Can the cricketers banned for ball tampering ever regain their hero status? It’s happened before



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Steve Smith has borne the brunt of the public and media vitriol over Australian cricket’s ball-tampering scandal.
EPA/Muzi Ntombela

Keith Parry, Western Sydney University and Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University

Overnight, Cricket Australia handed out its promised “significant sanctions” for a ball-tampering incident that has engulfed the sport in scandal. Steve Smith and David Warner, the team’s captain and vice-captain, have been banned for 12 months. Cameron Bancroft, who carried out the failed plot, received a nine-month ban.

It was also revealed it was sandpaper, and not “yellow tape and the granules from the rough patches of the wicket” as originally claimed, that Bancroft tried to use to alter the ball’s condition in the Test match between South Africa and Australia.

While the International Cricket Council (ICC) initially suspended Smith for only one Test, all three are now banned from international and domestic (professional) cricket in Australia. Smith and Warner have also had their lucrative Indian Premier League contracts torn up, and some sponsors have already distanced themselves from the players and the sport. But these measures fall short of the lifetime bans some called for.

As captain, Smith has borne the brunt of the public and media vitriol, particularly as he accepted responsibility for what had happened. He may yet be Australian captain again in the future.

But according to Cricket Australia’s investigation, it was Warner who developed the plan and instructed Bancroft – a younger player – to carry it out. Warner also showed a “lack of contrition” and will therefore not be considered for any leadership position in the future.

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Does the punishment fit the crime?

Ball tampering is clearly cheating; it breaks the rules and is against the “spirit of cricket”. But while it has been deemed the “moral equivalent of doping”, there is a lack of consistency in how sanctions are dished out to offenders.




Read more:
Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating


Bans for doping violations are often severe. Players such as Andre Russell have been banned for 12 months for failing to record their whereabouts for drug testing. But, historically, ICC bans for ball tampering have been more lenient: Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi received a two-game ban for biting the ball in an attempt to alter its condition.

Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi’s bite-tampering incident.

However, a harder line has been taken for incidents of match-fixing. Three Pakistan players were banned and jailed for a spot-fixing incident in 2010. South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs received a six-month ban in 2000 for agreeing to fix a match, even though he did not follow through with it.

Lifetime bans are not uncommon in sport generally. Ryan Tandy was banned for life for attempted spot-fixing in a rugby league game. Lance Armstrong was banned from sanctioned Olympic sports for life and had his results voided for his serial doping in cycling. Even figure skating is not immune: Tonya Harding was similarly banned for hindering the prosecution into a vicious attack on a fellow competitor.

It is difficult to compare sanctions across sports. But, when doing so, the inconsistencies are apparent. Boxer Mike Tyson was handed a 15-month ban for biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear; footballer Luis Suarez received an eight-game ban for racially abusing an opponent; fellow footballer Paul Davis only served a nine-match ban for punching and breaking an opponent’s jaw.

In light of these punishments, are nine- and 12-month bans for premeditated cheating and lying reasonable and just?

Cricket Australia has been criticised for the time it took to reach a decision. But it’s essential that due diligence is done and facts are gathered before a sentence is handed down. Without this, decisions are made through the pressure of public shaming, and social media get to cast the final vote on the punishment.

If sporting organisations want players to act morally on field, then they too should be guided by moral behaviour in governing the sport.

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Forgive and forget?

Society is often keen to forgive top athletes when they transgress. When athletes admit their mistakes and ask forgiveness it is usually granted.

Over time, sports fans also tend to forget athletes’ errors and focus solely on their on-field ability. In cricket, for instance, Don Bradman’s role in disputes over pay as a cricket administrator is largely glossed over. Shane Warne’s year-long ban for a doping violation is rarely mentioned.

Drugs cheats are accepted (and sometimes welcomed) back into sport – some even after multiple doping offences.

In many sports, athletes’ chequered pasts are ignored in favour of their on-field ability. It is often the actions that come as a result of their behaviour that are judged, and not the infringement itself.

Athletes frequently transgress, but their subsequent redemption is often woven into the narrative around them. Stories around sporting heroes follow several patterns, but the most recognised is the hero’s journey. The “hero” sets out on a quest but is faced by a crisis or descends into a hellish underworld. They “heroically” overcome these challenges and ultimately return to glory.




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The ConversationIn this instance, Smith, Warner and Bancroft are in a hell of their own making. If they manage to return, and do so triumphantly, then it is likely they will be forgiven – and some may even forget their role in this sorry affair. Only time will tell whether they will again be considered heroic.

Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University and Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The day Australian cricket lost its integrity and a country reacted with shock and anger


Peter Terry, University of Southern Queensland

The public fury that greeted the premeditated ball tampering orchestrated by Australian cricketers Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and other team members in Cape Town suggests the incident is seen as diminishing the personal integrity of every Australian citizen.

As a sport psychologist for more than 30 years, I have seen the best and the worst of athlete behaviour but even I felt personally affronted.

The conspiracy to cheat, casually hatched by the senior playing group over a lunch break, reverberates well beyond cricket and even sport itself.

Not only is the incident seen as tarnishing the baggy green and the legacy of Aussie test cricketers who went before, but more importantly it has removed any vestige of the country’s moral high ground.




Read more:
Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating


No longer can we point the finger. No longer is breaking the rules something committed by others in the cricket world, such as Faf de Plessis and his Lollygate incident and Pakistan’s spot fixing scandal, rather than by us.

Bancroft was contrite in front of the world’s media and clearly willing to take his punishment. Smith’s response to getting caught red-handed was acute embarrassment followed by an affirmation that he remained “the right person for the job” of Australian cricket captain.

Confession time.

The backlash

Their lack of awareness of the tidal wave of criticism that would break once the nation woke up to the news spoke volumes about the culture that pervades this team.

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Condemnation was swift and universal. “Blatant cheating,” said former captain Michael Clarke, clearly incandescent with rage. “A national day of shame,” opined former test batsman Jimmy Maher.

Criticism from abroad has been equally vicious. “This pious team who look down on everyone else … are getting their just desserts,” chimed in England spinner Graeme Swann, accusing the Australian team of longstanding double standards.

Former England captain Mike Atherton, now an erudite sports writer for The Times, headlined that the “stink surrounding hypocritical Australia goes deeper than ball tampering alone”.


The Times/Screenshot

How long before someone raises the spectre of a convict past to explain the fact that national representatives of Australia have been shown to be untrustworthy?

Is the tough but fair image gone?

As England’s sport psychologist in the 1993 Ashes series, I watched at close quarters as an Australian team featuring Border, Boon, Hayden, Healy, Hughes, Taylor, Warne, and the Waugh twins brushed England aside for a 4-1 victory.

They played tough but fair cricket born of a glue-like culture that was as impressive as it was intimidating. They were local blokes made good, revered as the embodiment of values shared by the average Australian.

My experiences in international sport have taught me the double-edged nature of strong team cohesion: a boost to performance but with potential to lead honourable people into questionable moral territory, both on and off the field.

The empirical and anecdotal evidence of a positive relationship between team bonding and sport performance is unequivocal.

The downside of creating a culture of unquestioning mutual support among a group of men desperate to win test matches is that a dual moral code can evolve. This sees them do things in the pursuit of victory that they would not contemplate in the real world.

The ball-tampering attempt was seen as both dumb and unconscionable, given the sheer number of on-ground TV cameras. Yet it provides evidence of a warped moral code, rather than low IQ, on the part of Smith and Co.

“It was worth taking the risk” seems to have been their mantra. Wrong!

It is one of the clearest examples of the pedestal syndrome, whereby prodigiously talented young sportspeople are elevated in society to the point at which they lose sight of the difference between right and wrong.

Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull alluded wistfully to the fact that Australian cricketers are regarded more highly than any politician.




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Smith was feted by the media and the public over the previous 12 months for his brilliant form, labelled the greatest batsman since Bradman. This is undoubtedly the highest pedestal available to the modern cricketer.

But he now appears to believe that the almost sacred rules against ball-tampering apply only tangentially to him and the Australian team.

With just a few remorseful words, delivered with apparent indifference to the magnitude of the act, Smith went from hero to zero faster than the disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson ran his drug-fuelled 100m.

It’s not cricket

“The cricketing gods have spoken loud and clear,” concluded Allan Border, as Australia crumbled to ignominious defeat by 322 runs in Cape Town.

Never has the result of a test match mattered less. The apparent death of Australian integrity, forged through two centuries of nation-building, wartime heroics, and sporting achievement, has been greeted publicly with the early stages of a grief response.

The shock and disbelief has been followed rapidly by white-hot anger that the custodians of values burned deep into the national psyche have betrayed the people of Australia.

What follows is uncertain. The International Cricket Council has meted out its customary slap on the wrist for cheating in the form of a one-match ban, while Cricket Australia has stood down the captain for the final test match of the series.

It has hardly been a draconian punishment so far.

Long road to recovery

Meanwhile, how do parents explain to their children that their heroes are dishonest and can’t be trusted? Will we see an exodus of participants from grassroots cricket?




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Discussion among pundits looking for explanations has already unearthed social injustice, the cult of celebrity, mega salaries, A$10 million homes, first-class travel and inflated entourages as contributing to the moral failings of our national representatives.

The term “that’s just not cricket”, once a condemnation of anything with even a whiff of moral turpitude, is now surely destined to become something of a compliment.

The ConversationIt’s a long road back to respectability for the Australian cricket team, which may have to start with root-and-branch changes to its culture from the top down. As for forgiveness from the Australian public, that may take longer still.

Peter Terry, Professor of Psychology, University of Southern Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating


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In happier times: Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith talk to the media during the victorious Ashes series.
AAP/Darren England

Keith Parry, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Western Sydney University

Australian cricket is engulfed in scandal after TV cameras caught Cameron Bancroft attempting to manipulate the condition of the ball during the team’s third Test match against South Africa. Bancroft and the Australian captain, Steve Smith, subsequently admitted to the offence and the collusion of the player leadership group in the decision to do so.

Altering the condition of the match ball is against the rules of the sport, contrary to “the spirit of cricket”, and deemed to be “unfair”. It is a form of cheating.

What is ball tampering?

Cricket is not only controlled by a set of rules but, according to the sport’s laws, it should also be played “within the spirit of cricket”.

Like most sports, cricket is a self-regulating entity. The national associations and, ultimately, the International Cricket Council (ICC) enforce the laws. That said, cricket remains tied to gentlemanly ideals and the myth of “fair play”.

This “spirit” encourages respect for players and officials while advocating for self-discipline. Significantly, it says the:

… major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains.

Within these rules, law 41.3 identifies changing the condition of the match ball as an offence and “unfair play”. Specifically, law 41.3.2 states:

It is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball.

But why is the condition of the ball so important?

The ability to “swing” a ball is a prized skill in cricket. Altering the condition of one side of the ball can help it to swing, and may provide an advantage to the bowling team.




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Players try regularly try to “rough up” one side of the ball by, for instance, deliberately bouncing it on hard ground or applying sweat or saliva to it in ingenious ways. Such practices are not deemed to be contrary to the laws, even if they may not be within the spirit of cricket. Cricketers can bend the rules but not break them.

However, others have been known to use fingernails to scratch the ball, or have rubbed it on the zip of their trousers. Such measures are against the laws and are punishable under the ICC’s Code of Conduct.

In this case, Smith has been banned for one match and fined his match fee. Bancroft, who was caught with a piece of yellow sticky tape that he was attempting to use to tamper with the ball, has also been fined most of his fee and issued three demerit points.

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Risk and reward

When games are evenly matched, small gains from cheating can be enough to swing the result one way. This has occurred in other sports.

Sport is now a commercial product with large rewards for winning. In addition, when players are representing their country, there may be considerable pressure to win at all costs, particularly when sport plays a prominent role in the country’s national identity.

According to Smith, the Australians “saw this game as such an important game”. Here, the significance of the game and the team’s desire to win are used to justify cheating. The spirit of cricket and “fair play” were given little thought.

In his work on match-fixing, investigative journalist Declan Hill identifies several questions that may be considered when players are contemplating cheating. The importance of the game is a key factor. Prospective cheats will also evaluate whether they can win without cheating and the sanctions they risk if they are caught.

The Australian cricketers believed the game was slipping away from them. They either did not think they would be caught, or were not deterred by the possible sanctions.

Leading by example

In several cases of cheating, it has been senior players that have induced their younger teammates to cheat.

Two former cricket captains, South Africa’s Hansie Cronje and Pakistan’s Salman Butt, both recruited younger, less experienced players in their attempts to manipulate cricket matches. Similarly, Bancroft is at the start of his Test career and appears to have been influenced by others in the team.

Rather than ensuring fair play, Smith contrived to break both the game’s laws and spirit. Worryingly, it was not just Smith and Bancroft, but a group of senior players who were initially involved.

The players will have evaluated whether it was morally right to cheat and decided that winning was more important. While not a “crime” in the traditional sense of the word, the premeditated nature of these actions increases the level of deception and subsequent outrage surrounding the decision.

The event calls into question not only the behavioural integrity of those involved but also more broadly the moral integrity of the environment in which they function. This is an environment that leaves players viewing ball-tampering on this scale as a viable match-winning strategy.

Smith’s role, as captain, has often been described as the second-most-important job in Australia (after the prime minister). It is for this reason that the Australian Sports Commission has called for him, along with any members of the leadership group or coaching staff “who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball”, to stand down or be sacked.

The plot to tamper with the ball was a clear attempt to cheat and has brought the spirit of cricket into question. The implications of being caught cheating or significance of the action were overruled in favour of an outcome: winning a match.

The ConversationSuch actions demonstrate the short-term focus players can have in the moment, ignoring the magnitude of their decisions. In this case, the fallout will be far greater than any punishment the sport will hand out.

Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Dean, School of Law and Professor of International Law, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Rugby League: Some Thoughts on the Melbourne Storm


Like many rugby league fans I was stunned by the breaking news concerning the Melbourne Storm on Thursday evening. The Storm were never my number one team – that was Parramatta. However, the Storm were a team that I admired greatly, a brilliantly coached football team that had dominated rugby league in Australia for the last five years. They were the team to beat and they beat Parramatta in the Grand Final of 2009. Most fair-minded fans of the game were in awe of the Melbourne Storm and I used to love their football.

Now I feel cheated, as most rugby league fans do. Given the mighty resurgence of Parramatta in the lead up to last year’s Grand Final and their appearance in the Grand Final after some incredible wins in the finals, I felt the loss of the Grand Final along with the other Parramatta supporters – but the team had done their best and they hadn’t chocked.

Now we learn that they were playing an unfairly talent inflated team, paid for my illegal means and under the table payments, in total disregard of the salary cap rules that Parramatta and the other teams in the NRL were adhering to. The Parramatta team were playing a cheating team. Certainly many of the players and even some of the team management appear to have known nothing about the salary cap breaches. Yet by the actions of a few, the entire team were in fact cheats.

Parramatta have a right to feel cheated out of a premiership last year and Manly two years before that. These teams didn’t win the Grand Finals they played in, they lost them, so they don’t deserve the premiership title either. But it would have been a fairer opportunity for premiership glory to have been playing on a level playing field.

Shame on Melbourne – what hollow victories you had in 2007 and 2009, and what hollow minor premierships you gained from 2006 to 2008. At the moment I believe the Storm should be removed from the NRL completely – however, in time that view will be tempered, should the stories of players and officials of the Storm not knowing about the cheating prove true. At the moment however, it is difficult to believe that more people within the Melbourne Storm didn’t know about the cheating – including the players who received the extra payments.

More is to be revealed concerning this story in days to come I think.

 

India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution


Karnataka, India, November 30 (CDN) — Police on Nov. 24 detained three Christians after Hindu extremists falsely accused them of forced conversion in Raghavendra Colony, Madugere, Tumkur district. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that 35 to 40 extremists barged into the rented apartment of Christians identified only as Prabhu, Steven and Shivananda, all workers for Operation Mobilization (OM). The Hindu hardliners confiscated all Bibles, compact discs and gospel tracts and burned them, and then took the Christians to the Madugere police station. Police who searched the apartment found no evidence of forcible conversion, however, and offered protection to the Christians. The next day the extremists again stormed into the apartment, dragging the three Christians outside. Nearby police took the Christians to the police station, along with the OM director, who had rushed to help them, and nearly 40 Hindu extremists followed demanding that the Christians be arrested for “conversion activities,” mistakenly believing that conversion is illegal in India. A GCIC representative told Compass the Christians were detained till midnight and released without being charged – after agreeing to vacate the apartment and immediately leave the village. 

Karnataka – Based on a false complaint by Hindu extremists, police detained five pastors on baseless charges of forceful conversion on Nov. 24 in Nangli, Kolar district. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that Hindu extremists stormed into the inauguration of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band prayer hall, and police alerted by the extremists arrived and took the five pastors to the police station for questioning. The Christians were released at about 8:30 p.m. after agreeing to give police prior notice of any worship services as a security measure. 

Madhya Pradesh – About 20 Hindu extremists attacked a pastor in Balaghat on Nov. 24. Pastor Ghanshyam Chowkse of Jeevan Jyoti Ashram was visiting a local Christian family when the extremists broke into the house of Purnima Dhuarey and dragged the pastor out, striking him with their fists and legs. They also struck Dhuarey with their hands. Pastor Kamlesh Nagpure told Compass that the mob was carrying a gas container with them, intending to burn Pastor Chowkse alive, and he said Pastor Chowkse was traumatized for days afterward. The extremists were members of the Bajrang Dal, the right-wing youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). Dhuarey was also attacked and beaten four months ago for recently converting to Christianity. She and Pastor Chowkse have filed two separate First Information Reports at the local police station. Dhuarey named the extremists in her FIR as she was able to recognize them, but Pastor Chowkse reported only unidentified men. “No major proceedings have yet taken place in both the cases,” Pastor Nagpure told Compass.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) falsely accused Pastor K. Manjunath of forceful conversion, verbally abused him and stopped construction of his church on Nov. 12 in Shimoga. Pastor Manjunath had received approval from the government to construct the church building, which is registered under the Bhadravati Municipality. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists filed a complaint against the pastor with the Shimoga Development Authority, which issued a show-cause notice asking him to answer the complaint. After investigating, police allowed construction of the church building to continue.

Karnataka – About 20 Hindu extremists beat two Christians on Nov. 10 in Attibele, Karnataka. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that Chandrachari Gangadhari and Chandra Gowda were visiting Christian homes when the intolerant Hindus verbally abused, beat them and burned Bibles and gospel tracts. Gowda sustained internal injuries. As is customary in India, police detained the victims rather than the aggressors, holding the Christians at the police station until 11 p.m. and joining the extremists in warning them not to return to the village.

Chhattisgarh – About 50 Hindu extremists stormed a prayer meeting and beat Christians until one fell unconscious on Nov. 8 in Bliaspur. A Christian identified only as Tekchand invited a couple, Keshup and Sangeeta Baghel, to their house to pray for their sick child when the extremists broke in and beat the Christians. Tekchand fell unconscious. The extremists dragged the couple to the police station, and along with about 100 other Hindu hardliners tried to pressure the police into filing baseless charges of forceful conversion. On hearing of the incident, four Christians went to the police station, where the extremists beat them on their arrival. Tekchand filed a police complaint against the intolerant Hindus, and the Christians were taken to the police station for medical checkup. The Christians were released at about 3 a.m. that night.

Karnataka – Police on Nov. 1 entered a children’s hostel run by Christian Outreach Ministries (COM) in Udupi and arrested the manager on baseless charges of forceful conversion. Saroja Margaret was sent to Mangalore District Prison after a magistrate ruled against judicial custody and was released on bail on Nov. 3. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that Margaret and her husband, the Rev. Joseph Jamkandi, were shocked to learn that two girls who had sought shelter for four months beginning in June had supposedly accused them of forceful conversion and of criticizing Hinduism. After the girls, identified only as Megha and Shilpika, had visited their parents in Madikere, their parents and Hindu extremists filed a complaint at Kapu police station charging that Margaret had forced the children to read the Bible and had criticized Hinduism. Police questioning the remaining 63 girls and others at the hostel, as well as neighbors, did not find anyone offering any statements to support the accusations, according to EFI. The hostel provides shelter, food and clothing to 65 girls from various castes and religious backgrounds. EFI reported that the remaining 63 girls told police there was never an instance when they were forced to read the Bible or participate in Christian devotion, and they said criticism of any religion was never uttered in the hostel. Nevertheless, the Deputy Superintendent of Police on Nov. 1 told Kapu police to present Margaret before a magistrate, as the Hindu hardliners had filed a First Information Report. Margaret was arrested for “uttering words with intent to hurt religious feelings of others” (Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code) and for “creating problems in the community” (Section 153 Part 1-b).

Maharashtra – In Pune, a Christian identified only as Sanjeev was beaten by about 60 students at Ferguson College on Oct. 27 for leading a Bible study. A source reported that Sanjeev was proclaiming Christ to two students at their request when the attacking students came from different directions and began beating him; they berated him for preaching and informed the college principal of his activities. The principal filed a complaint against Sanjeev for trespassing and “hurting the religious sentiments” of the students. Police took the Christian into custody, seizing Bibles and Christian literature from him. With local Christian leaders’ intervention, he was released without charge.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists pressured Christians to recant their faith and convert back to Hinduism on Oct. 27 in West Singhbhum, Jharkhand. The All India Christian Council reported that representatives of the Hindu extremist Adivasi Maha Sabha, along with village leaders, disrupted a prayer meeting and threatened to cut all economic and community ties from the Christians if they did not obey their demand to return to Hinduism. The extremists took away the handle of a water pump that served as the only source of water for the Christians. Police refused to register a First Information Report on the incident but assured the Christians that they would investigate. The village water pump has been repaired.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists on Oct. 23 claimed that a church building in Ankola, Karwar district was used as a center for forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists also accused Christians there of cheating poor people and disturbing the neighborhood with their prayers. The extremist leaders went to the home of the owner of the land on which the church building is built, Shankar Naik, and reprimanded him for allowing it to remain open. The extremists filed a baseless complaint of forceful conversion with the local administrator, who in turn filed a police complaint against Naik. Due to extremist pressure, police forced Naik to shut down the building, threatening to arrest him if he opened it again. The Christians there now worship in the house of area pastor.

Report from Compass Direct News 

Recent Incidents of Persecution


Uttar Pradesh, India, September 29 (CDN) — Hindu extremists chased a pastor into hiding on Sept. 19 in Lucknow. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that hardliners from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad ( World Hindu Council or VHP), Bharatiya Janata Party and Bajrang Dal (youth wing of the VHP) accused Pastor Bechu Azah Chhedi of forceful conversions as they arrived in large number at his church in Ramdaspur village and disrupted the worship service. The same group has attacked the pastor three times, reported AICC, and local Christians who found out about the extremists’ plan hid him. The pastor has relocated for safety.

Jammu and Kashmir – Police detained Pastor Salamat Masih and three others on false charges of forceful conversion on Sept. 17 in Hira Nagar. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that Hindu extremists from the Shiv Sena (Religious Army) beat the pastor and falsely accused him of offering 10,000 rupees (US$207) to each of three converts from Hinduism about to be baptized. Police arrived and took the pastor and the three others to the police station, keeping them in custody for two days as a safety measure; local people incited by the extremists were eager to attack them, reported a source. No case was filed against the pastor after the intervention of local Christian leaders.

Andhra Pradesh – About 10 Hindu extremists on Sept. 13 attacked a worship meeting of Opier Ministries Evangelical Church in Warangal, beating a pastor. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that around 1 p.m., the intolerant Hindus barged into the worship service conducted by Pastor Pilly Kumar, verbally abused and beat him, and destroyed a sign board bearing the church’s name. The pastor filed a police complaint, but officers refused to register a case. In May the extremists had warned the pastor not to conduct worship services in the area, reported the AICC.

Madhya Pradesh – Police arrested eight Christians from Blessing Youth Mission (BYM) under the state’s anti-conversion law on Sept. 12 in Katni. A source reported that Christians, including women, were on their way to visit their children at a BYM hostel. They were waiting on the railway platform when, as a Christian worker scheduled to pick them up arrived, railway police arrived and accused them of forceful conversion, blasphemy against Hindu gods and creating havoc. The charges included “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of others with acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.” The Christians were detained for about 20 hours and released on bail.

Karnataka – A group of unidentified men attacked St. Francis De Sales Church near Hebbagudi, Bangalore early on the morning of Sept. 10. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the men were carrying weapons and broke into the building, damaging windows. The Press Trust of India reported that statues of Infant Jesus and Mother Mary on the premises were damaged. The group also tried to burn a van parked in front of the church building. Damages were estimated at about 200,000 rupees (US$4,144), reported the GCIC. The church has filed a complaint and a First Information Report at Hebbagudi police station. Last year Karnataka, ruled by the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party, faced a series of attacks on churches in Mangalore, Bangalore, Davanagere, Kodagu and other towns.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiv Sena (Religious Army) on Sept. 10 attacked a pastor identified only as Ramanjaniah, accused him of cheating people and of forceful conversion, then beat him and paraded him on the street in Tumkur. The Global Council of Indian Christian reported that the pastor was conducting a prayer meeting at a Christian’s house when the intolerant Hindus stormed into the house and assaulted him. They tore a Bible and beat, punched and kicked the pastor and continued beating him as they dragged him about one kilometer. The pastor received hospital treatment for fractures in his face and leg. The extremists pressured police to restrain the pastor from future preaching, but officers only requested the pastor inform them before he conducts worship. They promised police protection should he require it.

Madhya Pradesh – Police arrested a Christian worker for “preaching to forcefully convert people to Christianity” based on a complaint filed by the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Sept. 8 in Barwani district. Sources reported that the RSS members dragged Gopi Krishnan of Friends Missionaries Prayer Band (FMPB) to the police station to file the complaint against him. The police booked him for joining in an assembly of more than five people after being commanded to disperse, and of abetment of the offense. Krishnan appeared before the sub-divisional magistrate the next day and was sent to Barwani district jail. He was granted bail on Sept. 10. FMPB representative Ravi Kumar told Compass that RSS members are pressuring Krishnan to leave his house before Sept. 30 or face harm. The Christian is scheduled to appear before a magistrate on Nov. 9. Local Christian leaders maintained that preaching to “forcefully convert” people does not take place in the area.

Rajasthan – About 30 Hindu extremists on Sept. 4 assaulted two Christian workers from Gospel for Asia and chased them into the jungle near Banswada. Sources reported that the extremists waylaid the two Christians as they were returning from a prayer meeting and viciously beat them and verbally abused them. The Christians fled and hid in the nearby forest. A Christian search team found the duo at midnight and gave them shelter. A Gospel for Asia representative said their names could not be disclosed for security reasons.

Orissa – Suspected Hindu extremists armed with country pistols and swords on Sept. 3 attacked Pastor Isaac Digal of Good Shepherd Community Church for holding a worship service in his house – beating him, his wife and daughter and ransacking his home in Kandhamal. The All India Christian Council reported that the extremists also took his mobile phone, bank book and ATM card. The Hindu extremists had reportedly made an earlier attempt to destroy his house and had threatened him several times. Police arrived at the scene, and the pastor filed a complaint. No arrests had been made at press time.

Andhra Pradesh – About 30 Hindu extremists attacked a pastor and a church on Aug. 30 in Mudinepalli. The All India Christian Council reported the Hindu extremists installed a microphone on the roof of the church building, and a Hindu idol in front it, as part of the Hindu Ganesh festival. Pastor Solomon Raju asked the extremists and a local official to move the mike to some other place, with the Hindu hardliners responding by disrupting the Sunday worship service and beating the pastor. He filed a police complaint. No arrests had been made at press time.

Report from Compass Direct News 

TURKEY: IRANIAN REFUGEE BEATEN FOR HIS FAITH


Convert to Christianity loses another job as co-workers learn he’s not Muslim.

ISTANBUL, June 15 (Compass Direct News) – Since Iranian native Nasser Ghorbani fled to Turkey seven years ago, he has been unable to keep a job for more than a year – eventually his co-workers would ask why he didn’t come to the mosque on Fridays, and one way or another they’d learn that he was a convert to Christianity.

Soon thereafter he would be gone.

Never had anyone gotten violent with him, however, until three weeks ago, when someone at his workplace in Istanbul hit him on the temple so hard he knocked him out. When he came back to his senses, Ghorbani was covered in dirt, and his left eye was swollen shut. It hurt to breathe.

His whole body was in pain. He had no idea what had happened.

“I’ve always had problems at work in Turkey because I’m a Christian, but never anything like this,” Ghorbani told Compass.

A carpenter by trade, Ghorbani started working at an Istanbul furniture maker in November 2008. From the beginning, he said, the Turks he worked with noticed that he didn’t go to the mosque on Friday. Nor did he behave like everyone else.

“If someone swore, I would say, ‘Don’t swear,’ or if someone lied, I said, ‘That’s not honest,’” he said. “You know Turks are very curious, and they try to understand everything.”

Although he tried to conceal his faith from his co-workers, inevitably it became obvious.

Soon after he started his new job, Ghorbani and his family found a new apartment. On the planned move-in day, New Year’s Day, his boss sent the company truck along with a truck driver to help; members of the Christian group that often meets in his home also came.

“When the [truck driver] saw all these people at our house, he was surprised,” said Ghorbani’s wife, Leila, explaining that he seemed especially surprised to find foreigners among the group. “It was big news back at the factory.”

Ghorbani said that in the following months the questions persisted, as well as pressure to attend the mosque. He avoided these as best as he could, but he admitted that two mistakes confirmed their suspicions. Someone from work learned that he had a broken personal computer for sale and bought it, only to find Christian documents and photos on the hard drive. Secondly, a mutual friend later admitted to a co-worker that he went to the same church as Ghorbani.

“The attitude in the entire factory changed toward me,” said Ghorbani, chuckling. “It was like they had agreed to marginalize me. Even our cook started only serving me potatoes, even though she had cooked meat as well. I didn’t say anything.”

In May the truck driver who had helped the Ghorbanis move finally confronted him.

“Your country is a Muslim country,” he told him, “and you may have become a Christian, but you are coming to Friday prayers today.”

On May 22 during lunch, his co-workers told him they were taking him to the mosque that day. “You are going to do your prayers,” one said.

Ghorbani brushed it off and, to appease them, said he would come after lunch. But as they were about to leave for the mosque, he asked them why they only pray once a week – and told them that as a Christian he couldn’t accept it and wouldn’t join them.

After the day’s last delivery and pick-up, the truck driver returned to work. As everyone was getting ready to leave, from the corner of his eye Ghorbani saw the truck driver walking up to him, and felt the blow of his fist on his temple. When he regained consciousness, some co-workers were washing his face in the bathroom.

They told him a little about how he was beaten, put him in a cab with one of their colleagues and sent him home. That evening, his fellowship group was meeting at his home. They had just sat down for dinner when Ghorbani arrived later than usual.

“He walked in, and he was limping because his right side hurt,” said an Iranian friend who was at the meeting. “There was dirt all over his clothes, and there was blood in his left eye. When I saw him I got scared. I thought that maybe a car had hit him.”

Wanting to avoid a hospital visit and questions from police, Ghorbani went to a private doctor a few days later. The doctor instructed him to stay home for three weeks to recover from the injuries: badly bruised ribs, shoulder, shins and eye, and internal stomach bleeding.

When he took the medical report to his workplace the following day, co-workers told him that his boss had fired the truck driver, and that even though management was very happy with his work, it would be safer for him to look for employment elsewhere. They said the truck driver blamed Ghorbani for losing his job and had threatened to kill him if he ever saw him.

“I have a family and home and nothing to lose,” the truck driver said, according to co-workers. “If I kill him, the worst thing that could happen to me is that I do some jail time.”

Ghorbani’s friend said that even if other Iranian converts to Christianity don’t suffer violence as Nasser has, life for them is full of pressure and uncertainty at work.

“Maybe for Christians by birth there are no pressures or problems, but people like us who want to [leave Islam to] follow Jesus are fired,” said the friend.

He explained that following their faith means living righteously and not stealing or cheating their bosses out of time and wages.

“That’s when the marginalization starts, when you resist doing wrong,” he said. “But if you live the way they do, lying and stealing, they don’t notice you’re a Christian.”

The Iranian friend said that even before he converted to Christianity in Turkey, his colleagues would pressure him to come to the mosque for Friday prayers because he was a foreigner.

“After becoming a Christian, the pressure gets worse,” he said. “The way they look at you changes … and, honestly, they try to convince you, [saying] that you haven’t researched your decision well enough.”

Now running his business out of his own home, the friend said no one can disrupt his work because of his faith, but he is a rarity among Iranian refugees in Turkey.

Ghorbani’s wife said the New Testament is clear on how to respond to attacks.

“The Bible says don’t be surprised when things happen against you, but love more, because you suffer for Christ,” she said.

Hope for a Future

The Ghorbanis said they are thankful for their time in Turkey, though their future is unclear.

The family first fled to Turkey in 2002 after realizing that their families were becoming aware of Nasser’s newfound faith. Ghorbani had worked in the Iranian Armed Forces for 10 years before he was fired in 1995 because, as a secular Muslim, he refused to attend Quran classes, which were necessary for keeping his job or being promoted.

For the following eight years, the government kept close tabs on the couple, questioning them every six months. Ghorbani could not travel outside of Iran during this period.

In 2001 he became a Christian under the influence of a customer who ordered furniture from his shop. As soon as Ghorbani’s passport was issued, he fled to Turkey; his family followed a few months later. Soon his family also espoused Christianity after his wife had a dream of Jesus saving her from sinking sand.

“We have learned the truth, and it has set us free,” Leila Ghorbani said.

The family is in the process of applying to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to re-open their case; their first application was denied three years ago.

According to the UNHCR’s most recent Global Report, in Turkey there were 2,100 Iranian refugees and 2,300 asylum-seekers from Iran in 2008. Although there is no data on how many Christian Iranians are living in Turkey, it is estimated that there is an Iranian house church in each of 30 “satellite cities” where the government appoints refugees and asylum seekers to live.

The Ghorbanis have three daughters, ages 20, 17 and 2. Ghorbani said he and his family would be in danger if they were returned to Iran.

“As a Christian I can’t return to Iran, or I risk losing my life,” Ghorbani said. “If they catch me, because I was a lieutenant they will directly hang me.”

Report from Compass Direct News