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PRESS RELEASE
India's Christians set aside Sunday, Sept. 7, for prayer and fasting
Courtesy of Barb Gauthier
07-Sep-2008
I heard this morning that the India Missions Association has set aside today, Sept. 7, 2008, as a day of prayer and fasting. The religious tensions inside India are extremely high. Fundamentalist Hindus are singling out Christians for extreme harassment. Note the treatment of nuns in a report also included below.

Dear All, The India Missions Association and a number of Protestant and Catholic churches have asked that this Sunday be set aside to pray for the Christians in northern India, who are being persecuted by Hindu extremists. Churches, homes and schools have been torched. Several Christians and one Hindu have been killed and many are now living in the jungle or make-shift refugee camps. Pray for God's protection and for the faithful witness of all those who "have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26). and are in this moment "suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41). May they, like Paul and John, rejoice "because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41). - Barbara

India Missions Association Announces

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER & FASTING

On Sunday, the 7th September 2008 for ‘The Suffering Christians in Orissa’

PRAYER REQUESTS

+ Pray for the rebuilding of houses, churches and mission centers burnt in the violence
+ Pray for the bereaved families who have lost their near & dear ones
+ Pray for the thousands of Christians who live either in the jungle or relief camps
+ Pray that God would minister, console and encourage all and remove their fears
+ Pray for a movement of God in withdrawing the ‘Hate Campaigns’ against Christians
+ Pray for the peace to be restored immediately in all places and levels
+ Pray for the 51 different IMA member missions that are working in Orissa. Some of the most affected missions are HVM, IEA, IEHC, IGOSA, ICCC, AGSM, RHS, OFU, C&SM, AJI, FMPB, NMS, IMS, IEM, NPMI, NLFI, NF and many oth­ers. The churches of all denominations and levels have been affected greatly by this violence.

Hindus accuse nuns of 'forced conversions:

Yesterday, September 5 - the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta - four sisters of Mother Teresa were attacked by about 20 Bajrang Dal activists at the Durgh train station in Chhattisgarh, a state in central India. The Hindu radicals forced them off the train, and then handed them over to police officers while chanting anti-Christian slogans.

The Hindu fundamentalists accused the sisters - Sr Mamta, the mother superior, Sr Ignacio, Sr Josephina, and Sr Laborius - of the "kidnapping and forced conversion" of four children between one and two years old, whom the religious were taking from their home in Raipur to the Shishu Bhava charity center in Bhopal. The activists followed the women to the police station, "insulting them and chanting slogans against the Christians".

The sisters presented all of the identification documents for the children and their travel permit, in addition to other documentation brought later by the religious from the house in Bilaspur. In spite of this documentation, the children were taken to be housed temporarily at the government hospital in Durg, while the documents and identity papers presented by the sisters are verified by the judicial authorities.

"The mob threatened to beat us up, but I was not afraid", Sr Mamta tells AsiaNews. Her only concern is for the children, who require care and assistance, "but most of all our love. We love these darlings like our own, that is our pain".... She emphasizes that this new episode of "persecution" is an integral part of the missionary task of "witnessing to Christ" entrusted to them by the founder of the order.

The Indian Catholic Church has taken a tough stance, through the head of the bishops' conference, who denounces the climate of hostility and terror toward Christians. "I am absolutely shocked", says Cardinal Osvaldo Gracias, "at the baseless and fabricated allegations of conversion levied against the Missionary of Charity". The prelate stresses that he knew "Mother Teresa personally, and I was also involved with her mission, and I can vouch for the fact that never has any baby or anyone been converted by the Missionaries of Charity, either in the remotest rural area or in any part of the world".

In condemning this new attack against the Christians, Cardinal Gracias accuses those who "are instrumental in poisoning minds" and foster interconfessional confrontation: "This is a climate of intolerance [against Christians] that is growing in the country, and it will have serious drastic long-term effects on Indian society".

This new episode of violence against the sisters confirms the growing climate of hostility toward Christians, in the crosshairs of the Hindu fundamentalists who are seeking by every means to eliminate their mission and their charitable works in the country. The tribals, the Dalits - untouchables - and the many orphaned children find in Christianity and in the activity of the religious a way to improve their condition and bring dignity to their lives. By attacking the Christians, the Hindu fundamentalists are above all harming India and its people, anchoring it in a feudal and backward past, based on the hierarchy determined by caste and by slavery.

A brief history and background of the religious violence in northern India:

Most of the more than 1 billion residents of India are Hindu, with Christians accounting for only 2.3% of the population. But since the early 1980s there’s been a rise of Hindu fundamentalists — many of whom are members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political party that rules Orissa — and violence has broken out, the priests said. “They work in the name of Hindutwa, which is an ideology that means there should be one culture and one ideology in India, and that should be the BJP,” said Tigga.

Hard-line Hindus accuse Christian missionaries of using education, health care and other services to convert low-caste Hindus. “It’s not an issue of becoming Christians, it’s an issue of insecurity by the BJP because as missionaries we work with the poor to give them dignity and human rights,” said Ezhakunnel. “They become closer to us and may eventually accept religion, but that takes time. It’s not the first step. They get education and health care and social and political development and start demanding their rights, and that makes them a threat,” said Tigga.

While all Hindus are not alike, so too, some Christian groups may try more aggressive conversion tactics, and that makes the issue more complex, said Santos. The latest violence erupted in late August after a Hindu leader was murdered in a tribal area where he was leading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus from Christianity, according to news reports the priests received. The killing sparked more violent clashes, and about 26 people have died in the unrest that followed, said Tigga, quoting from information he’s received from the archbishop of Bhubaneswar.

Tigga said 50 places of worship have been destroyed, 15 churches and convents destroyed and more than 4,000 homes of Christians in the villages in the Kandhamal district burned.... “It’s getting worse,” said Tigga, who had brushes with violence while he was working near Orissa. “It’s dangerous to work there,” he said.