12/20/2017, 20.57
INDIA
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Hindu fundamentalists against Christmas in India

by Nirmala Carvalho

A Kerala clergyman was beaten up for the "forced conversion" of a Hindu family. Nationalists troll political leaders who participate in charity events. Seven Pentecostal Christians were released in Uttar Pradesh, but their case is still pending.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Anti-Christian and anti-Christmas persecution continues in India.

A Protestant church was attacked in Kerala and a clergyman beaten up on charges of forced conversions. In Maharashtra, local political leaders from the state’s ruling party were trolled on social media. In Uttar Pradesh, the authorities released on bail a number of Pentecostal Christians allowing them to celebrate the birth of Christ with their family.

On Monday, unknown attackers broke into the Home Mission Society Church in Kuttamala, about 35 km east of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the State of Kerala. The congregation is part of the Church of South India, the largest Protestant denomination in southern India.

The attackers ransacked the site, breaking up the furniture, the sound system and liturgical objects. The perpetrators have not yet been identified, but the police have begun their inquiry.

The sacking of the church is connected to another episode of violence that occurred a few days earlier. On 14 December, Rev Shine P Lawrence was attacked in Amboori, about three kilometres from his church.

After singing Christmas carols, the clergyman was taking a child home. Some witnesses noted that Hindu extremists targeted him because the boy and his family had converted to Christianity from Hinduism.

Because of his injuries, the reverend has had to go for treatment at the Neyyattinkara district hospital. In the complaint he filed, he said that he was beaten because of conversion.

Christians were also attacked by religious extremists elsewhere in the country during Advent. At Satna, Madhya Pradesh, 30 seminarians and two priests were held hostage for several hours a few days ago because they sang Christmas carols.

The car of two priests who had come to the police station holding their confreres was set on fire. Speaking to AsiaNews, the rector of the seminary condemned "the atrocities committed against Christian missionaries and the intimidation of religious minorities."

Hindu fundamentalism in India does not only affect Christians. In Mumbai, Maharashtra, Ashish Shelar, head of the local branch of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was trolled on social media for promoting a Christmas event.

He was accused of "betraying the cardinal values" and supporting "conversions" after he tweeted an invitation to his 90,000 followers.

The protectors of nationalism also trolled Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, for attending a charity event to collect toys to give to poor children for Christmas.

Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh, Amal Pal Singh, a judge with the Court of Additional Session in Mathura, released on bail seven Pentecostal Christians arrested two weeks ago on charges of offending the religious sentiment of Hindus.

C Michael, national coordinator of the United Christian Forum (UCF) and of the Minority Affairs of All India Catholic Union (AICU), said that the members of the family, relatives and the community received this news of bail as a Christmas that arrived a week early.

The Christian leader said that their lawyer presented a bail order before the magistrate that ordered their detention. A surety bond of 50,000 rupees (US$ 780) was deposited for each.

“Once all the procedures are completed they will be released. Most probably, either this evening or tomorrow morning, they may be able to join back their families,” the lawyer said. However, “the judge has not freed them of charges. The hearing on charges may come up sometime in January 2018.”

The seven Pentecostals had been invited to pray by a resident of a village, who asked for their blessings to heal a sick relative. But local members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu paramilitary group, and the Bajrang Dal, the youth organisation of right-wing extremist Hindu group Vishva Hindu Parishad, went to the house, where they push around and beat up their victims.

 “I am happy that the rule of law has been upheld by the Honourable Judge,” said a satisfied Pramod Singh, a lawyer who is president of the Christian Legal Association. The magistrate rejected “the frivolous and false accusations by some political ideologues seeking to restrict the fundamental rights of individuals to express their beliefs.”

For his part, UCP president Michael Williams said, “We have requested the SSP of Mathura to provide protection to all those granted bail today. My prayer is that in this month of Christmas may there be peace and harmony among all communities.”

“I thank all for their prayers and encouragement who stood by together at this time,” he added. “It is time to set aside things that divide us and come together for the proper growth of our great country.”

“This order must cause fellow citizens to understand and respect the constitutional freedoms of each citizen.  False allegations against members of any community for the sake of political mileage are just not acceptable.”

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