Odisha, May 17, 2013: Nearly 14 years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death by a mob in Odisha, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday arrested two absconding accused in the case.A CBI team arrested Ghanashyam Mohant, 35, and Ranjan Mohant, 38, from their villages Gayalmunda and Bhalughera in Keonjhar district, a senior district police official, who assisted in the arrest Staines and his two sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, 6, were burnt to death Jan 22, 1999, while they were sleeping in their station wagon in front of a church at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar, about 400 km from here.
The incident triggered a global outrage. While the main accused Dara Singh and his accomplice Mahendra Hembram were sentenced to life imprisonment, 11 others were acquitted by a court.
At least three accused in the case went absconding. While the CBI has arrested two of them, the third is still untraced
- times of india
Fr. Savio Fernandes, Chancellor & Priest-in-charge of Lay Associations in the Archdiocese of Bombay and Fr. John Rodrigues the newly appointed Rector of St. Pius X College, the Archdiocesan Seminary in Goregaon have been appointed Auxiliary Bishops of Bombay.
- the csf
Mumbai, May 14, 2013: Renowned Islamic scholar, progressive thinker, author and Dawoodi Bohra reformist leader Asghar Ali Engineer passed away here Tuesday after a prolonged illness, family members said. He was 74.
Engineer, a widower, is survived his son Irfaan and daughter Seema Indorewala. He was ailing for several months and breathed his last at his Santacruz East home around 8 a.m. His Tadfeen ceremony (funeral) will be tomorrow (15/5/2013) between 9 am to 10 am at Juhu Garden Muslim Cemetery, Santacruz (W), Mumbai.
Born in Salumbar, Rajasthan, in a Dawoodi Bohra Amil (priest) family March 10, 1939, Engineer acquired his training in Quranic tafsir (commentary), tawil (hidden interpretations of Quran), fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith (Prophet’s teachings, sayings) during his early days.
His father, Sheikh Qurban Husain, was the Amil who also taught the young Engineer Arabic. Later, Engineer studied all the major religious works and scriptures by eminent scholars.
He graduated as a civil engineer from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, and went on to work for nearly two decades in the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
In the early 1970s, he sought voluntary retirement from his BMC service and plunged into the reformist movement in the miniscule Dawood Bohra community, estimated at around 1.20 million worldwide.
In 1972, he assumed a leading role in the movement from Udaipur and also mobilised national and international public opinion through media articles and speeches.
In 1977, he was elected general secretary of Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community at its maiden conference in Udaipur and guided the reformist movement.
Later, Engineer devoted his time and energies to work for communal harmony and combat communalist forces in the country.
The recipient of several awards and honours from around the world, Engineer travelled across the globe speaking at international conferences, seminars and universities on Islam, peace, human rights and other issues.
He founded the Institute of Islamic Studies (1980) and the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (1993), and also authored around 50 books on various topics and believed in treating all religions with equality.
According to reformists, Engineer never believed in blind acceptance of dogmas inherited from the past but strived to rethink issues and reinterpret Islam in keeping with modern times.
Pope Francis presided on May 13 at the canonization of 800 people who died for the faith in Otranto, Italy, in 1480.
The “martyrs of Otranto” whose names are not known– were beheaded by the forces of the Ottoman empire when they refused to renounce their Christian faith. Their deaths came after a siege of Otranto by the Ottoman invaders. In his homily the Pope noted that European and Ottoman powers had clashed for decades. But the martyrs of Otranto were killed after the battle had been decided, because they refused to abandon their Christian faith. Without underlining the conflict between faiths, Pope Francis gently alluded to the continuing trials of Christians living under Islamic power:
While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, precisely at this time, now, and in many parts of the world, are still suffering violence, that He give them the valour to be faithful and to respond to evil with good.”God will never leave us without strength and serenity,” the Pope assured the congregation. The martyrs of Otranto drew strength from their faith, he said: from the Word of God. “It is a Word that has invited us to faithfulness to Christ, even unto martyrdom.”
Also canonized during the same May 12 ceremony were Mother Laura Montoya, a 19th-century Colombian religious who became “the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples in whom she instilled hope.” She is the first canonized saint from Colombia.
Also canonized was Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican religious who worked with the sick and sheltered priests during the years of anti-clerical persecution before finally dying in 1963. The Pope remarked that she had “renounced a life of ease– and how damaging the easy life, well-being, can be; the embourgeoisement of our hearts that paralyzes us to follow the call of Jesus, who taught her to love poverty so that she could love the poor and the sick more.”
With this mass-canonization ceremony, Pope Francis suddenly became the modern Pontiff who has canonized the largest number of new saints. (Pope John Paul II, during his long pontificate, canonized 91 saints.) It is highly unusual for the Vatican to canonize a large number of martyrs in a single ceremony; more typically, a single person and a number of unnamed “companions” may be beatified together. The decision to canonize the martyrs of Otranto, approved by Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation, was widely interpreted as a gesture to honor the many Christians who have fallen to the forces of militant Islam.
- catholic culture
Iran, May 09, 2013: Iranian authorities released American pastor Saeed Abedini from solitary confinement today after forcing him to spend the week of his birthday in a “small dark hole,” according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Abedini, imprisoned for 225 days in Evin Prison because of his Christian faith, turned 33 on May 7 while in solitary confinement. Supporters sent more than 52,500 birthday messages to the prison addressed to Abedini.
His wife, Naghmeh, wrote in a letter: “With tightness in my throat, pain in my heart, and tears streaming down my face … I promise to stand strong in the strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fighting with every strength of my being until you are united to our family again.”
Abedini and nine other prisoners were sent to solitary confinement April 29 after fellow prisoners protested Iran’s lack of medical care, representatives from the ACLJ said. During his time in solitary, Abedini’s family in Iran was not allowed to visit him.
The family worries about Abedini’s health: He complained of internal bleeding from beatings by prison guards even before the solitary confinement and had been denied medical treatment for his injuries. The ACLJ told WORLD last month that Abedini suffers from frequent fainting, constant abdominal pain, blood in his stool, and is in need of immediate medical attention.
Naghmeh told the ACLJ that her husband’s return to the general prison is a hopeful sign: “His release from solitary is a direct result of the multitudes praying. I am relieved my husband is out of solitary, but still am deeply concerned about Saeed’s health. While this is a small victory, I am still demanding justice be done and that Saeed be released.”
Even with the Iranian government’s continued persecution of Christians like Abedini, Christianity is growing at an explosive rate in the country, according to Open Doors USA. About 40 years ago, Iran had just 200 Christians from a Muslim background. Now, some estimate as many as 370,000 converts attend house churches.
Opens Doors claims many Iranians became disillusioned about Islam after it became the country’s official religion in 1979. Especially after the 2009 elections, young people have been seeking truth elsewhere, often in house churches. Christianity is growing in Iran at about 20 percent annually, the fastest growth rate in the entire world.
Despite the pain Abedini is facing, in his latest letter dated March 9 he continued to hold on to his faith: “The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives. Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are often seen in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”
He closed the letter with “Pastor Saeed Abedini, the servant and slave of Jesus Christ in chains, with a lot of joy to see you soon.”
- world mag
How to avoid the pitfalls of ‘predatory proselytizing’.
Many salespeople are aware of the negative associations people have concerning their trade. So, they engage in soft sale tactics to avoid the perception that they are engaged in predatory proselytism. You may be as amused as we are when we get Christmas and birthday cards from former realtors. How much they care for us!
Like the realtors noted above, Evangelicals today are often aware of the negative associations people have of proselytism (including that the term “proselytism” is now often associated with unethical forms of evangelism). But are we sensitive enough?
In April, a lecture was given at Grand Valley State University in Michigan that featured Padma Kuppa, a Hindu interfaith activist with the Hindu American Foundation. She was sharing the results of her research into “predatory proselytization,” which she defines as unethical conversion strategies. Kuppa offered examples of how this phenomenon takes place in her home country in India. One example was that Christians used public obituary information in order to send sympathy cards to the relatives of deceased Hindus, only to include evangelistic elements, involving not only the citation of biblical verses, but also mention of eternal punishment.
The response of these Hindu families should give Christians pause for reflection: “While unhappy, they seemed resigned, treating it as one of those unwelcome features of life in a religiously diverse society that one learns to accept and tolerate. ‘This is what Christians do.’”
Such lack of relational sensitivity is not simply a problem in India between Christians and Hindus. Similar relational insensitivities occur in the U.S. as we engage a number of different groups. At the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, thousands of Muslims come together to celebrate their religious and ethnic heritage. The festival has become the focus of many aggressive forms of evangelism by several ministries that have included shouting at people to “study and obey the Bible” and holding up signs that call the Prophet Muhammed a pervert. The efforts of Christians at the festival have resulted in violent clashes, a constant police presence, and several lawsuits.
Moreover, friendship is sometimes abused, when it is reduced to the end of evangelism. In one instance where an Evangelical has been involved in a high-profile relationship and dialogue with a Mormon scholar, many Evangelicals have called for an end to the relationship after a period of time because the Mormon has not converted.
Aren’t relationships valuable in and of themselves without being used merely as a tool to convert others? For all our emphasis on personal relationships, one might be left to wonder how relational the Evangelical movement as a whole is.
To return to Kuppa’s talk, she raised issues that call for careful soul-searching and thought. Cases like the one she noted, as well as those we highlighted, illustrate the need for Christians to engage in careful reflection on the ethics of evangelism. Christians see the gospel as a great gift: the self-giving love of God through Christ on behalf of all people everywhere. But how are such evangelistic strategies to be viewed as loving and fulfilling Christ’s call to love our neighbors?
For many people outside our faith, this evangelistic work is not viewed positively. For them it is unwelcome and even predatory at times. Their concerns need to be heard, especially by Evangelicals, as we wrestle with thinking through appropriate evangelistic expressions and ethical approaches to evangelism. The lack of soul-searching and critical thought will impact negatively our witness, including “soul-winning.”
In response to the troubling example above involving sympathy cards, would it not seem more appropriate simply to express our grief and mourn with those who mourn in such situations, nothing more? At least, our former realtors would understand that much! Of course, realtors are not trying to warn people to exit burning buildings, but rather sell houses. Evangelicals, on the other hand, sometimes reason that just as one would warn others to flee burning buildings, it is important to warn them to flee the fires of hell.
Sure thing. We get that as Evangelicals who believe in the reality of hell. But expressing this in sympathy cards to those experiencing the loss of loved ones? Talk about making a hard sell all the harder! To us this seems manipulative and even predatory. Would we like it as Evangelicals if Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses sent us sympathy cards with their evangelistic messages at the deaths of our loved ones?
In view of our conviction that God is sovereign and can provide meaningful occasions to share the good news of Jesus with people and produce appropriate fruit, we should guard against forcing the issue. There are appropriate times and contexts for engaging in proclamation evangelism. We need to ask God for wisdom and walk in step with the Spirit, not wrongly grieving him and others.
Zeal for evangelism is a very good thing, as long as it does not involve predatory dynamics. No one likes to be someone else’s prey. As we love our neighbors we need to learn to do to others what we would want them to do to us. This is the golden rule of Evangelical witness.
Srinagar, May 06, 2013: Lasjan police arrested two christian missionaries distributing Bible and other christian study material among muslim youths, people came out as mob and attack them, while the concerned police force came to the spot and arrested them, the mob beat them ruthlessly. Lasjan is about 10 Kms away from Srinagar.The missionaries sustained grave injuries and undergoing treated in Jammu.
- srinagar news agency
USA, April 30, 2013: A new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country.
The percentage of Muslims who say they want sharia to be “the official law of the land” varies widely around the world, from fewer than one-in-ten in Azerbaijan (8%) to near unanimity in Afghanistan (99%). But solid majorities in most of the countries surveyed across the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia favor the establishment of sharia, including 71% of Muslims in Nigeria, 72% in Indonesia, 74% in Egypt and 89% in the Palestinian territories.
At the same time, the survey finds that even in many countries where there is strong backing for sharia, most Muslims favor religious freedom for people of other faiths. In Pakistan, for example, three-quarters of Muslims say that non-Muslims are very free to practice their religion, and fully 96% of those who share this assessment say it is “a good thing.” Yet 84% of Pakistani Muslims favor enshrining sharia as official law. These seemingly divergent views are possible partly because most supporters of sharia in Pakistan – as in many other countries – think Islamic law should apply only to Muslims. Moreover, Muslims around the globe have differing understandings of what sharia means in practice.
The survey – which involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages with Muslims across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa – shows that Muslims tend to be most comfortable with using sharia in the domestic sphere, to settle family or property disputes. In most countries surveyed, there is considerably less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith. And even in the domestic sphere, Muslims differ widely on such questions as whether polygamy, divorce and family planning are morally acceptable and whether daughters should be able to receive the same inheritance as sons.
In most countries surveyed, majorities of Muslim women as well as men agree that a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. Indeed, more than nine-in-ten Muslims in Iraq (92%), Morocco (92%), Tunisia (93%), Indonesia (93%), Afghanistan (94%) and Malaysia (96%) express this view. At the same time, majorities in many countries surveyed say a woman should be able to decide for herself whether to wear a veil.
Overall, the survey finds that most Muslims see no inherent tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern society. Nor do they see any conflict between religion and science. Many favor democracy over authoritarian rule, believe that humans and other living things have evolved over time and say they personally enjoy Western movies, music and television – even though most think Western popular culture undermines public morality.
The new survey also allows some comparisons with prior Pew Research Center surveys of Muslims in the United States. Like most Muslims worldwide, U.S. Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society. But American Muslims are much more likely than Muslims in other countries to have close friends who do not share their faith, and they are much more open to the idea that many religions – not only Islam – can lead to eternal life in heaven. At the same time, U.S. Muslims are less inclined than their co-religionists around the globe to believe in evolution; on this subject, they are closer to U.S. Christians.
Few U.S. Muslims voice support for suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam; 81% say such acts are never justified, while fewer than one-in-ten say violence against civilians either is often justified (1%) or is sometimes justified (7%) to defend Islam. Around the world, most Muslims also reject suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians. However, substantial minorities in several countries say such acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories.
These are among the key findings of a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. The survey was conducted in two waves. Fifteen sub-Saharan African countries with substantial Muslim populations were surveyed in 2008-2009, and some of those results previously were analyzed in the Pew Research Center’s 2010 report “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.” An additional 24 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa were surveyed in 2011-2012; results regarding religious beliefs and practices were first published in the Pew Research Center’s 2012 report “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity.” The current report focuses on Muslims’ social and political attitudes, and it incorporates findings from both waves of the survey.
Other key findings include:
- At least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they are concerned about religious extremist groups in their country, including two-thirds or more of Muslims in Egypt (67%), Tunisia (67%), Iraq (68%), Guinea Bissau (72%) and Indonesia (78%). On balance, more are worried about Islamic extremists than about Christian extremists.
- Muslims around the world overwhelmingly view certain behaviors – including prostitution, homosexuality, suicide, abortion, euthanasia and consumption of alcohol – as immoral. But attitudes toward polygamy, divorce and birth control are more varied. For example, polygamy is seen as morally acceptable by just 4% of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Azerbaijan; about half of Muslims in the Palestinian territories (48%) and Malaysia (49%); and the vast majority of Muslims in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Senegal (86%) and Niger (87%).
- In most countries where a question about so-called “honor” killings was asked, majorities of Muslims say such killings are never justified. Only in two countries – Afghanistan and Iraq – do majorities condone extra-judicial executions of women who allegedly have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.
- Relatively few Muslims say that tensions between more religiously observant and less observant Muslims are a very big problem in their country. In most countries where the question was asked, Muslims also see little tension between members of Islam’s two major sects, Sunnis and Shias – though a third or more of Muslims in Pakistan (34%) and Lebanon (38%) consider Sunni-Shia conflict to be a very big problem.
- Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely than Muslims surveyed in other regions to say they attend interfaith meetings and are knowledgeable about other faiths. But substantial percentages of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa also perceive hostility between Muslims and Christians. In Guinea-Bissau, for example, 41% of Muslims say “most” or “many” Christians are hostile toward Muslims, and 49% say “most” or “many” Muslims are hostile toward Christians.
- In half of the countries where the question was asked, majorities of Muslims want religious leaders to have at least “some influence” in political matters, and sizable minorities in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa think religious leaders should have a lot of political influence. For example, 37% of Muslims in Jordan, 41% in Malaysia and 53% in Afghanistan say religious leaders should play a “large” role in politics.
- Support for making sharia the official law of the land tends to be higher in countries like Pakistan (84%) and Morocco (83%) where the constitution or basic laws favor Islam over other religions.
- In many countries, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely to support making sharia official law than are Muslims who pray less frequently. In Russia, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia, for example, Muslims who pray several times a day are at least 25 percentage points more supportive of enshrining sharia than are less observant Muslims. Generally, however, there is little difference in support for sharia by age, gender or education.
- pew forum
Mumbai, May 06, 2013: Senior Muslim cleric Maulana Wali Rahmani doesn’t confine himself to just running madrassas or preaching about religion. He also nurtures the IIT dreams of Muslim youths. The maulvi runs the Patna-based Rahmani 30, which gives free coaching to Muslims who want to crack the IIT entrance exam, much along the lines of the famed Patna-based Super 30 programme, which helps underprivileged youths make it to the IITs.
And Rahmani is now bringing his dream project to Mumbai. He agreed to do this during a recent meeting in the city. “My dream is that prototypes of Rahmani 30 should be opened in different parts of the country,” said the maulana, who is also the secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
As per the plan, around 30 students would be chosen from across Maharashtra , and accommodated and coached for two years at a soon-to-be-decided location in the city. “Money should not be a problem if we get good results,” said businessman Ateeq Agboatwala, who is leading the initiative in Mumbai.
Maulvi’s effort shifts focus to IITs from ITIs
Last week, after the inauguration of Mumbai’s first Darul Qaza-Shariah court-at Anjuman-i-Islam near CST, Maulana Wali Rahmani was almost mobbed. As other speakers, including Muslim politicians, left the stage almost unnoticed, a crowd of Muslim intellectuals, senior clerics and lay persons surrounded the tall, frail Rahmani, shaking his hands and seeking his blessings. Rahmani, considered a pir sahib (saint), obviously commands respect in the community.
His Patna-based coaching centre, Rahmani 30, has succeeded in helping several Muslim students crack the IIT entrance exam and gain admission to institutes across the country.
Rahmani 30 is run along the lines of the well-known Patnabased Super 30 programme, which gives free coaching to underprivileged students and sends around 30 of them every year for the IIT entrance exam. In the Rahmani 30 scheme, Muslim youths who have completed Std X take a written test to qualify for a free, two-year course on how to tackle the IIT exam.
Educationists are heartened by Rahmani’s vision. “If we have at least 10 maulvis like Rahmani sahib, Indian Muslims would not need government doles,” says Anjuman-i-Islam’s President Dr Zahir Kazi. Sources said that businessmen and philanthropists would help fund the project in Mumbai.
Rahmani’s journey would not have been possible without the unreserved cooperation he has received from Bihar director-general of police Abhayanand , who was associated with the Super 30 programme till 2008 but has since left to nurture his own initiatives. In 2008, Rahmani approached Abhayanand with a request that an institute similar to Super 30 be started for Muslim students. Abhayanand accepted, but also wondered whether Rahmani would “interfere” in candidate selection . Rahmani reportedly said that he didn’t know much about “physics, chemistry and mathematics”, so Abhayanand had a free hand in choosing students.
The first Rahmani 30 batch began classes in July 2008 with 10 students on board. In the very first exam, in 2009, they struck gold: all 10 made it to the IIT-JEE exam merit list. Since then, the success rate has been impressive . Those who couldn’t clear the IIT exam, joined other engineering colleges. Some joined statistical study institutes.
“The success rate of Muslim students in competitive exams is good. The problem is getting them to be candidates. Rahmani 30 has succeeded in conveying that this is also possible,” explained Rahmani.
Before Rahmani plunged into the difficult world of preparing aspirants for the IIT entrance test, Muslim youths mainly confined themselves to joining the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) to become plumbers, technicians and mechanics. “The IITs have been almost beyond our boys’ reach,” said Kazi. “They were satisfied to be trained at ITIs and get small jobs in India and the Gulf. Even the government was happy to sell them the ITI dream. Rahmani sahib has changed the game. Now the buzzword is IIT, not ITI.”
- times of india
Phulbani Fast Track Court judge closes his court and assigns the case to a sessions court. It may take another year to conclude trial. The seven are charged with the murder of a Hindu leader, who launched the anti-Christian pogroms of 2008. The Maoists have always claimed responsibility for the assassination.
Mumbai, May 04, 2013: For the umpteenth time, the Phulbani Fast Track Court judge has postponed the hearing of the way for the release of seven innocent Christians, accused without any evidence of the murder of the Hindu leader Laxamananada, whose death in 2008 triggered the violent pogroms in Orissa. The new session is scheduled for May 22. They have thus far spent four and a half years in the prisons of Kandhamal victims of sham trials, despite the fact that the Maoists have always claimed responsibility for the assassination.
The hearing that the seven Christians and their families have been waiting for was scheduled on April 1 last. That day, however, the judge announced that his court was closed, and that the case had been passed into the hands of a regular Session Court. The Fast Track Courts are special courts, which were established after the pogroms in Orissa to try to speed up the judicial process.
Once in the hands of a Session Court, the case could suffer further delays. When they were created, these courts were intended to quickly conclude a trial: listening to the sides involved one day after another. But the procedural loopholes and a backlog of other cases have transformed proceedings into continuous referrals, bogging the entire Indian judicial system in an almost inextricable way.
Convinced that the day had come to embrace their husbands, six of the seven wives along with their children went to the pastoral center Konjamendi, which provides assistance and support to Christian prisoners and their families. Thus, on March 18 these women and 12 boys and girls met pastors Prasan Pradhan, Sushant Pradhan and Sunil Parichha, Sajan George – president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) – and brother Markos. Together they traced the moments of the arrest of their men and then prayed together. The next day, the religious leaders accompanied all of them to Phulbani prison, to visit their husbands. At the end of the day, the pastors accompanied the families to their homes to Kotagad.
A pastor in Indonesia is facing assault charges after his beleaguered church was attacked by a mob of Muslim extremists; a human rights group has supported him.
Indonesia, May 03, 2013: Police on 20 March named the Rev. Palti Panjaitan as a suspect in an assault case relating to an incident that took place when the congregation of his church in Bekasi, West Java, was attacked during a meeting.
Following the Christmas Eve attack, during which members of Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) were pelted with rotten eggs, dung and plastic bags full of urine, the pastor was attempting to leave the scene with his wife when Abdul Aziz, the leader of the mob, moved to attack him. Palti stopped the Muslim’s blow with his hand in order to protect himself and his wife.
Ironically, the extremist later claimed that Palti had assaulted him by hitting him in the chest. The pastor’s account is corroborated by the fact that although many police officers witnessed the incident, no action was taken against him at the time. Aziz had intimidated Palti on a previous occasion and also threatened to kill him.
In an open letter to the UN, Human Rights Working Group – Indonesia (HRWG) criticised the authorities’ handling of the case, saying:
[Rev. Palti Panjaitan] has been criminalised because he was defending himself from the violent attack perpetrated by an intolerant group when he held a mass prayer on 24th December in Bekasi.
The letter also accused “certain members of the state apparatus” of actively increasing religious intolerance in Indonesia.
Referring to the legal proceedings, the pastor said, “These summons have been disrupting my concentration and my leadership of HKBP Filadelfia.”
HKBP has in the past been subject both to mob violence by Islamists and to official harassment. The congregation were the victims of a similar attack in May 2012, when hundreds of Islamists tried to block them from reaching their site and showered them with sewage, water, used oil, mud, rotten eggs, sticks and other blunt objects.
The church has been meeting outside and in homes since its building was sealed off by the authorities in 2010. Despite its meeting all the conditions for a building permit, and despite a Supreme Court ruling that one should be granted, Bekasi officials are still refusing to issue the permit.
Palti’s case is the latest in a succession of charges brought against community leaders who were in fact the victims of mobs that attacked them because of their beliefs. HRWG has said that at least four have been prosecuted since 2011.
In one example, a gang of Islamic extremists attacked the Pentecostal church in Mekargalih village in West Java in January and assaulted its pastor. Instead of prosecuting the attackers, the authorities subsequently arrested the minister, Bernhard Maukar, and sentenced him to three months in prison for holding services without a valid permit. The church’s attempts to apply for a permit have all been blocked by local officials.
Other churches in Indonesia are also targeted by the authorities. GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor has been subject to an enduring campaign of official harassment. And HKBP Setu Church’s building in Bekasi was demolished on 21 March after the congregation’s applications for a permit had been repeatedly denied. During the demolition, church members looked on in tears as Muslim protestors, who called the Christians “infidels”, cheered on the workers.
- barnabas team