Sunday, 5 November 2017

India Authorities and law enforcement officials Halt Worship in Churches

Officials, Police in India Halt Worship in Churches

NEW DELHI, INDIA - Authorities and law enforcement officials in Tamil Nadu state, India, have directed 10 churches to put an end worship services, sources said.
Hindu extremists forced state officials and police to issue instructions for the churches in Coimbatore District to halt worship only if they acquire permission through the collector’s office, additionally, the extremists plan to target 20 others likewise, church leaders said.

“It is actually a well-planned conspiracy against the Christian community because the Hindu extremists understand that it is tough to deal with the collector’s office for such permissions,” pastor Johnson Sathyanathan, president for the Synod of Pentecostal Churches of Coimbatore, told Morning Star News. “The time to get such approvals can stretch from a year and a half up to many more years.”

The district revenue officer (Tehsildar) told church leaders that orders against six churches were issued on the complaint of members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist, the paramilitary organization widely regarded as the parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Orders were issued in one case based on a complaint by the Hanuman Sena, a fairly new Hindu extremist group.

A Christian delegation met the minister of Internal Affairs of Tamil Nadu early last week and expressed concern and fear about the recent notices. The state minister on Oct. 24 called on the deputy superintendent of police and the local Member of the Legislative Assembly of Sulur to look into the matter and take steps to ensure that the worship services can resume, Pastor Sathyanathan said.

“Altogether there are 10 churches that have been directly affected in the last two months,” he said. “They are generally residents of this area, and people have not had problems with all these churches before. These pastors have been doing ministry for many years now.”

Besides the six churches, another congregation, an Assemblies of God Church in Thennampalayam, was first targeted during its Vacation Bible School this summer, when the members of RSS attacked its van transporting children, assaulting three young people. The revenue officer has closed down the church based on a complaint by the RSS, saying the pastor must secure permission from the collector to continue worshipping.

The pastor has been leading the church at its present location for more than five years.

Other Churches Shut-Downs

In Myleripalayam, pastor of an independent fellowship, Solomon Raja, was called in by police inspector after a complaint by members of the Hanuman Sena and compelled him to sign documents declaring that he would “obtain proper permission” to carry on worship services.
“This happened with Solomon on Sept. 1, because of that, no church worship service has been set up or taken place his church,” Pastor Sathyanathan told Morning Star News.

In Mathampalayam, where pastor Vinod Kumar had built a minor hall for church services, about 25 RSS members on Oct. 15 interrupted a church service and contacted police.
“The inspector intentionally left the church, and Kumar was directed to halt carrying out worship in the future,” Pastor Sathyanathan said.

Nevertheless, no case has actually been registered against Kumar, he has been threatened with dire warnings to stop worship services or bear the punishment, he said.
In Kalampalayam, police officers along with 20 RSS members approached a church leader known only as Pastor Charles and instructed him to shut down services until he procured permission from the collector, Pastor Sathyanathan said.

In Sulur, pastor Selva Singh of Sultanpet has submitted a court case with police opposed to the notice the revenue officer given to him. A court grants him one month’s permission to keep on the normal church service, however with a condition that there shouldn't be any use of amplifiers during service. The permission will probably be voided in case there are complaints.
The court instructed Pastor Singh to obtain permission from local officials within one month.
Pastor Singh has actually been leading the neighbourhood church for over 10 years.

Request to Re-Open Churches

Nearly 500 protesting Christians contacted the district sub-collector and the superintendent of police on Oct. 11 and submitted a memorandum asking for protection and appealing for all the churches to be re-opened.
Pastor Sathyanathan, who took part in the protest, told Morning Star News that the city superintendent of police flatly rejected any assistance or measures.

“They told me that they could do nothing concerning this, and why must we create pointless problems, that instead, we will need to go ahead and get legal permission for all our churches,” he said. “We had planned a day of silent protest on Oct. 21, but we have been denied permission to hold it out, as they claimed that it was a law-and-order situation.”
Making clear reports that 30 churches ended up being targeted, Pastor Sathyanathan said Hindu extremists had yet to act against 20 of them.

“The Hindu extremists have openly threatened Christians that they are going to do the same in 20 more churches in the area that they have done to these 10,” he said.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in various regions of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch Listing of the countries in which Christians go through the most persecution.


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