Wednesday, February 8, 2006

PRAYER: India -- Sharbri Kumbh Mela threatens 8000 Christians in Dangs

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 364 - Wed 08 Feb 2006


Over the weekend 11-13 February 06, Hindu nationalist groups and their militant factions will hold a major Kumbh (Hindu festival) in Dangs district, Gujarat, northwest India. Called 'Shabri Kumbh Mela', in future it is to be held every four years. Its official website openly declares the aim is to ' a death blow to such anti-dharmic and anti-national activities' as Christian missions. The central slogan for the Kumbh is 'Hindu Jago, Christi Bhagao' (Hindus arise, throw out the Christians). The two main aims of the Kumbh are to convert the tribals to militant Hindu nationalism, and to get rid of Christianity because it challenges the status quo and threatens to liberate the enslaved tribals. Dangs is being targeted because Gujarat is 0.05 percent Christian whilst Dangs is 5 percent Christian. Moreover, the Hindu elites have political and economic interests in either co-opting or ridding themselves of the despised, sub-caste tribals. So they will co-opt as many as possible into militant Hindu nationalism, and then set them against the Christians.

The strategy the Hindu nationalists use is to convince the tribals that, though they think they are indigenous animists or Christians, historically they are Hindu forest dwellers who will be better off returning to the Hindu fold. Hindu nationalists have been busy Hinduising tribal rituals by giving them Hindu names, saying they are just corrupted Hindu practices and then adjusting them to suit Hindu sensitivities. They have also invented a whole new mythology to justify creating a Hindu pilgrimage site and festival to the Hindu goddess Shabri in Dangs.

The Hindu nationalists have produced high quality CDs that exhort the tribals to kill Christians as the Hindu god Ram killed the demon Ravana. The NGO 'ANHAD' (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) filed a petition concerning the CD, which suggests Christians should be attacked and beheaded.

On Friday 3 February, the Supreme Court viewed the CD and sought responses from the central government, the state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and the Shabri Kumbh Mela organising committee. According to ANHAD, the disc has been widely distributed and openly sold in Gujarat, Maharashtra and in northeastern states. ANHAD states the CD 'makes constant references to the evil forces and foreign powers that are out to destroy the Hindu religion, while simultaneously flashing pictures of churches and the cross on the screen as if to insinuate that the Christian community is the evil force and the foreign power that the Hindu community has to reckon with'. They say it also encourages viewers to adopt aggressive attitudes and militant methods. The CD also has 'a caricature of a headless Christian priest wearing a cassock and holding a cross. In place of the head is a question mark symbol. The caption on the top of this picture literally translates into church: in the name of service'.

Swami Aseemanand, one of the key instigators of the Kumbh, believes the Shabri Kumbh Mela will '...end missionary activity in Dangs'. In 1999 Aseemanand told the Times of India, 'Dangs cannot know peace so long as even a single tribal remains Christian.'

The Hindu nationalist state government in Gujarat is actively supporting this initiative. They have given Hindus saffron coloured flags to fly outside their homes, making Christian homes easy to identify. While the government has refused to cancel the event, advocacy from Indian and foreign groups has forced them to increase security. However, when Hindus massacred Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, police with Hindu nationalist sentiments joined in the pogrom. The
Dangs population of 186,000 includes 8000 Christians. The Hindu nationalists plan to bring in some half million Hindus for the festival. Please fast and pray for the safety of the Dangi Christian community this weekend.

  • the Spirit of God to breathe great peace into the Dangi Christians and great spiritual wisdom into their Christian leaders; may he draw them into prayer and increase their faith.

  • God to spread his protection over each Christian family and individual, surrounding them with his favour as with a shield.
'Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely Lord you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.' Psalm 5:11,12
  • God to intervene profoundly so that wicked, exploitative, violent schemes will be frustrated and scuttled. Psalm 146:9

  • God to bless the advocacy of Indian and Christians worldwide, working through the Supreme Court and central government, and putting an end to the crimes of the Hindu nationalists: their incitement to violence; their forced conversion campaigns; and their intimidation and violent persecution of religious minorities.