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Malayalee to head White House; Maju Varghese is the head of the military unit

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Washington: President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have named Indian-American Maju Varghese in the four-member Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), which will organize the activities surrounding their swearing-in on January 20.

The team includes Tony Allen as the Chief Executive Officer, Maju Varghese as the Executive Director, Erin Wilson as the Deputy Executive Director, and Yvanna Cancela as its Deputy Executive Director.

It is an honor to help lead the team that will plan the inaugural activities for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris while keeping their commitment to protecting the health and safety of Americans and demonstrating the strength and resilience of our nation, Varghese said in a statement.

Verghese is the fifth Indian-American to be given key positions by the Biden transition team.

The inauguration ceremony marks the commencement of a new four-year term for the president of the United States. It is held even if an incumbent president begins a second consecutive term. The major events are the oath of office, inaugural address, parade, and inaugural ball.

This historic inauguration will serve as the launching pad for the Biden-Harris Administration to get to work on day one and beat the pandemic, build back our economy better, and unify our country, he said.

Varghese was the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Advisor in the Biden-Harris campaign from the primaries through the general, overseeing the campaign’s day-to-day operations and leading it through an unprecedented shift to remote working.

He previously served in the Barack Obama administration in various roles, including as the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration and Deputy Director of Advance. He has also worked as the Chief Operating Officer at The Hub Project and as a Senior Advisor at the law firm Dentons.

A lawyer by training, Varghese was born in the US to parents who immigrated from Thiruvalla, Kerala.

As the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration from July 2015 to Jan 2017, Varghese was responsible for day-to-day operations of the White House complex including oversight of White House budget, personnel, facilities, tours, and major events.

As Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Advance from June 2014 to July 2015, he served as the head of the US delegation for pre-advance visits around the world composed of White House staff, National Security staff, the White House Military Office, and the United States Secret Service.

Varghese has a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Varghese is the fifth Indian-American to be given important positions by the Biden transition team. In November, surgeon Vivek Murthy was appointed co-chair of the COVID-19 task force.

Indian-Americans Arun Majumdar (Department of Energy) and Kiran Ahuja (Office of Personnel Management) were appointed heads of key transition committees.

Indian-American Neera Tanden has been nominated as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

CEO of PIC Allen said, “This year’s inauguration will look different amid the pandemic, but we will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe.” Allen is the President of Delaware State University (DSU).

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Governor Kemp Rolls Out “Faith Protection Act” Legislation

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Atlanta– Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced his administration’s introduction of the “Faith Protection Act,” which would ensure the emergency powers of any governor of Georgia are not used to “specifically limit the practice of any religion.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, people of all faiths across America were told by state governments how, where, when, or even if they could worship at all. Not in Georgia. We chose to work alongside congregations across our state to ensure they practiced their faith safely and in accordance with public health guidance,” said Governor Kemp.

“The Faith Protection Act will ensure the emergency powers of any governor of Georgia in the years to come are not used to limit the God-given right to worship. In Georgia, we never shuttered churches, synagogues, or other places of worship because we value faith, family, and freedom. With the Faith Protection Act signed into law, Georgia will be a sanctuary state for people of faith.”

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Pakistan: Christian college student abducted at gunpoint

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Gujranwala – The Pakistani police have registered a complaint about the kidnapping of another Christian student from Lahore in order to force her into an Islamic marriage. Mehwish Bibi, a student at the Women’s College in the city of Gujranwala, left her home at 8.10 am on February 18, to go to college but she never returned home. The family suspects kidnappings with the aim of forced marriage. Patras Masih, the young woman’s father, wrote down the following in the investigation report: “We looked for our daughter and started asking people about her. Two Christians, Masih and Akram Masih, informed us that they saw a Muslim, Muhammad Sabir, who with the help of two accomplices kidnapped her and pointed a gun at her. According to the witnesses, they forced my daughter into a white pickup truck. We ask the police to rescue my daughter as soon as possible. We demand justice and severe punishment for the perpetrators”.

Khalid Shahzad, human rights and religious minorities activist comments to Fides: “It is sad that we have to take note of yet another episode of the kidnapping of a Christian girl. Cases of kidnapping of young women belonging to religious minorities are increasing in Punjab Province. It is tragic that no one tried to stop the kidnappers from kidnapping a Christian girl. Every day Christian families live in worry and fear that their daughters will be victims of kidnappings”.

Christian communities have long urged the government to stop the phenomenon of the forcible kidnapping and conversion of Christian minors, complaining that impunity promotes such crimes. Impunity, they note, encourages such crimes. According to data confirmed to Agenzia Fides by the National Commission for “Justice and Peace” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, there are around 1,000 cases of kidnapping of young Christian and Hindu women who are abducted from their families for the purpose of marriage and forced conversion to Islam every year.

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