Panaji, April 02, 2014: The Goa Church is a significant player in Goa’s socio-political space with its Catholic population pegged at nearly 27 percent.
The Goa BJP is using Catholic legislators in the party as a “mask” to openly criticize the Church in Goa for hyping the secularism versus communalism debate ahead of general elections, the NCP Tuesday alleged.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) vice president Trajano D’Mello also told a press conference here that the drug mafia had shifted its allegiance to the present government, which was why a legislative committee report on drug trade in Goa was not being adopted by the BJP-led coalition government.
“Why are BJP’s Hindu MLAs not coming forward to criticise the Goa Church for starting a debate on secularism and communalism? Why are only Christian MLAs being used as a mask by the BJP?” D’Mello said, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to start in-fighting within the minority community in Goa.
Goa Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza of the BJP and other Catholic legislators, who are either members of the saffron party or are part of the ruling coalition, have been openly criticising the Church as well as the Roman Catholic priests in Goa for the last one week.
While D’Souza blamed the Church for trying to create a secularism versus communalism divide, Benaulim legislator Caitu Silva accused Catholic priests of supporting the Congress.
“I want to know why the priests do not tell the people two months in advance to support the Congress. Why do they tell us to support the Congress only on the eve of election,” Caitu told reporters Sunday.
The criticism of the Church and one of its social organisations by the ruling Catholic MLAs follows attempts by the former to kindle a secularism versus communalism debate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, much to the displeasure of the BJP, which has insisted on development as the agenda for the general elections.
A circular and a voters’ pledge issued by the Church and its satellite organisations was also obliquely critical of exclusionary and corrupt governance methods adopted by both BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The Goa Church is a significant player in Goa’s socio-political space with its Catholic population pegged at nearly 27 percent.
D’Mello also said the delay by the BJP-led Goa government to act on a crucial legislative committee report on the police-politician drug mafia in Goa, could mean that the drug mafia had switched loyalties to the incumbent government. The report, which was tabled last year, has not been adopted by the government yet.
“When was the report tabled? Why is the government not adopting it? BJP MLAs themselves are on record in the assembly as saying that minor children are slowly being addicted to drugs. Does the government want to encourage this?” D’Mello said.
Incidentally, D’Mello’s NCP is backing Congress candidate Ravi Naik for the North Goa parliamentary seat. Naik and his son Roy find themselves indicted in the very same report for their links to Goa’s drug mafia.
Uganda, April 01, 2014: A young woman in Uganda had to flee from her Muslim family when her father, a sheikh, tried to kill her after finding out about her conversion to Christianity.
Wenene Nuru (23) of Iki-Iki township in Pallisa district gave her life to Christ following a series of events that started with her listening to a Christian-Muslim radio debate about the Sonship of Jesus.
She subsequently had a dream in which she was praying in a church. Wenene then visited a Christian girl, who on 2 March took her to a birthday party, where a pastor spoke about Jesus being born in a person’s heart. “There and then I gave my life to Christ,” Wenene told Morning Star News.
Knowing that her father was likely to react angrily, she kept her new faith a secret. But the following day, a neighbour who had attended the same party told Wenene’s father about her conversion.
On the evening of 4 March, he attacked her. She recounted the ordeal:
My father began beating me with clubs and blows, and I started screaming in great pain. While I was down on the floor bleeding, my father went looking for a knife to kill me. A neighbour … helped me escape.
After receiving treatment in hospital for a week, Wenene was taken in by a church elder in Pallisa.
It can be extremely costly, even dangerous, for a Muslim to leave Islam (apostasy), in some contexts more than others. Tensions have been rising in Uganda over religious conversions.
On Christmas Eve 2011, Pastor Umar Mulinde, a convert from Islam, had acid thrown in his face by Islamic extremists. Doctors have since been able to save his sight and hearing, and he has undergone multiple facial reconstruction operations. Barnabas Fund has assisted with his medical costs.
Uganda is around 75% Christian, but Muslims form a majority in some areas, and Christians there live in a hostile context. Two church buildings, one in Budaka, the other in Butaleja, both predominantly Muslim districts, were burnt down by Islamic extremists in February. They also torched the home of Bishop James Kinyewa on 2 March. He said:
They were shouting “Allahu Akhbar” (“Allah is great”). Now the same militant group is hunting for my life. My family and I are now hiding ourselves, homeless and waiting for God’s intervention.
- morning star news
Lao, March 28, 2013: HRWLRF activists denounce that Christians were under considerable pressures to abandon their faith . For the authorities, they left the village of their “own free will”. Now they have rebuilt a small community in a new, safer area, with full freedom of worship.
Six Lao Christian families victims of constant pressure have had to leave their native Buddhist majority village in the south of the country; residents wanted to force them to abandon their religion and convert.
This is denounced by Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (Hrwlrf), an NGO based in the United States, according to which members of the minority were “threatened with eviction”, if the “did not renounce their faith”. However according to officials of the province of Savannakhet, the families left Natahall village, Phin district, of their “own free will” to “avoid confrontation” with the other inhabitants.
In early March (but the story only recently emerged) some Christian families fled the village of Natahall, building new housing in an area about ten kilometers distant. In the past, the group had converted to Christianity, and this choice, over time, created growing discontent and impatience between the Buddhist majority and the group, in particular, village elders and heads. This year was marked by a continuing escalation of tension, which resulted in the decision to flee.
According to the Hrwlrf report , members of the Christian minority were the victims of persecution and abuse. In December, the leaders of Natahall village, with the support of the police, issued an eviction order against them, but the group resisted and refused, at first, to flee or convert. The authorities “acted to ban the Christian faith from the village and expel the inhabitants who continued to profess Christianity”.
The last episode was on 11 March when, during a public meeting community leaders offended the Christians, calling them followers of a “foreign American religion” and forcing them to convert to Buddhism. The families decided to abandon their homes, starting a new life in a safer area .
Since the Communists came to power in 1975, and the resulting expulsion of foreign missionaries, the Christian minority in Laos has been under strict controls, its right to worship limited.
In a country of six million people, most people (67 per cent) are Buddhist. Christians make up about 2 per cent of the total, 0.7 per cent Catholic.
Protestant communities have suffered the most from religious persecution, a situation AsiaNews documented in the past. Cases include peasants deprived of food for their faith and clergymen arrested by the authorities.
Since April 2011, tighter controls have been imposed, following a violent crackdown against protests led by some groups within the country’s Hmong ethnic minority.
New Delhi, March 28, 2014: With general elections round the corner, the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) has called upon the Christians to elect leaders supporting the concerns of the community, including Scheduled Caste status and equal rights for dalit Christians at par with those from the Hindu community.
The forum has requested all member churches to call up on political leaders at their respective constituencies to organize gatherings and make meaningful efforts towards this end.
The NUCF is a forum of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
In a statement, the forum said that anti-conversion laws, enforced in some states, are used to intimidate and harass religious minorities, particularly Christians and there should be religious freedom in the country.
It noted that religious minorities run educational institutions even in the remotest villages as their primary purpose is to educate the poor and the marginalised.
“Minority rights should be upheld in its spirit and the government should continue its support to minority private schools and colleges,” it said.
The forum said that in the process of development and industrialisation, the tribal communities undergo displacement, losing their culture, identity and their livelihood.
It said that policies should be evolved to stop the mass displacement of tribes and protection be given for their livelihoods.
The forum underlined the need to strengthen anti-corruption laws and passage of Prevention of Targeted Communal Violence Bill in the Parliament. It also asked for reservation of 33 per cent seats in Parliament for women.
Mumbai, March 21, 2014: The high number of prison inmates from socio-religious minorities “is due to the attitude of some states, which target the most vulnerable sections of society,” said Arun Ferreira, an activist for Christian Dalits and tribals, who spoke to AsiaNews following the release of the 2012 Prison Statistics report by the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB).
According to the report, Muslims, who are 13.4 per cent of India’s population, represented 28.02 per cent of the prison population in 2012. Christians are in the same situation. Nationally, they are 2.3 per cent of the population but they constitute 6 per cent of the prison population.
For the activist, “We get these percentages because Dalits, Tribals, Muslims and Christians are often the victims of loopholes and sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Ferreira should know. He personally experience what it means to be behind bars. Accused of being a Naxalite (Maoist) guerrilla, he was arrested in May 2007 in Nagpur (Maharashtra) and indicted on 11 charges, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
During his detention, he was tortured and interrogated twice after being treated with a “truth serum,” a psychoactive drug that is now illegal. After four years and eight months in jail, he was released on bail.
“My experience in prison is that every state tends to target minorities, showing some of its specific features,” Ferreira told AsiaNews.
“In states where Hinduism is strong, like Orissa (where the effects of anti-Christian pogroms still linger), many innocent Christians have been arrested and thrown in prison, falsely accused of being Naxalites. However, the same thing happened in Gujarat after the 2002 riots.”
“In Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which are also under strong Hindu influence, the authorities have overtly attacked the Christian community, treating its members as the ‘criminal’ element in the Dalit and Tribal groups.”
All too often, Christians fall into the clutches of the justice system on false evidence because they back causes that embarrass the authorities.
“In Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, some tribal Christians were arrested on false accusations of terrorism,” Ferreira noted, “when in fact the problem was their struggle against large-scale mining projects that required huge tracts of land to be expropriated.”
The same is true for Tamil Nadu, where Christians have been charged with ‘subversion’ for opposing the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
“Sadly, neither the government nor the NCRB recognise political prisoners as a separate category, so there are no statistics about it.”
Pune, March 20, 2014: Father Salvador Pinto, parish priest at City church, Nana Peth, said the district election office is yet to contact them.
Pune district will not change its polling date of April 17, Maundy Thursday, but arrangements will be made to ensure church services go undisturbed, District Collector Saurabh Rao said.
Christians fear that some Church-run schools in the premises of the churches selected as polling stations and their activities would affect the solemn services of Maundy Thursday that commemorates the establishment of Eucharist beginning the three-day long Easter services.
Six churches, including Church of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception (City church), St Joseph’s church, Ghorpuri, St Joseph’s church, Khadki, St Francis de sales church, Shaanwadi, St Anthony’s church at Model Colony and St Sebastian church at Daund, will be affected as schools on their premises will be polling centers.
Diago Almeida, president of the Catholic Association of Poona, has threatened to boycott the general elections if the date is not changed, while the Bishop of Poona, Rt Rev Thomas Dabre, has sent letters challenging the date that clashes with Maundy Thursday to the EC and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
“We have not got any reply yet. We do not think it is fair to hold elections on a day, which is most holy for us. This is the day when Jesus Christ called his disciples, washed their feet, sat with them for supper and gave the command of service. This is the core of the observance of our faith,” said Father Malcolm Sequeira, Vicar General, Diocese of Poona.
Rao said that his team has visited the schools and alternative arrangements will be made, such as putting up special barricades and separate entrance and exits. He said he spoke to the state Election Commissioner and it has been decided to make special arrangements which will not inconvenience the community or the polling process. “We will request the Bishop if they can postpone the mass timings to 6.30 pm or 7 pm,” Rao said.
Father Salvador Pinto, parish priest at City church, Nana Peth, said the district election office is yet to contact them. “There has been an extension in the timings of polling from 5 pm to 6 pm. How can we conduct the mass when there will be no time to prepare the seating arrangements?” he said, adding that they will take up the matter with the state EC again.
- indian express
Odisha, March 03, 2014: A group of radicals threaten a catechist and his father in the village of Gudrikia. The area suffered major damages in the 2008anti-Christian pogrom. Since then, the local Christian minority has been living in fear.
A group of Hindu fundamentalists yesterday blocked the construction of a Catholic chapel in the village of Gudrikia, in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar (Kandhamal District, Orissa), this according to a local lawyer, Ramakant Parichha, who spoke about it to AsiaNews.
The incident renewed fears and tensions in the village, which was badly hit in theanti-Christian pogroms that shook Orissa in 2008.
The incident apparently occurred at around nine o’clock pm, when the attackers threatened a number of Catholics and carried away the stones they had brought to start the work.
According to local sources, the extremist group threatened Bhagawan Pradhan, 44, a catechist in the village, and his father Danardan Pradhan, 63.
The two Catholics said that they are “frightened” but still plan to file as soon as possible a complaint about what had happened.
During the 2008 anti-Christian pogrom, the village church and the shrine were destroyed.
On that occasion, Mathew Nayak, a young clergyman in the (Anglican) Church of North India who had come to visit his family, was burnt alive in the church where he had taken refuge.
Another local Christian, Lalita Digal, was taken away and murdered, her body never found.
Since then, Catholics and other Christians have been denied free access to local land and forest.
Hindu fundamentalists now farm the land where the church once stood. In November 2013, some Christian leaders went to the police to complain about it, but the latter refused to register their case.
In addition, each year radical groups organise Ram Navami celebrations (honouring the birth of Rama) near the shrine’s ruins.
Months after the lecturer, T J Joseph was attacked in 2010, the Catholic management of Newman College in Thodupuzha had suspended him from service and sources within the family said his wife Salomy was dejected by the Church’s reluctance to reinstate him as he was the sole breadwinner of the family.
Her body was found hanging on Wednesday.
Despite demands from the state government, civil society and the university that Joseph be reinstated, the Church management had taken no action.
After being removed from service, Joseph had said the management’s move had pained him more than the attack he had faced from alleged Popular Front of India activists.
Sources said Salomy took the extreme step after she realized that Joseph would not be reinstated before March 31, the day he was to retire from service. In that case, Joseph would naturally be denied any salary or benefit.
Advocate Ramkumar on Wednesday said the management had tried to delay Joseph’s reinstatement until his retirement and that a criminal case should be filed against the diocese of Kothamangalam and the college management.
- indian express
Congress leaders in Kerala say party’s legislative member V T Balaram would be censored for his adverse comments against a Catholic Bishop in Kerala.
Balaram, MLA from Thrithala in Palakkad district, had made a sharp FaceBook posting against Idukki Bishop Mathew Anikkuzhikattil who had come down heavily on the section of the Congress leadership Saturday.
The party’s displeasure about Balaram should be seen against its struggle to win the seats in the upcoming general elections.
The issue started when Congress candidate for Idukki, Dean Kuriakose, called on the Bishop Saturday seeking his blessings. During the meeting, the Bishop said political leaders visit him when elections are round the corner but forget about their commitments when in power.
When his reaction was sought on the controversy, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters that he did not think Balaram would have made such a comment.
Chandy, however, added that Balaram would be censured if he had made adverse remarks against the bishop.
The issue also figured at the KPCC campaign committee meeting held here with the state party chief V M Sudheeran also expressing displeasure at the comment made by Balaram.
The bishop’s ire against politicians assumes significance in the context of the Congress’s decision not to field sitting MP P T Thomas, who had incurred the displeasure of the church over the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats.
Thomas had accused the church of indulging in politics and targetting him personally.
It was apparently in view of the fear of incurring the church’s wrath that Kuriakose was made the candidate for Idukki replacing Thomas.
Some dalit, Christian and Muslim groups have extended support to AIADMK in the upcoming general elections in Tamil Nadu.
Leaders of these parties called on Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa at her residence on March 7 and expressed their solidarity with her party.
Those who had called on Jayalalithaa include All India Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam president N Sethuraman, Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam president GM Sridhar Vandaiyar, Tamizhaga Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam president P John Pandiyan, Puratchi Bharatham leader Poovai M Jaganmurthi M Prakash, Bishop and Synod of the Independent Churches of India.
They came along with the senior office-bearers of their parties and organizations and conveyed their support to the AIADMK.
INL national president Mohammed Sulaiman, party’s State president M Basheer Ahmed, All India Desiya League president SJ Inayathuallah, Tamil Maanila Muslim League leader S Sheik Dawood, Indian Union Quaid E Milleth leader MG Dawood Miakhan and Indian Tauheed Jamaat leader SM Pakhar also called on Jayalalithaa and expressed their support for the AIADMK.
Already, Madurai Adheenam Arunagirinatha Swamigal and leaders of many other parties have extended support to the AIADMK.
- new indian express