|Methodist Church in India Asks Government to Control Violence Against Christians|
New York, NY, Oct. 2, 2008--The Methodist Church in India has called upon the president of the country to take "serious steps" to end violence against Christian minorities in several areas of India.
"We are deeply shocked and anguished over the persecution and atrocities that are being committed against Christians, churches [places of worship], and institutions," said the September 26 letter to President Pratibha Patil from the six Indian Methodist bishops and the other clergy and lay members of the denomination's executive committee.
Anti-Christian violence, led by Hindu extremists, has escalated over the last year and is most intense at present in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and, particularly, Orissa.
In describing the violence, the letter said: "Even social workers, women and children are not spared and subjected to cruelty, humiliation and are denied their fundamental rights. Needless to say, that is a clear violation of human rights and an open discrimination against a peace-loving Christian community who never retaliates.... Because of all this, the very social fabric of our secular society is fragmental, and cordial relationship that exists with other communities is also disturbed."
Numerous reports indicate that in Orissa, a populous state on the east coast of the subcontinent, some 20 persons have been murdered, 20,000 made homeless, and numerous Christian schools and other facilities burned. Much of the activity is reportedly in farming villages.
Violence in Orissa spiraled in August after the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati of Kandhamal, the death reportedly caused by Maoists. Some Hindus asserted that the swami was killed by Christians because he had campaigned against conversion to Christianity. The Methodist letter condemned both the murder of Swami Saraswati and the widespread anti-Christian activity, which pre-dated his death.
The Methodist leaders pleaded with President Patil to "take serious steps to maintain law and order," to investigate the incidents, to control Hindu terrorists, and to ban organizations that foment Hindu action against Christians. They also requested new national laws "to protect Christian minority and prevent these activities to take place in future," and compensation for those affected by the violence.
Bishop S.S. Singh of Delhi, president of the Council of Bishops of the Methodist Church of India, five other bishops, and 39 clergy and lay members of the church's executive committee, individually signed the appeal, which was made on behalf of all Indian Christians, who number some 24 million, or 2.5 percent, of the Indian population. More than 80 percent of the Indian people are Hindus; 14 percent are Muslim. Methodists are not numerous in most of the areas of the worst violence.
The Methodist Church in India was established 151 years ago through the efforts of American missionaries but has been autonomous since 1981. It has 2,460 congregations and 2,156 clergy persons and maintains its own churches, schools, and other social institutions. It is a mission partner of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
"We stand with you, our sisters and brothers in India, as you witness to your society on behalf of peace and justice," said the Rev. Edward W. Paup, general secretary of Global Ministries, in a letter to the Indian church's executive committee. "You are in our prayers and we stand ready to join any humanitarian ministries you may initiate on behalf of families affected by the violence. May God give you the courage of faith, the strength of hope, and the determination of love as you represent Jesus Christ in a time and place of turbulence."
Rev. Paup said that his mission agency has also heard from and has expressed solidarity with other Christian groups and mission partners in India, including the National Christian Council of India.
"United Methodists of Indian descent in the United States, some within our Global Ministries staff, are deeply concerned about the situation and the welfare of relatives," Paup also said. "We are in prayer with them and their loved ones."
The Indian Methodist letter expressed appreciation to President Patil for the support that "we are receiving from the Central Government and appeal to you to exercise your constitutional authority vested in you with regard to minority rights in the national interest." The letter was issued by the Rev. Subodh C. Mondal, general secretary of the church, on behalf of the executive committee.
Meanwhile, in Bangalore, in Kerala State, a group of Christian and Hindu leaders met on September 28 to begin a dialogue on ways to stop and contain the violence. Ecumenical News International reported that all 14 Hindu representatives condemned the actions against Christians.
Signing the Methodist letter to President Patil along with Bishop Singh were Bishops Taranath S. Sagar of Bangalore, also president of the National Christian Council of India; Bishop R. Vijayakumar of Bareilly; Bishop M. V. Khristi of Hyderabad; Bishop Dr. Cyril S. Cornelius of Lucknow, and Bishop E. P. Samuel of Bombay.
Anti-Christian Violence in Orissa Reverberates at CNI Synod, by Anto Akkara /wcc.org, October 21, 2008
Date posted: Oct 03, 2008