sheet,” which contained the DMK’s attitude towards Christians. The report card did not favor the DMK. “This time we chose not to express openly which party we were for. We chose to publish a report card and let people decide who to vote for,” Father Xavier Arulraj, head of the Legal Cell of Madras-Mylapore archdiocese, said. After Jayalalithaa came to power, one bishop remarked at a recent meeting that Christians would have to be wary of her. He has a reason. In 2002, she enacted an anti-conversion law (which she later withdrew) and looked the other way when her supporters portrayed her in Mother Mary’s image. Father James Victor of Tuticorin, a key member of a socio-political movement, says Christians went with the prevailing mood and voted against the DMK. “But we will need to watch how Jayalalithaa runs her government.”
The government’s first moves have pleased Church people working with the coastal fishing communities in southern Tamil Nadu where Catholics dominate. The new chief minister kept her poll promise to increase an allowance for fisher people during the 45-day seasonal ban on deep-sea fishing. “This is good news. It has been one of our demands,” Father A. Kildos, who works among fisher people in the southernmost district of Kanniyakumari, said. There are more issues that the Church would like the new government to address. Key will be policies that affect schools that it runs with government aid. Much will depend on how the Church presents these issues to Jayalalithaa. “It is clear to political parties that Christians will demonstrate their feelings when the time comes. They have done it in this election,” Father Arulraj said.
- Vincent D’Souza
Khartoum, Sudan, 24 May 2011(Compass Direct News): Sudanese National Security Intelligence and Security Service agents have arrested a Christian woman in a Darfur camp for displaced people, accusing her of converting Muslims to Christianity, said sources who fear she is being tortured. At the same time, in Khartoum a Christian mother of a 2-month-old baby is wounded and destitute because she and her husband left Islam for Christianity. In Darfur Region in northwestern Sudan, Hawa Abdalla Muhammad Saleh was arrested on May 9 in the Abu Shouk camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Al-Fashir, capital of North Darfur state, sources said. Abdalla has yet to be officially charged, but authorities have accused her of possessing and distributing Bibles to others in the camp, including children. Sources said she could also be tried for apostasy, which carries the death sentence in Sudan. Abdalla has been transferred to an unknown location in Khartoum, sources said, adding that they fear she could be tortured as she was detained and tortured for six days in 2009. Intelligence agents, they said, have been monitoring her movements for some time. There is no guarantee of her safety,” said one source in Darfur.
The U.S. Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report 2010 notes that while Sudan’s Interim National Constitution provides for freedom of religion throughout the country, it establishes sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation in the north. The arrest comes as northern Christians become more vulnerable to official and societal pressure with South Sudan set to split from the predominantly Muslim north on July 9. Adding to tensions was the north’s weekend military attack on Abyei Town, located in a disputed, oil-rich region to which both South Sudan and the north lay claim.
In Khartoum, the Christian couple with the newborn said they have come under attack for converting from Islam to Christianity. Omar Hassan and Amouna Ahamdi, both 27, said they fled Nyala, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of El-Fashir, for Khartoum in June 2010, but knife-wielding, masked assailants on May 4 attacked the couple after relatives learned that they had converted from Islam to Christianity. Hassan told Compass that he and his wife were renting a house from her uncle in Khartoum, but he ordered them to leave after learning they had left Islam. His wife was injured trying to protect him during the May 4 attack, he told Compass. “I have been in Khartoum for six months, with no job to support my sick wife,” Hassan said. “Muslims invaded our house and, in an attempt to kill me, they knifed my wife in the hand.” The knife pierced the palm of Ahamdi, who said her brother had stabbed her three times in the stomach nine months ago, seriously injuring her spleen, after she told him she had become a Christian. “I feel pain, but my husband is alive, and we are praying that we get money for treatment for both my hand and the spleen,” she said.
In the violent outburst, her brother also broke her left leg. She was rushed to a local hospital, where personnel were reluctant to treat her because of her conversion, sources told Compass. Ultimately she was hospitalized in Nyala Teaching Hospital for three weeks – where she met Hassan, a recent convert who had also suffered for his faith who visited her after hearing how her family hurt her. He said he found no one caring for her even though she was in agony. He called an Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) pastor to help her, and she was discharged after partial recovery – to the hostile home where she had been attacked. “You don’t deserve to be a member of my family,” her angry father shouted at her, she said. Her family locked her in a room, shackled to a wooden chair, and severely beat her for a month. “I was badly mistreated – they shaved all my hair and my father whipped my head,” Ahamdi said. “But neighbors used to sneak in secretly and provided me food and water.” After freeing her from the chair, they restricted her movement to the property, she said.
“I found a chance to escape to the ECS church, where I got married to Hassan,” she said. “My health continued deteriorating, and the doctors recommended that I be transferred to Khartoum for specialized treatment for my ailing spleen. With a small amount of money, we managed to reach Khartoum by train, where my uncle hosted us not knowing that we were Christians.” In Khartoum, they were unable to afford the medicine prescribed for her spleen. “There is only one pharmaceutical shop in Khartoum that deals with spleen-related problems,” Ahamdi said. “The shop has to order the drug from Cairo after making a deposit amounting to US$300 before the drug is ordered. But we are not able to raise the needed amount since we are jobless.” Hassan and Ahamdi depend on friends to provide them occasional food, she said. They sometimes go without eating for two days, she said. “We cannot deny Christ – this is a big challenge to us, because we do not have a place to go,” she said, through tears. “We have no food, and we are jobless. I am still in pain, besides having a 2-month-old baby boy to care for.”
Path of Faith
Born in Shendi, north of Khartoum, Hassan was raised in Nyala, son of an imam belonging to the Ansar Al-Sunna, a sect of Sunni Muslims. He said he started questioning the Quran while accompanying his father on a preaching mission in Omdarfu, an area bordering Darfur and the Central African Republic. A high-profile Muslim from Europe happened to be in the area, and young Hassan asked him questions about Muhammad and Jesus, he said. He found no immediate answers. The following day, the European Muslim told his father that Hassan should be warned that soon he could become an infidel or kafir. Hassan denied it when his father summoned him, but the family grew uneasy with him and took his job away. He said he felt he was wasting his time in spreading Islam, and people began suspecting that he had converted to Christianity even though he had not yet done so. He said he decided to be without faith, and his father denied him all basic needs. After obtaining work as a security guard with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), he began comparing Christianity and Islam with his workmate. His friend invited him to visit a church, and Hassan also began attending a Bible study.
Hassan said he began having dreams and visions and heard a voice saying, “This is the way.” He told this to church pastor, who told him it referred to Jesus saying it of Himself in John 14:6. “A desire for attending church grew in me, and thereafter I got baptized,” Hassan said. “The pastor encouraged me to keep on praying. One morning, when I was on my knees praying, my father entered into the room and found me.” Furious, his father called out to him, but Hassan did not reply. “He then hit me with a big stick on the back of my neck,” he said. “He closed the door, invited seven relatives plus my elder brother, who started beating me with sticks and broke my shoulder. I almost lost my sight. My elder brother helped me escape to the pastor’s house, where I was hospitalized for 13 days.” After recovering, he returned to the pastor’s house, where he continued working with the NGO on a temporary basis. Early in 2007, he said, he met his uncle in the market, who tricked him into returning home, where his father beat him. His mother helped him escape, and a Christian from South Sudan took him to a hospital.
His pastor sent him to Khartoum, but he ended up working for another NGO in Juba, where he joined the ECS church. With his faith strengthened, he returned to Nyala when the contract ended in 2007. When he reached home, his father realized that he remained a Christian and ordered him to leave and never return. He returned to the ESC congregation in Nyala, and in 2008 the church sent him to Shokaya Bible Institute for six months. Upon completion he returned to the church and married Ahamdi in June 2010. They soon fled persecution to Khartoum, where their trials have continued. “We have been given notice to vacate the house,” Hassan said. “Life is becoming unbearable for us here in Khartoum.”
Pakistan, 26 May 2011: Christians are offering daily prayers for a Muslim politician who is funding a Church restoration project. Every morning parishioners from Holy Rosary Church gather at the Marian grotto school to offer supplications for Muhammad Ijaz Virk, a national assembly member. The project, which is costing six million rupees (US$ 70,073) includes revamping a 1,114 square meter area including the church floor, altar, altar stage and the parish house. “This is the first time a Muslim has financed such a project in the diocese. We invited him to help restore the dilapidated structure but got more than we expected,” said Father Bashir Francis, the parish priest.
Built in 1985, the Holy Rosary Church suffered heavy damage after last year’s flooding, the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. While the grotto is currently being used for Mass, parishioners shift to an adjacent school hall in hot weather. “The Church building was already more than half a meter below road level and half of it remained submerged for months.” the priest said. According to Virk, Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani approved the project. The government is very cautious about the construction of places of worship but I convinced them. I am inspired by my father who preferred to hire Christians to work in his food company because of their honesty,” he said.