Kazakhstan: 2 Believers sent to prison for distributing Christian books

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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Kazakhstan Christian PersecutionKazakhstan, October 24, 2014: Two Christian men in Kazakhstan have been given ten-day prison terms for distributing Christian literature after the authorities claimed the contents of one of the books incite religious hatred.

Vyacheslav Cherkasov and Zhasulan Alzhanov were sentenced on 6 October, five months after the authorities confiscated Christian books that the two men were handing out near a market in Shchuchinsk, in the Akmola region.

The book Jesus: More than a Prophet, which was among 252 Christian books seized by the authorities on 10 May, was found by officials who conducted “expert analysis” to contain “elements inciting religious hatred and discord”, according toForum 18. It is a collection of testimonies written by Muslims who became Christians.

Vyacheslav and Zhasulan were also fined the equivalent of four months’ average wage inKazakhstan for repeatedly distributing religious literature without the required state permission.

This is the sixth time Vyacheslav has faced trial, and the fourth for Zhasulan. Both were sentenced to ten-day prison terms in a separate case earlier this year, for failing to pay earlier fines for exercising their right to freedom of religion.

A growing number of religious publications, including Christian materials and web pages, are being banned as “extremist” in court in Kazakhstan.

A Christian source in Kazakhstan spoke of the increasingly repressive situation for Christians in the region, saying:

The situation in every Central Asian republic is different, but we see that persecution is increasing. The Kazakh authorities put tougher pressure on… churches. All countries have passed new regulations in administrative and criminal laws that toughen punishments for illegal religious activity.

At the same time the authorities don’t protect… churches from zealous local Muslims or just criminals. [Violence] happens not very often but we don’t have any protection from the authorities.

- barnabas team

5 kidnapped Syrian Christians released by Islamists, others still held

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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Syrian refugeesSyria, October 23, 2014: A church leader and four Christian women who were among around 21 believers kidnapped in north-west Syria earlier this month have been released by Islamist militants.

The four women were freed by Islamists from the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra Front on 8 October after being held for three days. Hanna Jallouf, the captured church leader, was released on the following day.

Conflicting reports have emerged as to whether or not the other kidnapped Christians, who are thought to include children, are still being held.

The freed Christians do not appear to have been harmed. According to a senior church leader from Aleppo, the Islamists “did not ask the women who were released any questions”.

Since his release, Hanna Jallouf has been placed under house arrest in the village of Knayeh. Local sources told reporters that the church leader’s house arrest was ordered by an Islamic court.

The Christians were captured by the rebels in Knayeh on the night of Sunday 5 October. The village has been held by Islamist militants since 2013, initially by the extremely brutal group known as Islamic State and subsequently by the al-Nusra Front.

Many other Christians in Syria have been kidnapped since the start of the conflict in 2011.

The whereabouts of two Syrian archbishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boutros Yazigi, who were kidnapped in April 2013, remains unknown.

- barnabas team

Muslims who believe ‘Allah’ exclusive to Islam are ‘confused’, says scholar

October 22, 2014 by admin  
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Praying to AllahMalaysia, October 17, 2014: Indonesian scholar Ulil Abshar Abdalla has waded into Malaysia’s controversial “Allah” edict, saying Muslims who believe the word is exclusive to Islam were “confused” and noted that the Arabic term predates Islam.

Ulil, who was denied entry into Malaysia earlier this month for allegedly opposing its Islamic stand, said Muslims did not have a monopoly of the word “Allah” as it was a general term to refer to God.

Malaysia has declared “Allah” is exclusively for use only by Muslims, who make up the majority of the country’s 30 million population.

“The term ‘Allah’ comes from two words which are ‘Al’ ‘and ‘Ilah’ which means God. If we mention the word ‘Allah’, it is translated as God. The people of Mecca also used the word ‘Allah’ before Islam came,” he said in a recent telephone interview with The Malaysian Insider.

Ulil said it was wrong for people to claim that Muslims alone could use the word “Allah” as it had been in use among the Arabs during the pre-Islamic era.

“If Muslims now feel that the word ‘Allah’ belongs to them alone, I think that is incorrect. The Arabs before Islam also used the word ‘Allah’. (Those who hold the) view that Allah belongs to Muslims are confused.”

Ulil’s view of the “Allah” controversy echoes that of Muslim scholars and clerics, both locally and worldwide, who have criticized the ban of the use of the word among non-Muslims here.

Even the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, had said many Muslims said the court ruling undermined the credibility of Islam, in a reference to the Federal Court decision that the word “Allah” cannot be used in the Catholic publication, the Herald, on grounds it was not an integral part of Christianity.

Earlier this month, evangelical denomination Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) obtained leave from the Court of Appeal to seek a declaration that the word “Allah” could be used in Christian publications.

A three-man Court of Appeal bench, chaired by Datuk Rohana Yusof, said the Federal Court held that the September 14 finding that “Allah was not an integral part of Christianity” was a mere passing remark.

Among the groups which have defended “Allah” as exclusive to Muslims is Malay rights group Perkasa, which, along with Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), were described by Ulil as being similar to Indonesia’s hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

But, he said, unlike Isma and Perkasa, FPI was open to criticism.

“Fortunately in Indonesia, we have a more open system that has encouraged people to criticize,” he said. “Indonesia opens its doors for all parties to discuss among one another.”

Earlier Thursday, Ulil addressed an audience of 100 at the 3rd International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia via Skype.

He spoke on the dangers of labeling Muslims from different schools of thought as “kafir” (infidels) or “murtad” (apostates).

According to minister in charge of religion Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Ulil was denied entry into Malaysia because his teachings contradicted the Shafie school of thought, to which Malaysia subscribes.

The government’s decision to deny Ulil entry was met with criticism from Malaysian Muslim groups such as the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) chief Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who said it was an insult to their intelligence.

Former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim called the government “fundamentalist” and said the episode was just the latest event that showed how extremist Malaysia had become.

While Ulil has been blacklisted, no action has been taken against Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who had called for bibles to be burned last year for containing the word “Allah”.

Politicians from both sides of the divide have called for Ibrahim’s conviction under the Sedition Act 1948.

- the malaysian insider

Africa, Cameroon: Boko Haram attacks Christians again

October 18, 2014 by admin  
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Boko HaramAfrica, October 09, 2014: At least nine Christians have been killed by Boko Haram militants as the Islamist group, which has killed thousands of people in Nigeria, has been targeting villages in neighbouring Cameroon.

A Barnabas Fund partner reported in mid-September that the Islamist militants have been attacking believers in raids on villages near Cameroon’s northern border. There have also been reports of forced conversions on pain of death.

In Tourou village, Moskata village and other surrounding villages, one church and five Christian homes have been burned down. Two other churches have been looted or vandalised and eight have been forced to close because of the security situation.

The attacks have displaced thousands of people and are crippling the area’s infrastructure. Several primary and secondary schools have been closed, and teachers are finding it difficult to return to their posts.

The militants use several methods to spy on a village before attacking. “They often use friendships and visits,” reported a Barnabas partner. “Sometimes they employ guides at night to carry out their work.” Boko Haram militants from Nigeria have been guided to the villages by Cameroonians who have joined the group or who support its Islamist aims.

Although law enforcement officials are active in the area, they are few in number and are failing to maintain security.

Like the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram has declared a caliphate – an Islamic state under the rule of a single ruler or caliph – in areas it has violently seized in Nigeria. Many Christians fleeing violence in Nigeria have escaped to Cameroon, where they are seeing their safe haven become the latest setting for Boko Haram’s violence.

- barnabas team

Iraq: Terror group inadvertently creates Gospel curiousity

October 15, 2014 by admin  
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IraqIraq, October 13, 2014: Working in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region day and night to help meet the needs of people displaced by the threats and violence of the terror group Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul and other areas, members of an Iraqi ministry team recently came into contact with a colonel from the Kurdish forces battling ISIS.

The colonel was serving as a division commander of the Peshmerga, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s armed forces, which have helped to slow the incursion of ISIS in its brutal push to establish a caliphate imposing a strict version of Sunni Islam. With the aid of U.S. airstrikes, the Peshmerga have also slowly retaken some territory. They are helping to secure the Kurdish capital of Erbil, where the ministry team assisted by Christian Aid Mission is supplying displaced people with food, clothing, beds, and medicine.

The colonel had a few questions for the team members: What was the reason for offering all this aid? What was the motivation, what was the source of it?

“We spoke with him explicitly, explaining everything to him, saying that Christ taught us to love and express our love to the people in a practical way,” said the team director, who informed the officer that all relief items had been donated or purchased locally.

The Peshmerga colonel, whose name is withheld for security reasons, was quick to respond.

“You see the Arabs around you in the Gulf states, which claim to be religious Muslims, have not sent us anything but terrorists,” he told the ministry team members. “But you who follow Christ send love and peace and goodness to people every day.”

The conversation continued at length, the ministry team director said.

“After we had a long talk with him about Christ, he bowed and prayed, asking Christ into his life,” the director said. “And he said, ‘Today I am the happiest person! I’ve had the privilege of making this decision,’ and he received a copy of the Bible.”

The colonel’s experience was just one of many taking place in Iraq. In cities of refuge like Erbil for people displaced from their homes in other parts of Iraq, people are turning to Christ at a stunning pace. Tent churches are springing up in the makeshift camps. Under normal circumstances, mission strategies focus on how to proclaim Christ effectively, but the challenge now is keeping pace with the number who would receive Him, the director said.

“The greatest challenge in the ministry right now is not whether these people will accept Christ or not,” he said. “In all our travel to deliver the aid and preach God’s Word, we did not find anyone opposed to or rejecting our message. The challenge is how and when we will reach all those people with the message of salvation in the squares, sidewalks, roads, inside the tents and out, and everywhere.”

Christian Aid Mission’s Middle East director said that as a result of this trend, some church leaders and workers for ministry organizations are remaining in Iraq even as the cruel practices of ISIS–beheading Iraqi children who refuse to deny Christ in Qaroqosh and Western journalists elsewhere–gain greater notoriety.

“I think of workers who stayed behind in Mosul and the surrounding areas because there are so many who are receptive to the gospel,” he said. “They are willing to risk being in an area under the rule of ISIS for the privilege of more and more fruit for Christ.”

Forced to trust God more than they ever have before, these Christians are growing in their relationship with God in ways they had never imagined, he said.

“I respected them before the Arab Spring because they were serving in Islamic areas, but now they are serving more and maturing even more,” he said. ”We need to intercede for these workers. They are all always in danger. They need God’s power to show His love to the thousands of helpless people.”

When Iraqi ministry workers assisted by Christian Aid Mission obtain more funds for food, water, medicine, and other supplies, they have the opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love in a tangible way, he added.

“God has put within the hearts of thousands of Muslims a desire to read His Word,” he said. “We can be the instruments of providing them with New Testaments and audio Bibles.”

- mnn

Barnabas Edit: Murder, mischief and the killing of Alan Henning

October 13, 2014 by admin  
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ISISIraq, October 09,2014: Last week the world received the tragic news of the beheading of kind-hearted British taxi-driver, Alan Henning, who had courageously and sacrificially travelled to Syria with a group of Muslims last December to bring aid to its beleaguered people.  He was almost immediately kidnapped, and nine months later killed by Islamic State, the ruthless Islamist group who used to be known by the more modest title of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The threat to Mr Henning had been flagged up by Islamic State through a video in their habitual way, allowing plenty of time for pleas for mercy to be issued to them from many sources.  One such was a letter published in the British daily newspaper The Independent (17 September 2014) and signed by 119 imams and other leading Muslims in the UK. In this letter, the British Muslim leaders expressed horror and revulsion at the recent murder of another British aid worker, David Haines.  They wrote that the “the senseless kidnapping, murder and now the despicable threats to Mr Henning at the hands of so-called ‘Muslims’ cannot be justified anywhere in the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions).” It is noteworthy, however, that they only quoted one Islamic source text to justify their statement and even that was incomplete, as indicated by the three dots ellipsis inserted part way through:

Whosoever kills a human being . . .  it is as if killing the entire human race; and whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race.

THE EXCLUDED EXCLUSION

This quote comes from the Quran, sura 5, verse 32 (the verse number may be slightly different in different English translations).   The missing words are in fact an exclusion clause, indicating conditions under which the rest of the verse would not apply. In A. Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Quran, the phrase that has been omitted reads “unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land”.

The first cause that could justify killing someone, according to this verse, is apparently if that individual had committed murder.  This seems to be relatively unambiguous and is in line with the “eye for an eye” type of theology found elsewhere in Islam and of course in the Old Testament too. Indeed the verse itself starts by saying that this command was first ordained for the Children of Israel.

What about the second justification for killing?  What does it mean for a person to spread mischief in the land?  This is a fantastically vague phrase in English, using a word that is applied both to children’s pranks and to serious misconduct, so we are not much the wiser if we simply study this one verse on its own.

But the next verse in the Quran gives a good indication of what it meant to the early Muslims:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.  Sura 5, verse 33 (A. Yusuf Ali’s translation)

So the main type of “mischief” envisaged seems to be opposition to Islam and to Muslims, especially armed opposition.  The worst mischief is, as described by the great Muslim scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary on this verse (note 738 in his Quran translation), “treason against the state, combined with treason against Allah, as shown by overt crimes”.  For this, “four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to circumstances, viz., execution, crucifixion, maiming or exile.”

The next verses have more to say about the dreadful fate in the hereafter that awaits those who do not follow Allah.  It is not surprising therefore to learn that some Muslims interpret “mischief in the land” as including secularism, democracy and other non-Islamic values in a land.  Some English translations use the word “corruption” rather than “mischief”, which probably conveys better the idea of dangerous and damaging ideas being promoted in Islamic territory.

Far from being a blanket condemnation of killing per se, when read complete and in context the often quoted words of Quran 5:32 turn out to include a justification for killing certain people.

Alternatively or additionally, Islamic State may hold, as many other Islamists do, that an infidel aid worker coming to Syria was by definition spreading mischief in the land and that he should have converted to Islam. It remains to be seen whether Peter Kassig, who seems to be next in line for execution by Islamic State, will be treated differently from other American and British hostages following his conversion to Islam.

FLASH BACK TO 2005

On 15 July 2005 the very same Quranic verse, abbreviated in an identical way, was quoted in a much heralded joint statement of British Muslim leaders and scholars on following the bomb attacks of 7 July 2005 in London, which killed 52 people.  This raises the question of whether either or both  the July 2005  joint statement and the September 2014 joint statement were designed to reassure the non-Muslim community or to reprimand the militant Muslims.

There can be no doubt that radical Muslims would be conversant with the full text of Quran 5:32 and the partial omission might be interpreted by them as silent acquiescence or even approval from the British Muslim leaders. Extremists would consider murder and mischief to include any UK policies that they deem anti-Islamic, and they will therefore regard their actions as having Quranic and thus divine legitimacy.

MANY OTHER TEXTS TO QUOTE

Even if the verse is interpreted in the way that the British Muslim leaders who wrote to The Independent clearly wish it to be, Islamic State could easily refute the argument by quoting many other Islamic religious texts.  The contradictions within the Islamic source texts have kept Muslim scholars busy for centuries, and there is immense scope for any individual – whether peaceable or belligerent – to find confirmation that Allah approves their chosen behaviour.

- dr patrick sookhdeo

Priest & Christian villagers abducted by Syrian militants

October 9, 2014 by admin  
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al-nusraSyria, October 07, 2014: Militants linked to al-Nusra Front kidnapped a Catholic parish priest and as many as 20 people from a Christian village in Syria on Sunday night.

The priest has been identified as 62-year-old Father Hanna Jallouf, O.F.M.

“Let us pray for him and for the other victims of this tragic and senseless war,” the Custody of the Holy Land said on its website.

The Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees Franciscan activity in the region, said the priest was kidnapped with several men from the Christian village of Qunaya on the night of Oct. 5-6.

Qunaya is located in Syria’s Idlib province, 29 miles west of Idlib, and 75 miles northwest of Hamah.

“We are not able to say where Father Hanna and his parishioners are now and, at this time, we have no possibility of contact with him or his captors,” the Custody said.

Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M, vicar apostolic of Aleppo, told Fides that about 20 persons had been kidnapped, including “young people, both boys and girls,” and that the village monastery had been looted.

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, told Agence France Press that 20 villagers had been kidnapped along with the priest, a Syrian who has worked in the village for 12 years.

The Franciscan nuns at the convent in Qunaya have taken refuge in neighboring houses. Before the Syrian civil war began, they ran the village’s youth center, kindergarten, and clinic.

Fr. Pizzaballa said the militants accused the kidnap victims of collaborating with the government of  president Bashar al-Assad, a claim that the Custodian denied.

One source told Agence France Press that the rebels were angry with Fr. Jallouf because he refused to give them olives harvested from trees on the convent’s land.

A Syrian activist reported that al-Nusra Front had been trying to take control of some Franciscan properties in the Qunaya, resulting in Fr. Jallouf making a complaint to a religious court.

The Franciscans have been present in Syria for 800 years, and established a presence in Qunaya in 1878.

The kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian religious in the Syrian civil war.

In April, Fr. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., was murdered in Homs as he cared for the fewer than 30 Christians who remained in the city which had been blockaded by the Syrian regime for nearly two years. A Dutchman, he had worked in Syria since 1967, was involved in interreligious dialogue, and had built a spirituality center which housed some 40 children with mental disabilities.

In December 2013, a group of Greek Orthodox nuns as well as women from their convent’s orphanage were abducted by al-Nusra Front in Ma’loula, 35 miles north of Damascus. They were returned, unharmed, in March.

In July 2013, Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, S.J., was abducted from Raqqa, a city controlled by the Islamic State. He had served the people of Syria for more than 30 years, and had been exiled by the regime in 2012 after criticizing Assad.

While in Rome in September 2012, Fr. Dall’Oglio spoke to CNA with hope for Syria’s future. Though officially exiled, he soon returned to minister in rebel-held areas of Syria. In October 2013, three months after his kidnapping, he was reported to be alive, but he remains missing.

In April 2013, both the Greek and Syriac Orthodox bishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Yuhanna Ibrahim, were kidnapped. Their driver, Deacon Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, was killed. The bishops remain missing, though it has been rumored that only one of them is still alive.

And in October 2013, seven relief workers from the Red Cross and Red Crescent were abducted. Four were released one day after their capture, but three remain missing.

The Syrian conflict began in March, 2011 when demonstrations sprang up nationwide against Assad’s rule.

In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of more than 191,000 people.

The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

The war has resulted in more than 3 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.

An additional 6.5 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.

- cna

Christians detained by Saudi religious police in raid on private home

October 6, 2014 by admin  
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Saudi-Religious-PoliceSaudi, September 24, 214: The Saudi religious police arrested and detained overnight at least 27 people accused of practising Christianity in a house church.

The Christians were gathered at a home in the Eastern Province city of Khafji when the house was raided by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Those detained on 5 September were expatriates from various Asian nationalities, and some reports suggest that children were arrested as well.

After being held in prison overnight, all but one of those arrested were released the following day, according to International Christian Concern. One individual was detained until 7 September, reportedly because of an issue with his visa. The Saudi authorities also confiscated copies of the Bible and musical instruments.

The house had been placed under surveillance immediately after a citizen told the religious police that his Indian neighbour had converted his home into a Christian church. After witnessing a large number of individuals enter the home, officers called for backup and proceeded to raid the house.

The only religion which is allowed to be practised in public in Saudi Arabia is Islam. No public places of worship for non -Muslims exist. Although expatriate Christians in the country are supposedly permitted to practise their faith in private, they may face harassment and arrest.

- barnabas team

ISIS demands Christian exile: 250 Christian families face persecution or slaughter

October 1, 2014 by admin  
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christian-families-face-persecutionIraq, September 29, 2014: The Islamic group ISIS has given a command to all Christians living in the territory they rule. They demand that the Christians, “evacuate themselves”. They state that after noon Saturday, September 21 “there is nothing left between us and them, but the sword.”

While the command to flee seems straightforward enough, however before they can escape they must first pay a poll tax. A poll tax, however is not a simple sum of money. In fact, in Islam the poll tax is similar to permanent indentured servitude or slavery. When subjected to a poll tax one must dress in a particular manner so to be easily identified from everyone else – similar to who the Jews were treated during the Nazi reign in Europe.

Christians have been fleeing ISIS controlled Iraq and Syria for weeks now, making it one of the largest exodus in the region’s history.

…While it started, again like it did with the Jews, with demands that Christians be fired from their jobs; then moved toward their homes and businesses being marked it has now finally come to this outright demand for exile and threat of death. Altogether, the Muslim nation has done its best to purge itself of any last remnant of the Christian faith – even by means of slaughter.

Human Rights Watch said the Islamic State ‘seems intent on wiping out all traces of minority groups from areas it now controls in Iraq.’

While most Christians have fled, sources also state that there are some who simply cannot leave. The last information received states that there are around 250 Christian families left behind unable to leave who face persecution or slaughter.

We at the World Council of Independent Christian Churches ask that you join us in praying for these families and all others facing persecution today from the evil fascist ISIS regime. We ask that you might stand with us to support them and make their plight known throughout the world.

Unlike the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews – these horrors are not something that happened in the history books – it is a horror that is happening this very minute and this very week. Please pray with us for those who are sleeping in fear tonight and who may be killed alongside their family for the beliefs we all share.

- persecution.in

Large protest outside Madison Square Garden ask Modi to end repression of minorities; erosion of civil liberties

September 30, 2014 by admin  
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ProtestNew York City, September 29, 2014: They came in large numbers, represented different faiths and ideological persuasions, and from across the United States. Protesters outside the Madison Square Garden event on Sunday in New York City, came to stand up for seclarism, and to convey some firm and simple demands to visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under the banner of “Alliance for Justice and Accountability.”

The Alliance, a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, attracted a large and spirited group of Indian Americans with one thing in common: they were demanding justice and accountability in the case of Mr. Modi, and an end to repression of minorities and crony capitalism in India.

“The protests have demonstrated the rejection of a leader who represents a hateful and divisive agenda, ” said Robindra Deb, a key AJA organizer of protest on September 28. “We represent the 70% of Indians that did not vote for Mr. Modi,” added Mr. Deb.

AJA protesters were required by law to share protest space with all other groups protesting at MSG. “While we share human rights concerns, AJA does not endorse separatist calls by other groups protesting outside of MSG. These groups were not part of the Alliance” said Shaik Ubaid, a spokesperson for the Alliance.

The first 100 days of Mr. Modi’s tenure as PM have shown to the world the grave dangers posed by the Hindu nationalist ideology to pluralism and the rule of law. Since the national elections that brought Modi’s party to power, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh alone has witnessed over 600 incidents against the Muslim minority . Mr. Modi has imposed severe restrictions on civil society institutions including world-renowned organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace, and is using India’s Intelligence Bureau to tarnish reputed NGOs in India and the diaspora as “anti-national groups.”

Placards could be seen in the large crowd, demanding that Mr. Modi himself be brought to justice and demanding an end to the sectarian agenda of the Hindutva ideology he espouses. Protesters also expressed determination that they would not let the victims of the Gujarat pogroms of 2002, or the subsequent extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions in Gujarat be forgotten. The anti-conversion agenda espoused by Modi’s party has now spiraled into major polarization campaigns led by Hindu nationalist militias to restrict the religious freedoms of minority communities.

Mr. Modi was banned from entering the US by the State Department, under the International Religious Freedom Act for his “egregious violations of religious freedom.” With his election to the post of Prime Minister, the US decided to lift the travel ban, an exemption often given to heads of state.

ProtestProtesters also referred to the report released by The Ghadar Alliance (a constituent of AJA) that evaluated Mr. Modi’s first 100 days in office. The meticulously researched report details the ways in which the new government has increased repression of minorities through brazen violations of human rights and religious freedom, dismantled democratic protections, while increasing corporate giveaways.

“The protests have sent a clear message. The so-called ‘welcome’ given to Mr. Modi by the Indian diaspora is far from being uniform,” said Sonia Joseph, an organizer with SASI in NYC. “On the contrary, a large section of the diaspora has decided its time to stand up and be counted among those who will defend secularism and pluralism in India against the onslaught of Hindutva.” she further added.

“Economic development on the graveyard of human rights and rule of law can never go right” said Parchi Patankar, another spokesperson for the Alliance.

The majority of protesters came through chartered buses from New Jersey, Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia.

- tcn

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