Recent Incidents of Persecution

Andhra Pradesh, India, December 23 (CDN) — Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Dec. 20 seriously injured a pastor and beat his wife in Decarakonda, Nalgonda. At about 7:30 p.m., Pastor R. Timothy, his wife Nirmala and their child were on their way to a neighboring village when the Hindu extremists stopped them and attacked them, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians. They hit the pastor on his head with an iron rod and beat his wife on her left leg. The pastor was bleeding profusely when passersby saw him and called an ambulance. He received hospital treatment, including five stitches on his head. A local Christian leader filed a police complaint against the extremists at Nalgonda town police station, and a First Information Report was registered against the assailants. No arrest had been made at press time.

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 20 arrested eight Christians after Hindu extremists filed a complaint of forceful conversion against them in Madugere, Tumkur. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that police arrested pastors N. Nagesh, Joshua Abraham and one identified only as Jilani, along with five other church members, as they were heading toward a nearby area after Sunday worship. The Christians were accused of forceful conversion and charged under Sections 295-A and 153 of the Indian Penal Code for “malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class” and “giving provocation with intent to create riot” respectively, and they were locked up in Madugere jail. With local Christian leaders’ intervention, they were released on bail on Dec 21.

Karnataka – Police in Chikmagalur district on Dec. 19 disrupted a Christmas service of Christ Fellowship Church and falsely accused a pastor of forcible conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that officials of Lingadahalli police station, acting on a false complaint from the Hindu extremists of the Bajrang Dal, barged into the house church and verbally abused the 80 Christians present, asking them if they were being given promises of money to convert. Police then told Pastor S. David to accompany them to the police station. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that officers questioned David for nearly 90 minutes. They sent him away after warning him of possible attacks from extremists if he conducted such large services at the house church.

Karnataka – Police arrested a Christian after Hindu extremists filed a baseless complaint against him of forceful conversion on Dec. 15 in Mandhya. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported a person identified only as Srinivas beat B. Bhaskar of a Brethren Assemblies fellowship after finding him praying for a sick friend in a hospital; Srinivas later alerted an area leader and member of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh. As is customary in India, police arrested the victim instead of the aggressor; Bhaskar was arrested under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.” He was sent to Mandhya jail and was released on bail on Dec. 17 with local Christian leaders’ intervention.

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 14 arrested a pastor and his wife after Hindu nationalist extremists beat them and filed a false complaint of forcible conversion in K.R. Nagara-Mysore. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at 10:30 a.m. nearly 15 extremists from the Bajrang Dal stormed into a house church, verbally abused Pastor Herurer Manjunath, slapped him repeatedly and accused him without basis of forcible conversion. They also slapped his wife, Saraswati. The intolerant Hindus broke two chairs and tore up some Christian literature in an attack that lasted for nearly 45 minutes. After they left, Manjunath went to the local police station to file a complaint, but instead officers charged Manjunath and Saraswati under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that both were not released on bail until Dec. 18.

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 14 detained Christians in Kodagu district after falsely accusing them of converting people in local tribal villages. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Thimmappa Rammana invited independent Pastor Benedict Sunil to his rented home in Ammathi village, about eight kilometers (five miles) from Gonikoppal, Virajpet Taluk, for a service of around 100 Christians. At around 11:30 a.m., Ammathi police arrived, insulting those present and falsely accusing the pastor of forcibly converting local tribal villagers. They questioned many about their faith and inquired whether they had permission from the landlord to conduct such a meeting. A local GCIC coordinator told Compass that police took Rammana, Sunil and 11 other Christians to the police station for further questioning, later transferring them to the Virajpet Rural police station where they were detained for a few hours. Sub-Inspector Santosh Kumar of the Ammathi Police outpost told Compass that he had received complaints from villagers that conversion activities were taking place at Rammana’s house – as if conversion were illegal in India – so he had sent officers to bring them to police outposts and warn them of the complaints. He added that, as a preventive measure to avoid future clashes, he advised Rammana against conducting prayer meetings in his house.

Karnataka – On Dec. 12 in Bangalore, police detained a pastor and choir members of City St. Paul Methodist Church after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh accused them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists arriving in Jeeps and on motorbikes stopped the choir members on their way home from visiting a church member’s home. They verbally abused the Christians. An area police inspector reached the site and took the pastor and choir members to the police station for questioning. Only with local Christian leaders’ intervention were the Christians released at 4 a.m.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists accused a pastor of forceful conversion and beat him on Dec. 9 in Kistapuram, Mahabubnagar, according to the All Indian Christian Council. Accusing Pastor Ninanapu Moses of forceful conversion, members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal at about 8 p.m. attacked a prayer meeting led by Pastor Moses, verbally abused the Christians and beat them. The pastor received hospital treatment for internal injuries. Local Christian leaders filed a police complaint, but no arrests had been made at press time.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Dec. 9 accused Christians of forceful conversion in Chikballapur. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 2 p.m. the extremists stormed into the prayer meeting held at the home of a pastor identified only as Joseph. In attendance was Pastor Franklin Prabakar and church members from Grace Gospel Church. At about 1:30 p.m., the extremists stopped the prayer meeting, threatened the Christians and accused them of forceful conversion. Alerted by the extremists, Chikbalapur Kasaba police arrived at the spot and took eight Christians to a local police station. The Christians were released at 11 p.m. later that night.

Haryana – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on Dec. 7 accused the operator of an orphanage of trying to forcefully convert street children to Christianity by providing shelter and food in Faridabad, Haryana, sources said. The extremists stormed the charitable trust orphanage home run by B.K. Mishra at about 7 p.m. and severely beat him, smashed his car and pressured the police to arrest him. Black and blue from the beating, Mishra sustained injuries on his face, back and legs, the sources said. Police refused to register a case against the attackers, and the home was closed down due to the extremists’ pressure.

Karnataka – Local Hindu extremists on Dec. 6 accused Pastor C. John Christopher, a leader of Grace Gospel Church Saythagiri in Anekal, near Bangalore, of forceful conversion, and Anekal police issued him a warning. The police barged into the church’s Sunday worship, searched the premises and took the pastor to the police station. Officers asked the pastor to submit his license for conducting worship meetings, as well as church property documents, and the pastor submitted the required papers. No case was filed against the pastor, but police warned him not to conduct future Christian meetings.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists accused a Christian teacher of forceful conversion and disrupted her class on Dec. 2 in Mandhya. The Global Council of Indian Christian reported that Hindu extremists entered the classroom of Gangothri Vadovasthan at Chikanahalli Government Primary School at about 2 p.m., falsely accused her of trying to forcibly convert the students to Christianity and verbally abused her in front of them. They also insulted the school authority for appointing a Christian teacher. The Hindu extremists filed a complaint against the Christian at Harakeri police station. School administrators forced Vadovasthan to take leave from the school due to the extremists’ pressure.

Andhra Pradesh – Police on Nov. 24 detained a Christian worker from Australia, Paul Jemison, on baseless charges of “forceful conversion” in Utnur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at 7:30 p.m. Jemison had gone to the Industrial Training Institute campus for the screening of a film for about 200 students, after which he began telling about Christ to students. Nearly 20 Hindu nationalist extremists arrived and accused him of “forceful conversion,” speaking derogatorily of his foreign origin. They forced Jemison to a police station, where they filed the complaint of “forceful conversions to Christianity” against him. A representative of the Adilabad Division of the All India Christian Council said Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sriram Nayak had complained to police after being alerted by District Tribal Welfare Officer Dasarath Nayak. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that Jemison was detained in the station until late that night and then released. Additionally, extremists warned a local pastor identified only as Premanandam, as well as his daughter, not to invite any more foreign workers to the town.

Report from Compass Direct News 

Lutheran denomination splitting after gay pastor vote

The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination is splitting following a controversial decision at its August conference to allow noncelibate homosexuals to serve as pastors, reports Baptist Press.

It will take months to determine how truly significant the change to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) is, but a conservative group of Lutherans calling themselves Lutheran CORE already is calling for the more orthodox churches to leave the denomination. Lutheran CORE leaders voted Nov. 18 to form a new Lutheran body, and churches nationwide are now taking sides in the dispute. It takes a two-thirds vote for a church to leave the ELCA and join Lutheran CORE, which has formed a committee that will draft a proposal for how the new church body will function. The committee’s recommendations will be released in February and voted on in August.

The ELCA claims 4.8 million members and 10,500 churches.

"Many ELCA members and congregations have said that they want to sever ties with the ELCA because of the ELCA’s continued movement away from traditional Christian teachings," Lutheran CORE chair Paull Spring said. "The vote on sexuality opened the eyes of many to how far the ELCA has moved from Biblical teaching."

Meeting in Minneapolis in August, delegates to the ELCA’s biennial conference voted 559-451 to allow openly practicing homosexuals to serve as pastors. It became the largest denomination in America with such a policy. The Episcopal Church, a smaller denomination, has a similar stance.

The Minneapolis conference was followed by a meeting of 1,200 Lutheran CORE supporters Sept. 25-26 in Fishers, Ind., where delegates to that meeting voted to authorize the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee to "initiate conversations among the congregations" toward a possible "reconfiguration" of Lutherans. That steering committee voted Nov. 18 to begin the process of forming a new denomination. The word "CORE" is an acronym for "Coalition for Renewal."

Neither side is predicting how many churches will leave or stay. In Erskine, Minn., 80 percent of Rodnes Lutheran Church members voted Oct. 18 to leave the ELCA, the website reported. But in Waseca, Minn., Nov. 22, 77 percent of Grace Lutheran Church members voted to stay, the Waseca County News newspaper reported.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, believes the issue of homosexuality eventually will divide all mainline denominations.

"You either approve gay and lesbian sexually active pastors and clergy or you don’t," he told Baptist Press. "Opinion is divided enough in the mainline denominations that if you approve it, then you’re going to have conservatives leaving and if you don’t, then you’re going to have liberals leaving. I believe that this issue will end up reconfiguring the entire mainline Protestant landscape. It is in the process of dividing the Episcopalians. It’s dividing now the Lutherans. It’s in the process of dividing the Presbyterians, and it eventually will end up dividing the Methodists."

Land asked, rhetorically, referencing the ELCA’s namesake, "Does anyone have any doubt what Martin Luther believed about this? The question is whether you’re going to be under the authority of Scripture or not. And, clearly, there are large chunks of mainline Protestantism that have decided they are going to stand in judgment of Scripture."

Report from the Christian Telegraph 


Recent Incidents of Persecution

Madhya Pradesh, July 31 (Compass Direct News) – As if conversion were illegal in India, nearly 50 Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal activists on Sunday (July 26) stormed the compound of the Assembly of God Bethel Church in Habibganj, Bhopal, accusing Christians of converting people. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that pastor K.A. George and a guest pastor were about to baptize a woman and her daughter when the extremists entered the church premises shouting “Jai Shri Ram [Victory to Lord Ram].” The Indian Express reported that Superintendent of Police R.S. Mishra stated that Hindu extremists Devendra Rawat, Kamlesh Thakur and others charged that conversions were taking place; church secretary Abraham George filed a counter-complaint that the VHP and Bajrang Dal disrupted the Sunday service. The VHP and Bajrang Dal extremists also accused the church of “allurement” in the conversion of the woman’s daughter, but a GCIC regional coordinator told Compass that the woman and her daughter have been worshipping there for many years and stated that they desired to receive baptism of their own free will. At press time, police were investigating the complaints of both the parties.

Madhya Pradesh – On Sunday (July 26) about 40 Hindu extremists from the Dharam Sena (Hindu Religious Army) attacked the Sneh Sadan (Home of Love) Institute run by Christians in Japalpur. A source reported that at about 12:30 a.m. the Hindu extremists shouting anti-Christian slogans tried to enter the institute for the handicapped run by the Methodist Church. Prior to the attack, the extremists filed a police complaint against the home manager, Lily Paul, for alleged forceful conversion. The police reached the premises before the extremists did major harm. Police took written statements about the institute from Paul and promised to carry out an inquiry. “Sneh Sadan is the abode of about 40 special people, and the incident has left us shaken,” Paul said. Police provided protection for the home.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists on Sunday (July 26) attacked a prayer meeting of St. Thomas Evangelical Church in Hassan, beat the pastor and destroyed church furniture. The extremists filed a complaint against pastor Basanth Kumar of forceful conversion and handed the church’s Bibles and hymnbooks to police, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians. Officers registered a case of forceful conversion against the pastor and released him on the condition that he would present himself whenever summoned. The next day at about 6 p.m., the police summoned the pastor and arrested him for “abetment of a thing.” He was released on bail on Tuesday (July 28) with the help of local Christian leaders.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu medical students at Gandhi Medical College under the influence of Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu council) on July 23 beat a professor and filed a complaint with the college principal accusing three faculty members of forceful conversion in Musheerabad. A source reported that the extremists had the Hindu medical students submit a letter to the principal charging that Prof. Anthony David, Dr. Sudhakar and Dr. Uday Kumar were forcibly converting people to Christianity. The principal called for a meeting, and about 100 Hindu extremists gathered at the college. The principal informed the extremists that the college would form a committee to investigate, and the panel reported that no religious conversions took place on the college premises. The extremists crowded around Sudharkar and Kumar, angrily questioning them, and after they left two unidentified extremists followed the third professor, David, to his room and beat him. The professor sustained minor injuries. Tension prevails on the college campus, a source said.

Tamil Nadu – Hindu extremists on July 22 assaulted a Christian media team and accused them of forceful conversion in Erode. The All India Christian Council reported that the intolerant Hindus attacked 10 members of the Young Men’s Evangelical Fellowship, South Division, while they were distributing gospel tracts. They seized and burned all literature, damaged their vehicle, kicked and beat the Christians and took them to a Hindu temple, where they were forced to lie down and pay homage to idols. An unidentified local Christian alerted the police, who came to the site and freed the Christians. One of the team members received hospital treatment, and the rest were provided first aid.

Karnataka – The Karnataka High Court on July 20 continued a stay order against demolition of the Indian Apostle Church (IAC) building in Channagiri, Davangere district, according to The Hindu. Area Christians had challenged the demolition order and charged that the district administration had taken several anti-Christian measures, including ordering the church demolition. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that previously police had disrupted the church’s Sunday worship service and closed the IAC, claiming that it had opened with an illegal license; officers issued arrest warrants against two pastors and seven Christians in Ajihalli village, Davanagere. Earlier, on May 29, the village head along with Hindu extremists had disrupted a prayer meeting led by pastor Prem Prasanth as the church building was being dedicated. The pastor told them he had obtained permission from the village head, but the chief denied issuing a license to the Christians. On June 25, the village head sent a notice to Pastor Prasanth cancelling the license for the church building. On July 7, police disrupted the worship service and closed the church. Later, when Pastor Prasanth and other Christians went to Channagiri police station to inform officials that they had obtained the license from the village head, officers filed false charges against them for rioting and voluntarily causing hurt.

Haryana – Hindu extremists from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on July 19 attacked a children’s educational center in Ambala, beating Christian staff members and ordering everyone to vacate the premises. A source reported that BJP Hindu extremists attacked pastor Daniel Kamaraj and his staff, who are running a free educational program under Children Compassion Ministry. The five Christian staff members sustained minor injuries. The intolerant Hindus accused pastor Kamaraj of forceful conversion and forced him to leave. The pastor went to the police station the next day, where officers told him to vacate the building as soon as possible. At press time the learning center had been relocated to the pastor’s home.

Andhra Pradesh – Police arrested a Christian woman identified only as Hemavathy on charges of “proselytization” on July 19 in Tirupati. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the arrests were made on the basis of the complaint filed by a medical officer from Shri Venkateswara Ayurvedic College-Hospital, who accused her of distributing religious pamphlets on hospital premises. Area leaders from the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party staged a protest in front of the police station demanding action be taken against Hemavathy. The Hindu reported that Circle Inspector V. Subhannna said action would be taken in accordance with Government Order No.747, which prohibits “proselytization in and around Hindu temples and institutions.” The Christian woman was released on bail on July 21 at 6 p.m.

Karnataka – A mob of about 20 Hindu hardliners on July 19 attacked a prayer meeting and accused Christians of forceful conversion in Pillingiri, Shimago. At about 7 p.m. a pastor identified only as Chinnadurai was leading a prayer meeting at the home of a member of his Pentecostal Mission church when the intolerant Hindus stormed in and threatened and assaulted the Christians, reported the Evangelical Fellowship of India. The Hindu extremists filed a police complaint of forceful conversion and pressured officers to arrest the Christians. Police arrested the Christians for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class” and unlawful assembly. The Christians were released the next day.

Andhra Pradesh – Police on July 19 arrested Pastor Devadass of Manna Church after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh beat him and accused him of distributing gospel tracts on Hindu temple premises. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that about 10 extremists assaulted the pastor as he was returning from a Sunday worship meeting. They dragged him to a police station and accused him of distributing gospel tracts at the Rajarajeshwar Hindu temple in Vemulawada. Officers detained him for a couple of hours, releasing him on the condition that he return to the station the next day, when they took a written statement from him. On July 24 police arrested the pastor in his home for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.” The pastor remained in Karimnagar district jail at press time.

Manipur – Village leaders in Huikap this month tried to decree that no corpses of Christians will be allowed to be buried in the village. The All Indian Christian Council reported that the unconstitutional order came after a 2-year-old boy from a Christian family drowned in a village pond on July 19; the body of the boy was buried in a church plot, but the next day anti-Christian villagers forced the father of the child and the pastor of a church to disinter it. Village authorities later agreed to let the boy’s body remain at the graveyard on the condition that the corpses of minor children be buried according to Hindu custom. This order was also unconstitutional, and Northeast Support Centre and Helpline spokesman Madhu Chandra told Compass that area police officials had issued an order to the Hindu village leaders to refrain from enforcing it. At press time calm had returned to the area.

Karnataka – Police on July 18 arrested four Christian workers in Bangalore after Hindu extremists dragged them out of a house, beat them mercilessly and charged them with forceful conversion in Bangalore. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that Hindu extremists attacked Madan Kumar, Amar Singh, Munendra Kollar and James Wesley while they were praying in a Christian’s home. The Christians were reported to have previously distributed gospel tracts and pamphlets. At 8:30 p.m. the Christians were taken to Gnanabharathi police station and arrested for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class” and actions contrary to national integration. They were released on bail the next day.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists beat a pastor and accused him and his wife of forceful conversion on July 10 in Chitradurga. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that at about 10 a.m. the Hindu extremists, led by H.R. Kallesh, stormed the tea stall of a woman identified only as Sharada, wife of a pastor identified only as Nagaraj, and questioned her about her faith. The extremists verbally abused her, threatened to burn her alive and asked her how much money her family had received to convert to Christianity. They took her to a police station to file charges against her, also accusing her and her husband of forceful conversion. On hearing about the incident, the pastor rushed to the police station, where the extremists repeatedly struck him upon his arrival while officers stood by watching, according to EFI. The pastor also filed a complaint against the attackers. No arrests had been made at press time.

Karnataka – Police issued arrest warrants against pastor Godwin Nicholas and Charles Ravi Kumar on the basis of a complaint filed by Hindu extremists against them of forceful conversion and bribery in Hassan. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the Hindu extremist Sangh Parivar filed a police complaint on July 10 in Arsikere police station falsely accusing Pastor Nicholas and Ravi Kumar of forceful conversion and offering people money to convert to Christianity. A First Information Report was registered against the Christians and arrest warrants were issued, but they were granted bail on July 13.

Gujarat – Suspected Hindu extremists on July 6 attacked a Christian school in Dahod. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that authorities of St. Stephen High School requested some female students with henna designs on their arms to wash them off in accordance with school rules. The parents of one unidentified student reported the matter to the Hindu extremists. The following day, the extremists barged into the school and asked authorities why the girls were asked to wash off the henna designs. Unable to listen in their fury, they started beating the principal and desecrated Christian statues at the school. EFI reported that the school remained closed the following day as a sign of protest against the incident, and area Christians wore black badges. The school filed a police complaint, but no arrests had been made at press time.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists from the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (All India Student’s Council), formed under the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, on July 1 attacked St. Agnes School in Mahaboobnagar. Reacting to the punishment for disturbing class of a Hindu student identified only as Keerthi, the Hindu extremists along with the student’s brother attacked the Christian school shouting, “Jai shri Ram [Praise Lord Ram].” They destroyed furniture and other fixtures and threatened to harm school authorities. Both parties filed a police complaint. No arrests had been made at press time.

Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal (Youth Wing of the VHP) put up three signboards in Bastar in July sternly warning Christians not to preach in the area. The signboards, placed at three different sites, read, “Preaching about Jesus Christ is strictly prohibited in the area.” The signs include pictures of Hindu deities along with names of the extremists groups. Most of the churches in Bastar, which borders the troubled district of Kandhamal, Orissa state, were closed down as the Hindu extremists continually threatened tribal Christians there.

Report from Compass Direct News 


Some prominent evangelicals who are backing the “hate crimes” bill awaiting a vote in the Senate are making a concerted effort to get evangelicals to abandon their traditionally conservative voting habits, report Jim Brown and Jody Brown, OneNewsNow.

The homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign held a “Clergy Call” rally last week on Capitol Hill to urge passage of legislation that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law. HRC distributed statements from some influential evangelicals who support the bill, including Mercer University Christian ethicist David Gushee and Florida mega-church pastor Joel Hunter.

Pastor Hunter says he “strongly endorse[s]” S. 909* because it “protects both the rights of conservative religious people to voice passionately their interpretations of their scriptures and protects their fellow citizens from physical attack.”

Mark Tooley, president of the Washington-based Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), says such statements from figures like Hunter and Gushee are finding fertile ground — particularly among a new, younger generation of evangelicals.

“Clearly [these clergy] are a part of an evangelical left crowd who are strategically attempting to shift evangelicals away from conservative social issues to liberal economic and foreign policy [issues] — and in this case, in the case of hate crimes legislation, social issues as well,” he states.

In a statement released on Monday, Tooley argues that increasingly, the evangelical left is “indistinguishable from the secular left.”

“Christians of all traditions are called to transform the culture — not conform to it,” he says in reference to Romans 12:2. “But the evangelical left repeats arguments from The New York Times’ editorial page and seems to think such cultural conformity will win applause. History shows that accommodationist Christians are ultimately irrelevant Christians.”

The IRD president believes it is the responsibility of conservative evangelicals to reach out to young evangelicals who are identifying with the religious left, and point out to them that certain Christian traditions merit their support because they contain “intellectual and spiritual substance.”

Also participating in the HRC “Clergy Call” were liberal evangelist Tony Campolo and United Methodist trans-gendered pastor Drew Phoenix.

Report from the Christian Telegraph


Residents flee Swat Valley where fight rages with Islamist insurgents.

ISTANBUL, May 13 (Compass Direct News) – Pakistani Christians in Swat Valley are caught between the Taliban and Pakistan’s military as it assaults the stronghold where sharia (Islamic law) rules.

Nearly 15,000 troops have been deployed in the picturesque Swat Valley in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and neighboring Afghanistan. Troops came after months of peace negotiations collapsed between the Taliban Islamist insurgents who have imposed sharia in the valley and the central government last month. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have fled the war-ravaged area for fear of a full military assault.

On May 10 (Sunday) the army ordered residents to flee Swat Valley during a lull in fighting. Aid groups estimate that as many as 1.3 million could be displaced by the fighting, according to The Guardian.

Christians are particularly vulnerable in the mass exodus. Working as poor day laborers, they occupy the lowest rung of the social ladder and have little money for costly transport or to stock up on resources before fleeing.

“Christians are poor, and like in any conflict, the prices of transportation and commodities skyrocket,” said Ashar Dean, assistant director of communication of the Church of Pakistan Peshawar diocese. “Some had to go on foot to flee the valley.”

The Taliban had ratcheted up pressure on Christians, other religious minorities and liberal Muslims in Swat to live according to Islamic fundamentalist norms. They were forced to grow beards and don Islamic attire for fear of their safety in an attempt to blend in with Muslim residents of Swat.

Many Christians also fled for insufficient funds to pay the jizye, a poll tax under sharia paid by non-Muslims for protection if they decline to convert to Islam.

In February the Pakistani government ceded control of Swat valley to the Taliban, who imposed their version of sharia and established clerical rule over the legal system. But Christians had seen warning signs long before the formal sharia announcement. In the past year the Taliban burned or bombed more than 200 girls’ schools in Swat, including one that housed a Catholic church.

Religious minorities live in a precarious situation in the Muslim-dominated country. The legal system informally discriminates against non-Muslims, and in recent years Christian villages have been ransacked by Muslim mobs incited by dubious reports that a Quran had been desecrated.

The Taliban’s attempts to spread out from Swat into neighboring areas, however, have increased feelings of insecurity among the nation’s 3 million Christians.

“The threat of the Taliban is a hanging sword above the necks of Christians,” said Sohail Johnson, chief coordinator of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan. “Christians could be in the situation where they would have to accept Islam or die.”

Swat Christians Flee

Approximately 40-60 Christian families lived in Swat as congregants at the Church of Pakistan. But since Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on April 8 announced a military mission into Swat, nearly all have fled to nearby districts.

Most are in refugee housing in Mardan in the NWFP. They stay in a technical school owned by the Church of Pakistan, a congregation composed of Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans

The school dismissed its students for the school year early to make room for the refugees. Opening its doors to the displaced Christians was necessary due to government inaction toward religious minorities, said Yousaf Benjamin of the National Commission for Justice and Peace.

“The government is giving protection to Muslims, but the Christians are through waiting for their services,” he said.

Similar measures are being employed in hundreds of schools. To provide for the massive influx in refugees, the Pakistan government ended the school year early in districts near Swat and opened the schools to refugees for temporary housing. Teachers are also assisting in the humanitarian relief effort, Benjamin said.

Some Christians have complained of facing discrimination in refugee camps. Government relief workers forbade Christians, Hindus and Sikhs from setting up tents or eating with Muslim refugees, according to online news site Christian Today.

But ultimately Christians will not be able to return to Swat Valley unless the Taliban threat is completely removed, Christian relief groups said. Their possessions and property will otherwise always be under threat.

“Christians will face terrible persecution if the Taliban is not controlled by the government,” Johnson said. “They will easily attack churches, schools and other Christian institutions.”

Rehman Malik, the interior minister, said Pakistan’s military operation would continue until the last Taliban fighter had been ousted. Since April 8, government troops have killed an estimated 751 militants.

There are believed to be 5,000 Taliban militants in Swat Valley. The government hopes to minimize civilian casualties through precision air strikes and delivering emergency humanitarian aid.

Pakistan’s government has come under harsh national and international criticism for its negotiations with the Taliban and ceding control of Swat. They fear the Taliban could seize control of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Report from Compass Direct News


Pastor threatened with death, historic Methodist sanctuary ransacked, during Holy Week.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 16 (Compass Direct News) – Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota and ransacking a 150-year-old Methodist church building in the capital.

On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The pastor said his wife, at home alone with their two children, phoned him immediately but by the time he returned, the men had left.

Half an hour later, Kumar said, the leader of the group phoned him and again threatened to kill him if he did not leave the village by the following morning. Later that night the group leader returned to the house and ordered the pastor to come out, shouting, “I didn’t bring my gun tonight because if I had it with me, I would use it!”

“My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.”

Police soon arrived on the scene and arrested the instigator but released him the following day.

Subsequently the attacker gathered Buddhist monks and other villagers together and asked them to sign a petition against the church, Kumar said. Protestors then warned the pastor’s landlord that they would destroy the house if he did not evict the pastor’s family by the end of the month.

Fearing violence, Kumara said he canceled Good Friday and Easter Sunday services and evacuated his children to a safer location.


Methodist Building Ransacked

Earlier, on Palm Sunday (April 5), another group of men broke into the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo after congregants concluded an Easter procession.

The gang entered through the back door and windows of the building late that night; witnesses said they saw them load goods into a white van parked outside the church early the next morning.

“They removed everything, including valuable musical instruments, a computer, Bibles, hymn books and all the church records,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

The church had no known enemies and enjoyed a good relationship with other villagers, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the break-in appeared to be more than a simple robbery.

“My desk was completely cleaned out,” he said. “They took important documents with details of parishioners such as baptism and marriage records, which are of no value to thieves. They even took what was in my wastepaper basket.”

Local police agreed that robbery was an unlikely motive and that opponents from outside the area were the most likely culprits. Investigations were continuing at press time.

Finally, anti-Christian mobs in Vakarai, eastern Batticaloa district, intimidated church members gathering for several worship services during Holy Week.

“What can we do?” pastor Kanagalingam Muraleetharan told Compass. “The authorities and the police say we have the right to worship, but the reality is that people are threatened.”

The Easter incidents are the latest in a long series of attacks against churches and Christian individuals in recent years, many of them instigated by Buddhist monks who decry the growth of Christianity in the country.

Members of Sri Lanka’s Parliament may soon enact an anti-conversion bill designed to restrict religious conversions. Human rights organizations and Christian groups have criticized the vague terminology of the legislation that, if passed, may invite misapplication against religious activity.

The draft “Bill for the Prohibition of Forcible Conversions” was referred to a consultative committee of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in February for further deliberation, prior to a final reading and vote. (See, “Parliament to Vote on Anti-Conversion Laws,” Jan. 26.)

According to the most recent government census, Protestant Christians number less than 1 percent of the total population in Sri Lanka, but they remain the primary target of religiously motivated violence and intimidation.

Report from Compass News Direct


Israeli jets have attacked the Gaza Strip for a fourth day, with raids on a number of Hamas government buildings and security installations, reports Jeremy Reynalds, correspondent for ASSIST News Service.

The BBC reported that according to medical officials, air strikes early on Tuesday killed at least 10 people.

Reports from international media are saying that between 320 and 375 Palestinians have died since Saturday. The BBC said four Israelis have been killed by rockets from Gaza.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate ceasefire and condemned both Israel and Hamas.

The BBC said while recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself from militant rocket attacks, he condemned its “excessive use of force.”

He added, “The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly.”

The UN said at least 62 of the Palestinians killed were women and children.


Christians Caught in Bombings

According to a news release from Open Doors Ministry, the small Christian community in Gaza is drawing strength from its faith in God.

Open Doors said in a statement that according to reliable reports, the Gaza Baptist Church building is still standing but has had some of its windows shattered by the bombings. A police station across from the church building was bombed, resulting in about 40 deaths.

Many of the hospitals, already lacking basic medicines and medical equipment, are overwhelmed with the casualties and are often without power.

According to Open Doors, some Christian families left Gaza for Bethlehem over the holidays and with a closed border are now separated from their loved ones.

Open Doors said in its news release that earlier this year one believer in Gaza stated, “Seventy percent of the Christians want to leave Gaza because they are very afraid. But we love Gaza. It’s our country, we have roots here, our homes are here. We will not know anyone if we go somewhere else.”

Open Doors USA President and CEO Carl Moeller said in the news release, “Even before the recent end to the ceasefire (December 19) and the bombings, Christians in Gaza, (whom) we estimate to be around 3,000, have been living in fear due to threats from Islamic militants.”

Moeller added, “We are still grieving after the murder of Christian bookstore manager Rami Ayyad over a year ago. Please join me in prayer for the plight of the Christians in Gaza in the wake of this new outbreak of violence. Pray for peace and a new ceasefire to be put into place quickly. Pray that Christian families will be reunited. Pray that the Gaza Baptist Church building will be spared from the bombs.”


Methodists Call on International Community to Help End Gaza Conflict

Meanwhile, as Israel’s defense minister declared “war to the bitter end” against Hamas on Monday, the Methodist Church urged the international community to put pressure on Israel and Gaza to bring an end to the violence.

A story by Christian Today’s Jennifer Gold reported that the Methodist Church’s Public Issues Policy Advisor, Steve Hucklesby said, “The devastating death toll resulting from Israeli air strikes has shocked many. Rather than improving security, this action by Israel could compound conflict in the region. It is also likely to make it more difficult to bring regional powers together in a search for solutions.”

He added, “Both Hamas and Israel must respond to the UN Security Council call for an immediate end to all military operations.”

Christian Today reported that the Methodist Church is calling on the EU, US and UN to intensify pressure on Hamas to refrain from violence.

“At this time of year when the focus of Christians around the world is on the Holy Land we pray for courageous leadership in the cause of peace,” Christian Today reported Hucklesby said.

Hucklesby warned that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is likely to get worse with the latest crisis.

“Before the recent outbreaks of violence, Gaza was already suffering a dire humanitarian situation. (This) has not been helped by Israel’s blockade and restrictions on relief supplies,” Christian Today reported he said. “Now food, fuel and medical supplies are needed urgently.”

The head of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, also called on for an immediate halt to “the violence against Gaza.”

“The deaths and suffering of the last three days are dreadful and shameful and will achieve nothing but more deaths and suffering,” Christian Today reported he said in a statement on Monday.

Report from the Christian Telegraph


On 15 October, a declaration unexpectedly appeared on the webpage of the Russian Ministry of Justice listing 56 religious organisations scheduled for liquidation. These stem from a number of major world faiths and included Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, the Catholic “Caritas” as well as small, dissident Orthodox groups and one organisation belonging to the Kiev Orthodox Patriarchate, reports William Yoder, Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Yet at least 35 of the 56 listed qualify as Protestant organizations. These include the humanitarian “World Vision” and “Youth with a Mission”. At least six Baptist organizations are listed. These include one established by the Russian branch of the “Billy Graham Evangelistic Association” and three regional districts of the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” (RUECB). Apparently; several entire churches are up for liquidation, including the “Union of Churches of Presbyterian Christians” and the “Assemblies of God”. Even the 26-congregation-strong “Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians” is scheduled for elimination. Its Bishop, businessman Alexander Semchenko, remains a member of the presti gious “Council for Cooperation with Religious Organisations at the Seat of the Russian President”.

Pastor Vitaly Vlasenko, the RUECB’s Director for External Church Relations, warns against undue alarm, for the declaration states only that the Justice Department “plans to file liquidation claims” against the 56. “This is a wake-up call,” the Pastor adds. “This is certainly not the last word on the matter.” He reports that thousands of religious organisa tions were registered during the 1990s, and that a number of them are now virtually defunct. Many have failed to submit the annual reports on activities and finance demanded by Russian law. In some cases, registered and factual activities no longer match. In one instance, a Baptist organization registered in Moscow is active only in Siberia.

Attorney Anatoly Pchelintsev from Moscow’s „Slavic Centre for Law and Justice” (SCLC) sees serious injustice in the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate is absent from the list. Due to its overpowering size, the law of averages would demand that a least a few of its organisations find their way onto the list. Yet Protestants, who speak for less than 1% of the Russian population, make up 62% of the total list. He sees no regard for the appropriateness of means, describing liquidation as akin to meting out the death penalty to persons found guilty of jaywalking. “Such actions fly in the face of official Russian state policy on the freedom of worship and creed.” Pchelin tsev, a seasoned legal veteran, believes the responsible officials are hardly aware of the complicated international ramifications of their own decree and cites the possibility of “chaos and destabilisation in church-state relations”.

In June, the highly-active SCLJ succeeded in getting a decision requiring the liquidation of a 30-member Methodist congregation in Smolensk overturned. Two years ago, it won a Euro pean Court ruling in Strasbourg sentencing the Russian Federation to a fine for having forbidden the work of the Salvation Army. The SCLJ was initially formed in 1993 and took on its present name when it became an affiliate of the Washington/DC-based “American Center for Law and Justice” (ACLJ) in 1998. The head of ACLJ is Jay Sekulow, America’s leading attorney on religious affairs. ACLJ was founded in 1990 by the controver sial Pat Robertson, a Southern Baptist and charismatic. He is probably America’s most prominent television preacher.

The RUECB, Russia’s largest, unified Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups. Its President is Yuri Sipko.

Report from the Christian Telegraph