Palm Sunday prayers disrupted at 5 places
By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: At least five incidents targeting Christians were reported from various parts of India on April 9, a Church organization has alleged.
The attacks occurred on the day when Christians all over the world celebrated Palm Sunday, to commemorate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Reverend Vijesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, points out that the incidents occurred in the penultimate week of Lent, the 40-day period when Christians observe fast and penance in memory of Christ’s Passion and death on the cross.
The attacks were reported from Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in the north and Tamil Nadu in the south.
“Targeting Christians on special days of worship as Palm Sunday and Christmas is condemnable,” Reverend Lal says in a message sent to Christian groups. He urged state and federal governments to intervene in the situation and to control the non-state actors “who seem to operate with impunity.”
In Sitabedi, a village in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh, members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh accompanied by police personnel disrupted worship service and arrested pastors and their wives along with Christians. The Christians were taken to the local police station at Piplod. The arrested pastors were Amar Singh Solanki, Kishore Barela and Prabhakar Solanki.
According to reports received at the EFI headquarters in New Delhi, the Christians were accused of conducting conversions by force and allurement. Around 12:30 pm some RSS members surrounded the police station demanding action against the Christians. Later after 6 pm, the police released three women and two men but registered a First Information Report against the pastors under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of religion act. They were then locked up.
In another incident in Haryana state’s Kaithal, Hindu radicals entered a church meeting led by Pastor Yashpal. The attackers manhandled the Christians present as well as complained at the local police station that they indulged in conversions. The police took the pastor and other Christians into custody and took them to the Civil Lines Police Station.
Jaswant, the Inspector In Charge, told EFI that they took the Christians into protective custody. The Christians were released as the allegations against them were found baseless.
At the same time in Uttar Pradesh, a local mob beat up Pastor Krishna Paul and handed him over to the police at Jahanpur village in the Ghazipur district. Pastor Paul, who belongs to Kolkata, serves the Believer’s Church in the area. The mob that attacked him was allegedly led by liquor mafia, who held him responsible for the on-going agitation by local women against liquor shops in the area. He was released after local Christian leaders intervened and spoke to the police.
Hindu radicals disrupted a service of the Church of God at Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan and got Pastor Saji Mathew arrested. He was taken into custody along with seven Christians. According to reports local villagers with the help of a Hindu priest had complained to the local Sarpanch that Christians were involved in the conversions. After getting the letter signed by the Sarpanch the villagers gave it to the police officials as a complaint. Local Christian leaders approached the police for the release of Pastor Mathew and got Christians released late at night.
In the lone incident in Tamil Nadu, revenue inspector and village administrative officers disrupted private prayers at the house of Pastor Gunasekaran in Keeranur village in Dindigul district.
The officers took video clips and pictures of the people praying in the house and told them to stop the prayers. They also told the Christians to take permission from the District Collector before praying in the house.
Pastor Gunasekaran’s extended family of about 20 people gathers in his house every Sunday for the last 24 years for private prayers. No outsider attends the prayers and family does not use loudspeaker system. “In spite of telling the authorities this, they did not relent and forced pastor Gunasekaran to sign a letter that they had prepared and asked him to report at the Tehsildar’s office on the following day,” the EFI note alleged.