08/22/2017, 11.48
INDIA
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Pastor beaten in Rajasthan, crosses destroyed in Kerala

by Nirmala Carvalho

Harjot Sethi was attacked while on a rally and suffered numerous injuries. The crosses were demolished at a pilgrimage site. Sajan K George: "It seems that only the majority can enjoy freedom in India."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - A pentecostal pastor was brutally beaten in a village in Rajasthan, while two crosses were destroyed at a pilgrimage site in Kerala. Theese are the latest episodes of violence against the Christians of India, in a crescendo of persecution and discrimination. The two incidents took place in the past few days, while the Universal Church celebrated the Feast of the Assumption.

Speaking to AsiaNews Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (Gcic), complains of " the growing hostilities, for the minuscule pentecostal Christians - we have Constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and religion- Regrettably, with the increasing intolerance, it is being perceived that we are excluded from these rights, and treated as second class citizens. "

The Christian activist reports that Pastor Harjot Sethi, of the Christ Power Ministry Society, was beaten with sticks on August 16, while leading a Gospel retreat in the village of Dabli Rathan. Several dozen people were waiting for the start of the event, when a crowd of Hindu nationalist extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal group descended and encircled them. As soon as the pastor began to speak, they beat him with violence and attacked his wife Arvinderjot Sethi. Sajan K George denies: " These right wing goons 'created a law and order situation, and used violence, even on a woman”. The pastor was urgently transported to the hospital, where doctors found numerous internal bleeding, several wounds on his  head, and a leg fracture.

On August 18, another episode undermined coexistence among religious communities in India. Two crosses were destroyed at the Kurishumala Pilgrim Center, in the Bonnakad forest near Vithura, in Thiruvananthapuram district (Kerala). The forest department has assured that it has no role in demolishing the sacred symbols of Christians. The incident was condemned by the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (Kcbc), the highest ecclesial organ of the Indian state. "The incident - says the press statement - is a threat to religious harmony in the state." Archbishop Soosa Paikam later stated that the government "has the responsibility of identifying the malignant forces behind the act." The crosses belonged to the Latin rite church of Bonacaud and were on top of a hill. Erected in 1956, they attracted pilgrims from all over the area. Last year they were at the center of a dispute when the ancient wooden structures were replaced by others in stone.

Even in this case, Christians suspect that demolition is an act desired by extremist forces. "Right-wing groups - concludes Sajan K George - use violence, making baseless allegations. It would appear, that some freedoms are to be enjoyed only by the majority in Secular India."

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