Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PRAYER: India -- 2 million Hindus and tribals and social kumbh

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 095 | Wed 16 Feb 2011


Christians described as blood-sucking bed bugs that must be killed.

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Sangh Parivar (combined Hindu nationalist forces) held their second 'Samajik Kumbh' (social gathering) on the banks of the Narmada River in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh, on 10-12 February 2011. In the preceding two weeks some 28,000 volunteers from the RSS (a Hindu nationalist paramilitary) distributed literature to some 80,000 families across all 19 districts of
the neighbouring Mahakoshal region, home to Madhya Pradesh's largest city, Jabalpur. According to one priest, many Christians were forced to sign forms declaring their intention to accept Hinduism. Alarmed by the abundance of the virulent anti-Christian propaganda, Christian leaders in Mandla petitioned the High Court for protection and the weekend church services were held under police guard.

An estimated two million tribals and Hindu devotees drawn from all over Mahdya Pradesh and central India attended the event. According to Christian eye-witnesses, speeches delivered on the final day particularly vilified Christianity and Christian 'missionaries'. Using familiar language, one speaker raged: 'Christians are like bed bugs, who hide under the guise of so called missionary work, and drink the blood of the innocent vulnerable people and bed bugs should be killed or else they will continue drinking blood.' (AsiaNews, 14 February 2011)

The social Kumbh is a key element in the Sangh's strategy to advance Hindutva (fascist Hindu nationalism) through the tribal belt for political gain. According to the Sangh's propaganda, India's national security, territorial integrity and sovereignty are under threat from foreign forces seeking to divide and weaken India. The only solution, according to the Sangh, is national unity through Hindu solidarity. To this end the Sangh tells the indigenous, non-Aryan, non-Hindu, traditionally Congress Party-voting tribals that the only reason they do not know they are Hindus is because secular governments have neglected to educate them. Fortunately (so the propaganda goes) the Sangh is there to 'inform' and 'enlighten' the tribals so they can 'return' to their Hindu roots, join the Hindu mainstream and (literally) fight for mother India.

The first social Kumbh was held in February 2006 in the tribal district of Dangs, Gujarat, a long-time Congress stronghold known for its sizable Christian minority. According to the Sangh it was a great success because, they claim, the pace of 'reconversion' of Christians to Hinduism subsequently gathered momentum in the area. According to local RSS chief, Sharad Dhole, about15,000 Dangs Christians 'returned to the Hindu fold'. Also some 70 pastors are said to have embraced Hinduism and are now active in the service of the Sangh, holding reconversion ceremonies every 25th December (Indian Express 12 February 2011). Furthermore the BJP (Hindu nationalist) candidate Vijay Patel won the Dangs seat in the December 2007 Assembly elections by more than 11,000 votes, defeating Madhu Bhoya of the Congress. Then, in Gujarat's October 2010 municipal polls, the BJP fielded five Christian candidates on its Dangs ticket and swept the district. According to Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, Christians in Dangs support the BJP because of its 'development politics'. However, this is a Sangh deception. The equity, liberty and national salvation the Sangh holds out as sweet-smelling bait to the hungry, poor and marginalised will never materialise under Hindutva.

The next social Kumbh will be held in Chhattisgarh, drawing in tribals and Hindu devotees from across Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. According to the Sangh's website this social Kumbh 'will accelerate the work of Sri Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati', who, it falsely claims, 'was brutaly (sic) murdered in 2008 by Christian missionaries.' (The Sangh used the August 2008 Maoist assassination of Swami Laxmanananda as an excuse to launch a massive communal pogrom against Christians. Hundreds died and some 500,000 were displaced, many of whom still languish in camps. The Sangh lumps Christians and Maoists together because they both seek an end to the inequities of the Hindu caste system.)

  • work powerfully in all Christians who are being pressured, threatened or seduced by the Sangh Parivar, enabling them to discern between truth and lies and to remember the awesome greatness and faithfulness of their Lord, looking to him and trusting him with steadfast hearts.

  • defuse the communal reaction potentially ignited by the Sangh through the recent Mahdya Pradesh social Kumbh; may tribals and Hindus reject all provocation to hatred, intolerance and violence, and may they too be given discernment.

  • use the Kumbh's focus on Christianity to achieve the exact opposite of what the Sangh intended: may the Kumbh ignite mass curiosity for the gospel along with an appreciation of the ministry and witness of believers in Mahdya Pradesh.
Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11 ESV)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ethiopia: persecution escalates in Muslim areas

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 094 | Wed 09 Feb 2011


By Elizabeth Kendal

The simplistic portrayals of Ethiopia as 'Orthodox Christian' or 'a Christian island surrounded by hostile Muslim neighbours' are misleading. These descriptions ignore the reality that Ethiopia is the legacy of a Christian empire that incorporated many diverse peoples. The Tigray- dominated north and the Amhara-dominated central highlands comprise the Christian heartland. These two Semitic tribes together comprise 45 percent of the population and most of the elite. The periphery is highly diverse and includes many animist and Muslim peoples. Unity is fragile and divisive forces are strong.

Before the Communist Revolution of 1974, Ethiopia was an Amhara-dominated kingdom. After Mengistu's Marxist regime fell in 1991, the new Tigray-led government federalised the state, controversially devolving power to nine autonomous, ethnic regions (just as Tito did in Yugoslavia and as has recently been done in Kenya). By enabling a degree of self-determination, ethnic federalism was supposed to prevent Amhara domination, end cultural conflict and diminish divergent forces. In reality (as in Yugoslavia) it has had the opposite effect: it has weakened the state while magnifying ethnic differences and interests. The largest ethnic group, the Omoro (about equal Muslim / Christian), complain of Tigrayan domination and want to secede. In September 2009 the International Crisis Group lamented that the international community was neglecting 'the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences'.

Ethiopia's Constitution (adopted in December 1994) states: 'The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect' (Article 9.1). Complicating ethnic tensions is the trend of rising Islamic intolerance. According to the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, Saudi-funded entities are exacerbating tensions between traditional Sufis and new Wahhabis, as well as between Muslims and Christians. In recent years Christians living in Muslim-dominated areas have been subjected to escalating persecution and application of Sharia law. To maintain 'harmony' and to appease restive Muslims, the Federal Government made religious incitement and religious defamation criminal offences in 2008. While Article 27 of the Federal Constitution guarantees 'Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion' it also provides that religious freedom may be limited by law in the interests of public safety.

In August 2010 Tamirat Woldegorgis (early 30s and father of two), a Protestant Christian in Ethiopia's southern town of Moyale, Oromia region, was arrested after a Muslim co-worker accused him of inscribing 'Jesus is Lord' on a cloth. The accuser changed his statement several times before the local imam testified that Woldegorgis had written the offensive words on a Quran. Despite the absence of evidence, Woldegorgis was sentenced on 18 November 2010 to three years in prison for allegedly defiling a Quran. He was then transferred to Jijiga Prison in Ethiopia's Somali Region Zone Five which is governed according to Sharia. Consequently his life is greatly imperilled. Two friends who recently brought him food were fined for supporting a criminal imprisoned for defaming Islam. Authorities have reportedly offered to release Woldegorgis if he will convert to Islam (Compass Direct News, 29 November 2010).

International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported several violent attacks on Christian leaders in recent months. Of great concern is the report that harassed and persecuted Christians in the southern city of Besheno, Oromia region, have recently had notices posted on their doors warning them to convert to Islam, leave the city or face death. According to ICC, three leading Christians from an evangelical Christian community of about 30 believers have been forced to flee and two have been forcibly converted to Islam.

Intolerant, repressive, fundamentalist Islam is spreading, exerting itself and testing the limits in Ethiopia's autonomous ethnic regions. Are minority Christian groups in restive Muslim-dominated areas going to be protected according to the Federal Constitution, or will they be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, stripped of their constitutional rights and handed over to the dictators of Islam in exchange for promises of 'harmony' and national unity?


* protect Tamirat Woldegorgis and deliver him safely back to his family; may the family all know the sustaining presence of the Lord, their provider.

* protect the Christians living in restive Oromia and Islamic Somali, particularly the persecuted and threatened Christians in Besheno.

* grant Christian leaders great wisdom to know how to be 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

* give the Federal Government much wisdom, strength and courage to tackle the issue of constitutional rights and the supremacy of the Federal Constitution over regional Islamic courts.

Please pray for Ethiopia, a state of immense geo-strategic value in the Horn of Africa.