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Christian families in India banned from burying their dead

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Villagers in the east-central state of Chhattisgarh are not allowing Christians to bury their dead until they pay fines for not taking part in Hindu festivals and rituals. Attacks on the minority community in India continue despite the COVID-19 lockdown.

Christians faced stiff opposition to burying their dead in three separate incidents in the districts of Bastar and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state last month, Alliance Defending Freedom India reported.

The Christians were told to make “restitution” for not partaking in or giving donations for religious rituals in those villages for all the years gone by, and pay an additional fine before their dead would be allowed to be buried.

“It is a terrible and unimaginable thing to be denied an opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one with dignity,” ADF India said.

Since 2019, the group has recorded at least 15 confirmed incidents of Christians being denied burial rights in Chhattisgarh state.

After the group’s legal team intervened, “the Christians were provided police protection, and in some cases even provided land by the government, for the burials to take place.”

In April, when India was under a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the world’s strictest, at least six incidents of targeted violence against Christians took place in Chhattisgarh, according to ADF India. In the majority of incidents, Christians were physically attacked by mobs of at least 50 people when they refused to take part in religious rituals that violated their faith.

On April 17, villagers in Chhattisgarh state’s Mendoli area severely assaulted a Christian family, including tearing off the clothes of the victim’s wife, and forcefully performed a “sanctification ritual” on them, the U.K.-based Christian charity Barnabas Fund said, adding that the mob then demanded a fee of 5,000 Indian rupees ($66) and threatened to kill the family if they informed the police.

While India’s Grand Old Party, the Indian National Congress, has been governing Chhattisgarh state since December 2018, Hindu right-wing groups are active in the state, which was earlier ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, for 10 years.

In the western city of Mumbai, which is among the worst-hit by the coronavirus outbreak in India, Christian cemeteries didn’t have a place for the burial of coronavirus victims until recently due to the absence of official notification, according to The Times of India, which reported that Christian victims of COVID-19 had no option but to cremate their dead.

“I wish to stress that coronavirus in a dead person doesn’t infect living humans,” a local activist Cyril Dara was quoted as saying. “The virus becomes ineffective within hours of the victim’s death,” he continued, adding that he would file police complaints against big cemeteries if they didn’t allow burials.

The civic authorities finally allotted space in four Christian cemeteries for the burial of coronavirus victims, the Times said.

Attacks on Christians have been on the rise since the BJP won the 2014 general elections in India. Most attacks on Christians are launched under the pretext of the alleged “forcible” conversion of Hindus.

Several Indian states have had draconian “anti-conversion” laws, termed as Freedom of Religion Acts, for decades but no Christian has been convicted of “forcibly” converting anyone to Christianity.

According to India’s own population data, the conspiracy of mass conversions to Christianity does not hold up, says the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern. “In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up only 2.3% of India’s overall population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still only make up 2.3% of the population.”

“Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences,” noted Open Doors’ World Watch List, which ranked India as the 10th worst country for Christians.

“The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is viewed as non-Indian. Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities,” Open Doors added.

At least one Christian was attacked every day last year, according to Open Doors.
Sources:Christian Post

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Fr. Stan Swamy was jailed for 100 days

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Jailed human rights activist Stan Swamy wrote to his acquaintances, expressing gratitude for the solidarity shown by people, to mark 100 days of him being in custody. “At times, news of such solidarity has given me immense strength and courage, especially when the only thing certain in prison is uncertainty,” he wrote in a letter. “Life here is on a day-to-day basis.”

Swamy, 83, sent the letter on January 22 to a few of his friends, supporters and the non-government body National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations, according to The Telegraph. The content of the letter was shared on the Twitter handle of Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat.

The activist, who was arrested on October 8, in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case, further wrote that the other accused in the matter were not allowed to meet, despite being lodged in the same prison.

“…We 16 co-accused have not been able to meet each other, despite being in the same jail,” he said. “But we will still sing in chorus. A caged bird can still sing.”

In November too, Swamy had written a letter, describing his life in jail. Back then, he had said that he was allowed to meet other activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, who were also in custody at the Taloja Central Jail near Mumbai.

The National Investigation Agency arrested Swamy last year and alleged that he was a member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and was involved in a conspiracy to instigate caste violence in the Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018. He has been in judicial custody since October 9.

In November, people outraged after it emerged that the NIA had told a court that it would not be able to provide a sipper and straw to Swamy, which he needed to drink water as he suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The NIA later provided him with the sipper and straw and refused that they had denied it.

Last month, the NIA opposed Swamy’s bail plea, submitting to the court that it had sufficient evidence to prove that he was involved in “deep-rooted conspiracy” to fuel the Bhima Koregaon incident. It alleged that Swamy was also directly involved in the Maoists’ movement.

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Pastor in India Arrested Over Inflammatory Video from 2013

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India – According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), police in India’s Andhra Pradesh state have arrested a Christian pastor of allegedly making derogatory videos about Hindu deities.

On January 12, Pastor Preveen Chakravarthy was arrested for his alleged involvement in a video where he admitted he had kicked images of Hindu gods. Local Christians claim the arrest is part of a larger plan to spread hatred against Christians in the state.

“There are some fanatic groups who are trying to create hatred among different faiths by dividing people in the name of caste, creed, and religion and trying to push their propaganda,” Pastor Joseph Benjamin Gootam to UCAN. “There is a trend in the state where vested interest people are even targeting the chief minister, accusing him of favoring minority groups, especially Christians since he is himself a Christian.”

“I’m very surprised about the arrest of Pastor Chakravarthy as the case is very old,” Pastor Gootam continued. “We are sure that some people may have complained to the police recently. We have full faith in the judiciary and hope the pastor will come clean in the investigation.”

According to local pastors, the video over which Pastor Chakravarthy was arrested is from 2013. Pastor Chakravarthy has admitted the voice on the video is his.

Police claim the Pastor’s statement in the video violated Section 153-A of the Penal Code. Section 153-A criminalizes vilifications or attacks on the religion, race, place of birth, residence, and language of any particular group.
Sources:persecution

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