Local Christians in India Claim Lutheran Minister Murdered by Hindu Radicals

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By ICC’s India Correspondent

04/19/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “The actual volume of violent persecution is not known,” explained Dr. John Dayal, spokesman of the United Christian Forum. “State agencies are reluctant to speak on this matter and governments do not keep records unless local police register formal cases.”

In many cases, they don’t. In India, perpetrators of religious violence from majority religions are hardly shamed, let alone, arrested for their crimes.
Christians, as a minority group living in the subcontinent, have long suffered under the weight of severe persecution. Sectarian violence perpetrated by radical Hindu forces has almost always existed in the South Asian country.
Unfortunately, since the beginning of 2016, there has been a sharp escalation in attacks on Christians and their places of worship. With more than 65 attacks recorded since the beginning of the year, the Christian minority in India is spiraling into a desperate and vulnerable state.
“Frightening aspects of this violence were the increasing number of rapes, particularly of Catholic nuns, and other gender violence,” Dr. John Dayal explained to ICC.
Worse still is the absolute impunity surrounding these cases, as local authorities do not register the incidents on First Information Report (FIR), an obvious first step in the application of the rule of law.
Such incidents of religiously-motivated violence often end in a compromise, outside of the court and in the presence of village councils, who are quick to side with the majority. This only leads to social exclusion and ostracized minorities within the villages.
On March 26, as part of Passion Week observance, approximately 20 Christians from the Pentecostal Church of Hyderabad were distributing literature in the village of Nizamabad. While there, an angry mob of Hindu radicals began verbally and, soon after, physically attacking the group. Although police intervened in the conflict, it was the 20 Christians who were taken to the police station rather than their attackers.
“We were locked up in Ditchaplli police station for more than four hours,” explained one of the believers in the detained group. “The only crime that we committed was distributing Christian literature in the village.”
Police officers, behind the closed doors of the station that were meant to protect the Christians, continued to abuse and threaten the men for their beliefs afterwards.
On the very same day in Tirumanpalli village, members of the same Hyderabad congregation were attacked by another group of radical Hindus.
Mr. Yesudas, one of the victims, was brutally beaten as well as forcibly marked with a Hindu tilak, a red sectarian symbol worn on the forehead that ironically signifies religious acceptance within the Hindu world.
 
“They would have killed me if the police did not arrive on time,” he told ICC in regards to the incident.
In yet another case, on March 18, a prayer meeting in the district of Nizamabad was attacked by a mob who pelted stones at the gathered believers. Once again, when the incident was reported, the Christians, and not the perpetrators, were taken into custody.
Later, when the leader of the congregation called the police station to plead the case, the local authorities only threatened to put him in prison.
These are not irregular incidents for Christians living India. The norm is ever shifting in a direction that directly victimizes and ostracizes the already small minority of Jesus followers in the heavily populated subcontinent.
These violent attacks are most often committed in the name of nationalism and patriotism. The mixing of nationalism and religious identities stems from the rise of Hindu fundamentalist political parties, which all but control the nation at this time.
The absence of the rule of law along with a religious-nationalistic government regime has only emboldened the perpetrators to act in increasing violent manners.

 As a self-proclaimed republic, the nation of India must do more to protect its citizens. The constitution gives Indian nationals equal citizenship before the law; therefore, this law must be applied irrespective of religious identities. Democratically speaking, the Indian government is bound to only one book, and that is its national constitution.

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Local Christians in India Claim Lutheran Minister Murdered by Hindu Radicals
Christian Community Calls for Impartial Probe into Brutal Killing
5/13/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that local Christians in India’s northeastern state of Jharkhand believe that a Lutheran minister was murdered by Hindu radicals last week. This brutal killing comes as India continues to face scrutiny from the international community because of its deteriorating religious freedom situation.

Rev. Abraham Biswas Surin, a 64-year-old Lutheran minister at Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kunti, Jharkhand, left his home in Kunti on May 5 to attend a meeting in Ranchi, approximately 30 miles to the north. The next day, May 6, police found Rev. Surin’s body under a railway bridge near the Rourkela Railway Station over 130 miles south of Kunti in Odisha, Jharkhand’s neighboring state.
The body bore multiple injuries, including a deep gash across the minister’s throat. Police found the minister’s mobile phone and a gold ring still on the body, seeming to rule out robbery as a motive.
“I suspect this is the work of hardline Hindu radicals that do not want Christian work in the area,” a local Christian, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told ICC. “This incident has brought fear among the Christians in the area.”
“We are shocked by his murder,” the General Secretary of Gossner Evangelical Church told Asia News. “We asked the Lutheran Evangelical Christians of Rajgangpur to take the matter to the police and the government of [Odisha].”
“The brutal killing of Rev. Surin has shocked the entire GEL family and other Christians in Kunti,” Rev. Johan Dang, Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church’s previous minister, told ICC. “The matter should be taken up to the national level for a proper investigation so that the perpetrators of this gruesome act [are] identified and punished.”
Thousands of Christians held a peaceful rally on May 11, led by the National Christian Association, demanding a fair and impartial probe into the brutal killing. A memorandum was submitted to the Federal Home Minister, Mr. Rajanath Singh, which asked the government to ensure the safety and security of Christians and to also bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
These events come on the heels of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) releasing its annual report which again labeled India as a Tier 2 violator of religious freedom. USCIRF went on in its report to say that India was on a negative trajectory and that if India did not show significant improvement, the Commission would recommend India as a Tier 1 violator.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “Attacks on Christians and their places of worship by radical Hindu nationalists in India continue to escalate in both number and intensity. In 2016 alone, ICC has documented over 90 attacks on Christians. Many attacks take place in India’s rural areas, so the true number of attacks on Christians is likely higher. This escalation in attacks is, in large part, due to the Indian government’s unwillingness to confront, or even recognize, the actions of radical Hindu nationalists. This has created an atmosphere of impunity in which radicals believe the government is tacitly approving of their activities. The murder of Rev. Abraham Biswas Surin must be a turning point. India must confront these radicals and begin to enforce the religious freedom rights of all of its citizens, including the millions of Christians that call India home.”
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