Security advisory issued for Goa churches / MP Christians worried .....

Joseph Dias

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Security advisory issued for Goa churches

Goa archdiocese has issued a security advisory asking all church committees in the state to increase vigilance in and around churches. The 15-point advisory was issued after police asked Church authorities to step up security following a spate of thefts and desecrations of statues. “We need to be responsible for our things,” said archdiocese spokesperson Father Franscisco Caldeira. The advisory states that churches should have at least one security guard from a registered security company on duty at night. If religious institutions can’t afford to employ a company guard they should use volunteers from their locality.

“The police may explore the possibility of giving some honorarium to volunteer guards by writing to the government,” the advisory states. The archdiocese also recommended reducing access points to places of worship. “Door frame metal detectors may be installed at an entry point and people should also be subjected to a search if they arouse suspicion,” the advisory continued. Closed circuit TVs should be installed at all strategic points in churches, it added. Peter Pires, a lay leader, called the police request “ridiculous.” “This means the government cannot protect citizens and their property. In that case, they should stop collecting taxes from us,” he said.

MP Christians worried as Hindu festival nears

Church workers in a central Indian tribal belt are voicing their fears as several right-wing Hindu groups prepare for a festival to “re-convert Christians.” “There is mounting tension in Christian circles here,” says Father George Thomas, a Catholic priest working in the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh. “We are taking every possible step to protect our lives and property,” Father Thomas said.

The Hindu groups plan to host their religious festival Feb. 10-12. According to local media, some 2.5 million people from all over India are expected to attend the Ma Narmada Samajik Kumbh (Social Fair of Mother Narmada). Narmada is a major river that runs through the district. The main aim of the festival, according to media reports is to “return” tribal Christians to Hinduism, which the organizers claim is “their original religion.” Media reports also suggested that hardline Hindu activists accused of terror attacks in various parts of India are backing the ghar vapasi (homecoming), or the religious re-conversion.

Local Christians plan to appeal to the collector, the highest-ranking government official in a district, for protection during the fair, Father Thomas said. One Protestant pastor says threats have already been made. Three people came to my home to demand a donation for the festival. When I refused, they threatened me with “dire consequences” and took 50 rupees (US$1.10) from me, said Reverend Jai Prakash Koti. “They also gave me the festival program and ordered me to attend all activities without fail,” the tribal pastor added. He also claimed some people are encouraging Christians to convert to Hinduism to maintain the peace. “We have left everything to God and hope no harm will come to us,” he said.

Islamic fundamen­talism has replaced commu­nism as the threat to Christians – International Report

It used to be the case that Christians suffered greatest in communist countries, but today Islamic fundamentalism has replaced communism as the number one cause of persecution against Christians, says International Christian Concern. The persecution watch­dog released its ’Hall of Shame’ list of the world’s worst countries for persecu­tion in 2010 this week. New entries include Iraq and Egypt, both of which have seen a substantial increase in anti-Christian violence. In Iraq, Christians have been murdered almost weekly since October, when Islamic militants killed more than 50 worshippers in a Baghdad church in October and Al-­Qaeda announced the follow­ing day that Christians were legitimate targets for the Mujahedin.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, the attack on the Baghdad church and the random killing of Chris­tians in the following weeks has triggered a "slow but steady exodus" of thousands of Christians out of the city. ICC warned that Egypt, more than any country out­side of Iraq, had suffered the most from the AI-Qaeda threat. 2010 got off to a bad start when Muslim gunmen shot and killed six Christians in a drive-by shooting in Janu­ary. Then in November, two people were killed when Egyp­tian security forces opened fire on Christian protestors in Giza. The highest death toll came this week, however, when a suicide bomber mur­dered 21 Christians outside a church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

Writing in the forward to the report, ICC president Jeff King said that while forms of persecution such as harass­ment, imprisonment, torture and murder had "steadily de­clined in communist and former communist countries with the exception of north Korea and China – there continued to be a “significant increase” in incidents of persecution in Islamic countries. In North Korea, ICC said the information it had received indicated that Christians were suffering harsher penalties than most criminals and that an estimated 100,000 Chris­tians are believed to be in labour camps where they are "pushed to the point of being worked to death".

Asia News reported that North Korean officials raided a house church in Pyungsung County last May and arrested 23 Christians. It reported that three pastors were executed, while the other 20 believers were sent to a labour camp. The Chinese govern­ment came under criticism from ICC for listing Christian­ity as a cult – a move which could be used to justify gov­ernment-backed persecu­tion. The report said that house churches have be­come a target of the Chinese government, which continues to conduct raids, arrest be­lievers, and send them to labour camps for ’re-educa­tion’, often without a court hearing. The report does not at­tempt to rank the 11 coun­tries in the Hall of Shame in any particular order on the grounds that it is impossible to fully determine the sever­ity of Christian suffering throughout the world.
Mr King said: "In com­piling the report, it was strik­ing to see the rate at which Christian persecution has accelerated around the globe, especially in the Islamic world. "Anti-Christian hatred arising from Islam has flowed into 2011, as seen in the horrific attacks in Egypt, Pa­kistan and Iraq already this year. "Constant vigilance is needed in the struggle to de­fend the fundamental human right of religious freedom. “Those of us fortunate to live in countries that grant religious freedom must not forget nor neglect the plight of Christians who are condemned by extremist ideology or government tyranny to suffer – or die – for their faith.”

National Human Rights Commission Seeks Action Taken Report & Plan for Orissa

A woman in Orissa shows her son born in a forest after she fled to save herself from a mob that attacked her village during the 2008 anti-Christian violence. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from the Orissa government over the rehabilitation of people in Kandhamal, the epicenter of the 2008 anti-Christian violence. During its Jan. 18-19 tour of the state, the commission, led by K. G. Balakrishnan, asked the government to present a contingency plan to avoid incidences of communal violence in the state. The commission went through 62 human rights violation cases ranging from farmer suicides, displacements and caste-related violence. The human rights team also met some senior government officials besides Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and representatives of NGOs. “The commission assured us that they would seek a detailed report from the government on the rehabilitation package and a contingency plan to avoid such occurrences,” said Adikanda Singh, a dalit human rights activist.

The commission asked us to give written complaints on human rights violations in Kandhamal, he said. Singh said the commission should have a special rapporteur to undertake to study situation in Kandhamal. He blamed the government for the worsening situation of human rights in the state. “The criminal justice delivery system has failed. It reflects that the state is not ready to dispense justice for all,” he said. Sister Justine Senapati, a human rights activist rejected the government claims that it is providing an appropriate rehabilitation package to the Kandhamal victims. “The government should come out of its denial politics and look into the real issues of human rights violations,” she said.

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