Upsurge in Violence across India Ahead of International Day of Prayer

Hopegivers International has called for worldwide prayer for both the victims of and terrorists as the Christian humanitarian organisation reports a recent upsurge in violence across India ahead of the International Day of Prayer.

|PIC1|According to Assist News Service, founder of Hopegivers International, Archbishop M.A. Thomas, has reported an alarming wave of anti-Christian violence and organised harassment of minority groups in India throughout the months of August and September.

“Our best response to the new violence is a spiritual one,” said Rev. Thomas, who founded Hopegivers International as a social concern organisation for India’s needy.

The organisation has expanded its operations to emergency relief, sending vital aid to regions devastated by last year’s tsunami, the Bombay floods, the Gujarat earthquakes and most recently Hurricane Katrina, where together with Citihope, Hopegivers International supported evacuees with aid and thousands of tetanus vaccinations.

Archbishop Thomas’ son, Dr. Sam Thomas, who now heads the organisation, is currently in the U.S. raising awareness of the plight of Indian Christians to American believers.

“Decisive police and government action has often been slow against the five Hindu nationalist groups which are seeking to use terror to re-impose ancient Hindu caste restrictions and culture on Christians and Muslims through a campaign known as Hindutva,” said Rev. Thomas.

According to the Archbishop, just last week in Bihar, a Hopegivers leader, Augustine Jabkumar, was attacked outside of his home following a leadership meeting.

|QUOTE|“Hindu militants tortured him so severely that he was left with two broken legs and hands. Weeping students and staff from the local Christian school begged for mercy and tried to intervene but they too were badly beaten by the militants.

“Shockingly hateful acts of violence against Christians such as this one are becoming more commonplace over the last months in Andra Pradesh, Gujarat, Orrisa, Rajasthan and many other states,” reported Thomas.

In August, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or World Hindu Council, called for a law to ban on all religious conversions in India in a bid to bring down the Buddhist and Christian conversion movements that have been gaining momentum over the months.

The VHP has been working hard to promote anti-conversion laws mainly in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat.

“The situation is far too severe to be ignored any longer,” said the president of Hopegivers International, Dr. Sam Thomas.

|TOP|“Religious persecution is never an acceptable practice and is even more egregious when it is done to peace-loving, community-building groups.”

According to Dr. Thomas, Hindu nationalists fear that the existing power-structure which subordinates Dalit castes or “untouchables” will be overturned if Christianity becomes one of the dominant faiths.

“They want to continue the arbitrary system based on birth and religious practice that ensures that everyone in classes above the Dalits are entitled to better jobs, more money, food, power and simply better lives in general.

“They are especially afraid of the Christian Dalits who are coming to realise that they are just as valuable as anyone else in society and now aspire to freedom of choice in education and vocation,” he said.

The Dalits are the victims of widespread persecution, most recently, on 5 September, a terrorist attack which saw over 250 Dalit homes in Gurgaon, Hariyana, burned to the ground.

“The condition of the Dalits and their persecution is a very serious human rights violation. The Dalit people need our special prayers,” said Rev. Thomas.

He said: “The militants are growing bolder and more aggressive by the day and we need to call upon the world community to help us combat their hateful rhetoric with love and hope.”

Dr. Sam Thomas called on all members of the Christian community to join together with believers in India to pray on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on 13 November.