Hindu organizations not involved in attack on Christians reports Commission

The Justice B K Somasekara Commission of Inquiry, constituted to probe the attacks on churches in various parts of Karnataka in 2008, has given a clean chit to the ruling BJP and its affiliate, the Sangh Parivar. “There is no basis to the apprehension of Christian petitioners that politicians, the BJP, mainstream Sangh Parivar and the State government are directly or indirectly involved in the attacks,” the commission said in its final report submitted to Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa in Bangalore on Friday, 28th Jan 2011.

The commission, which launched its investigation from October 2008, has found no merit in the allegations that top police officers and the district administration colluded with attackers in attacking the churches or places of worship.

The Somasekara panel said the main reasons for the attack on churches were circulation of literature derogatory to Hindus and attempts to convert Hindus to Christianity. Some of the attacks were deliberate, well-planned and fuelled by fundamentalism brewing for years.

Though the commission does not point to any particular organisation for the attack, it has found merit in the Christian memorialists’ plea to take action against Mahendra Kumar, the then convener of the Bajrang Dal.

The commission has ruled out the involvement of the Roman Catholic Churches or their members in the conversions. However, the commission has found that there were “clear indications” of conversions to Christianity in the districts of Bangalore, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bellary, Davangere, Chikkamagalur, and Udupi by a few organisations and “self-styled” pastors using “unaccounted local and foreign funds.”

Commission in its report has said that attacks on Christians were “self inflicted, some make believe, some blown out of proportion and some totally politicised”.

Bangalore Archdiocese termed the report as “unfair” as it had not done ‘justice’ to the minority community by not naming the culprits. “The commission has very badly let down the Christian community and the entire community is disappointed and feel the report is unfair,” vicar general Archdiocese S Jagayanathan said in a statement in Bangalore.

The highest bodies of the respective Christian churches in Karnataka and the Karnataka United Christian Forum for Human Rights will study the final report and would initiate the future course of action, he said.

State unit BJP spokesperson CT Ravi welcomed the commission report which he said had brought out the “truth”. The opposition parties which had blamed BJP for the attacks should desist from such criticisms hereafter, he said.

Muslim population growth to outpace non-Muslims

In the next two decades, the Muslim population globally is expected to grow about twice the rate of the non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4 per cent of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4 per cent of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion. world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35 per cent in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030. The average annual growth rate of Muslims in the next two decades has been projected to be 1.5 per cent, compared with 0.7 per cent for the non-Muslims.

India is projected to have a Muslim population of 23,6182,000 in 2030; which would be nearly 16 per cent of the then Indian population. In 2010, India is estimated to have 177,286,000 Muslims, which is 14.6 per cent of the total Indian population.

With a projected population of 256,117,000 in 2030, Pakistan is expected to surpass Indonesia as the country with the single largest Muslim population. In 2010, Pakistan has an estimated Muslim population of 178,097,000.

While the global Muslim population is expected to grow at a faster rate than the non-Muslim population, the Muslim population nevertheless is expected to grow at a slower pace in the next two decades than it did in the previous two decades.

From 1990 to 2010, the global Muslim population increased at an average annual rate of 2.2 per cent, compared with the projected rate of 1.5 per cent for the period from 2010 to 2030. As many as 79 countries will have a million or more Muslim inhabitants in 2030, up from 72 countries today.

A majority of the world’s Muslims (about 60 per cent) will continue to live in the Asia-Pacific region, while about 20 per cent will live in the Middle East and North Africa, as is the case today. The portion of the world’s Muslims living in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise; in 20 years, for example, more Muslims are likely to live in Nigeria than in Egypt. Muslims will remain relatively small minorities in Europe and the Americas, but they are expected to constitute a growing share of the total population in these regions.

These interesting projections are estimated by the study, ‘The Future of the Global Muslim Population’, released in Jan 2011 by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Pew projections are based both on past demographic trends and on assumptions about how these trends will play out in future years.

Shiite holy site bombed in Iraq

At least 45 people have been killed in twin suicide bomb attacks targeting Shia Muslim pilgrims near the Iraqi city of Karbala. More than 170 people were injured in the blasts, with the death toll likely to rise. The first attack struck Karbala’s northern outskirts, while the second blast occurred about 15km south of the city.

Two cars parked outside the checkpoints to the city exploded at the same time. The blasts occurred on two routes being used by pilgrims travelling to the city to take part in the Shia festival of Arbaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of the 7th century Imam Hussein.

Earlier on Thursday, a roadside bomb was detonated among a crowd of Shia pilgrims at the Al-Rasheed vegetable market in southern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding nine, while another such blast in a central Iraqi town killed one and injured three.

In another incident, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car outside a police office in Baquba, central Iraq. Police say three people were killed including a traffic policeman.

The bomber detonated his payload at around 10:00 am local time (0700 GMT) on Thursday, just a few blocks away from the site of a large suicide car bomb attack against another security agency on Wednesday.

Although violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since its high point three years ago, the country is still plagued by small-scale attacks that have kept the nation on edge and raised doubts about the capabilities of its security forces

The annual pilgrimage, banned under Saddam Hussein, is expected to draw as many as 10 million people this year to the city of Karbala over 10 days. Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has offered help to security agencies in protecting Shia holy places free of cost. But, US and Iraqi agencies are not willing to take the help as Mahdi’s Army of Sadr as it acts independently and sometimes conflicts with US and Iraqi forces. Many think that Al Qaeda and former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party were behind the attacks on the pilgrimage.

Sources:        NYTimes       Carbombing in Karbala

Dara intended to teach lesson to missionaries

The Supreme Court on Friday, 21st Jan 2010, upheld an Orissa High Court judgment that commuted the death sentence a trial court awarded to Dara Singh to life term. The court rejected CBI’s plea for death penalty to him. The bench comprising justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan delivered the verdict.

Lawyer Minakshi Lekhi hailed the Supreme Court judgment “While burning someone to death is abhorable, at the same time converting an innocent tribal is also an abhorable act. I appreciate all the findings of the supreme court,” she said. Few others felt that judgement is lenient.

Judgement concluded that the intention was to teach a lesson to the father about his religious activities , namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. “All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court, which modified the sentence of death to life imprisonment, with which we concur. The deceased, Graham Staines, was engaged in propagating and preaching Christianity in the tribal area of interior Orissa,” the bench recorded the prosecution case. The court held that this was not one of the rarest of rare cases in which the death sentence should be awarded to the accused. Deploring the religious intolerance, the court noted “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force,’ provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.”

Dara Singh, reacting to the verdict from Keonjhar district jail, told “All right. If it’s the verdict of country’s highest court, I accept it. My conscience says I am innocent. But I will go by the court order. My lawyers will decide the future course of action”. He declined to speak to the media. 54-year-old Dara has spent 11 years in different jails in Orissa since his arrest for the January 22, 1999 murders of Graham Staines and his two minor children at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district.

He leads the evening prayer inside the jail. He also helps us in guarding the premises. He is staying among more than 500 inmates, nearly 40 of whom are suspected Maoists. No one has ever complained against him. No special security is arranged for him including during occasions when he is taken to the court to face trial in cases.

DaraSingh conscience is clear   Intolerance deplorable   Conversion is abhorable act

Tunisia: a wake-up call for Arab leaders

Four months of rioting brought down one of the most authoritarian leaders in the Arab world, Tunisian President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, Friday. And many – from Arab analysts to average citizens – believe this may mark a turning point in the Arab World.

After two decades of unaccountable leadership, Tunisians suffered from an increasingly unbearable degree of poverty, unemployment, widespread corruption and injustice at the hands of the powerful state security. On Friday they showed the world they’d had enough. But, unfortunately, their plight is a common one shared by the majority of citizens across the Arab world.

Many in the region stayed glued to satellite channels Friday watching as Tunisian riot police beat and kicked demonstrators and shot tear gas canisters into crowds. They watched as injured demonstrators were carried away by their colleagues, as the prime minister announced that Ben Ali was no longer in power, and as anchors tried to determine exactly where Ben Ali had fled.

And many viewers outside Tunisia pondered what lessons their leaders took away.

“I think it has made governments around the region aware that uprising and revolution can happen in the world. It is a wake-up call for some. Definitely after what happened in Tunisia, things will not be the same as before,” Gamal A

Source:   World Blog – Tunisia: a ‘wake-up call’ for Arab leaders.

Politicians sabotage court ruling on Illegal structure to appease Muslims

In Jangpura, Noor Mosque stood on DDA property illegally and the court had ordered its demolition. But, the Delhi governement refused to act and Jangpura Residents’ Welfare Association appealed to the High Court for the compliance of its order. The court in 2006 issued contempt notice to the DDA.

To avoid the complications of contempt notice by the court, the mosque was demolished on Wednesday, 13th January 2010, by the DDA authorities. Muslims started protesting under the leadership of Shashi Imam of Jama Masjid supported by many politicians. In the cycle of violence that had begun on January 12, 23 vehicles were vandalised and six men, including four policemen, were injured. The traffic on the busy Ashram Chowk-Subz Burz stretch was halted for more than 21 hours.

Protestors insisted offering Namaz at the site 5 times a day and each time, the tension was building up. Sheila DIkshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, met Shahi Imam and assured that the site would be purchased from DDA and mosque will be restored. The urban development minister, Jaipal Reddy conveyed the message through Delhi chief minister.

A temporary structure – a tin roof held up with bamboos – had been erected by the protesting mob on Friday. There were over 300 people at the site even in the night with the local MLA Tarwinder Singh Marwah among them. Policemen were instructed not to obstruct the mob.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on Thursday filed a compliance report on the demolition of an illegal mosque built on public land in Jangpura B-Block in South Delhi. In the compliance report filed by one of its officials, the DDA submitted that it had not violated the demolition order. However, if any act of omission or commission on its part was construed an infraction of the judgment, the DDA tendered an unqualified apology and prayed forgiveness, the report said. The DDA urged the Court to dismiss the contempt petition in view of the demolition of the illegal mosque.

The Delhi Wakf Board filed a petition seeking modification of the demolition order. The Board in its petition said that before a mosque was built on the site, it was a burial ground for Muslims. It said that the land belonged to it and hence the DDA should have approached it before demolishing the mosque. However, the petition was withdrawn when the Bench said that if something was found contrary to facts, the Court would impose a penalty of Rs.1 lakh on the Board.

Political leaders from many political parties rushed to oppose demolition and supported restoration of the Mosque on the same site. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit was the first to visit the Masjid where she met the Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari. Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) MLA Shoaib Iqbal also addressed a gathering of over 10,000 people. “Mosques are the identity of Muslims. By demolishing them, the government is trying to oppress the community. We will fight against it.” said Yadav said. LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan called up the Imam to offer his support. At the site of the demolished mosque, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s MLA from Okhla, Asif Mohammad Khan, brought in thousands of people and threatened to start construction of the mosque. The CM’s son and East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit also visited the area. Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a community worker, lamented that despite the issue of the mosque having been amicably settled, as evident in the words of Sandeep Dikshit, there was a tug-of-war between the Shahi Imam and the Okhla MLA for credit.

Jangpura incidents dilute the execution of the order of the Supreme Court to evacuate all illegal structures across the country. Muslim groups in other parts of the country follow the same tactic to ensure that mosques are not demolished. Governments and officials act only to avoid contempt petitions against them. Hindu groups are expected to imitate their Muslim counterparts in supporting illegal temples.

Sources: Sheila meets Bukhari  Bukhari leads prayer  DDA submits compliance affidavit  Muslim protests  Politicians rush to support Muslims  Waqf retracts after penalty threat

Promotion of Carol in North East

Missionaries are promoting carol songs during Christmas every year in North Eastern states. From Nongstoin to Nagaland and Numaligarh to Nagaon. The Carolling will peak during this period and the songs could be heard from the streets and alleys with troupes doing the rounds of Christian localities. Youth for Christ ministry in Guwahati, members of different Churches and Christian Youth wings organise various events as part of pre-Christmas celebrations.

While carol singers are setting the mood for the season, the traditional Khasi tamokhlieh of Shillong, the Kabui christians in Manipur are seen in their traditional shawls on the streets.

The Borbhetta Baptist Church, Jorhat Christian Medical Centre and YMCA of Jorhat had organised a carol singing competition on National Integration on the CMC premises. Around 15 communities participated in the competition flaunting their skills in tunes and melodies. The Kukis bagged the first prize, the Assamese came second and the Nagas third. Different communities like the Mising, Kuki, Rabha and Assamese participate in their indigenous style of celebrating Christmas.

Songs of the birth of Jesus can be heard in every alley of the Meghalaya capital. People who are involved think that they are fortunate to have enthusiastic men and women who are willing to spread the joy of Christmas through carol groups. The clergymen are happy and amazed at the Naga choir’s enthusiasm.

Focussing on Bible translation in North East

Missionary work is actively pursued in Northeastern states.

The Bible has been translated into 57 languages in the region and the figure is expected to touch 100 by Christmas 2011. The Bible has been translated so far into Adi, Anal Naga (Pakan), Angami Naga, Ao Naga, Assamese, Bengali, Biate, Boro, Bru, Chang Naga, Dimasa, Gangte, Garo, Hmar, Galo, Hrangkhol, Hmar, Karbi, Khasi, Khiamnuingan Naga, Komrem, Konyak Naga, Kuki and Kyong Naga (Lotha), Liangmai Naga, Lamkang Naga, Lai, Manipuri (Meitei), Mara (Lakher), Maring Naga, Maram Naga, Mao Naga, Mizo (Lushai), Moyon Naga, Monsang Naga, Nokte Naga, Paite, Phom Naga, Poumai Naga, Rabha, Ranglong, Rengma Naga, Rengma (North) Naga, Rongmei Naga, Sumi Naga, Sangtam Naga, Sema Naga, Tangkhul Naga, Tangsa Naga, Thadou Kuki, Thangal Naga, Thangkhal, Tiddim Chin, Vaiphei, Yimchungru Naga, Zeme Naga and Zou (Zomi). The Bible was first translated into Assamese in 1820 that the latest translation was in Nokte, a language spoken by an indigenous group in Arunachal Pradesh.

Jesus is referred as Isua in Mizo, Yisui in Ao, Jesun in Thadou, Isu in Hmar, Poupa Jesu in Paite, Isuan in Ranglong, Jisunii in Maram and Pakai Jesu in Kuki.

The Northeast has diverse languages and the translation project is meant for those who are in need of the Bible. It could be noted that the Bible is the basic foundation of Christian faith. The aim is to make it available to those who aspire to read it. Even though the owners of the project insist that translations are not aimed at popularising Christianity, the demand for translation of the Bible is being created in a consistent way. The holy book is selling hugely among Mizos after it was translated in their language.

The new principle of translation aims at transferring the content into local idioms and expressions. The idea is to reach out to all sections, the young and the old, the learned and the barely literate and the womenfolk. The translation is done meticulously to ensure that the text of the Bible is not diluted. Each indigenous community nominates a linguistic scholar to translate the Bible into its language. The Bible Society of India has a team of experts that compares the translated version of the Bible with the Old Testament in Hebrew and New Testament in Greek. The translation is approved only after the content matches the original text.

House Committee submits its report on Akshaya Patra

The House Committee set up Karnataka Government to probe the allegations against ISKCON – Akshaya Patra programme has submitted its report. The committee verified audit reports of the foundation and it found that it had been spending more money than what was granted by the State and Central governments. “There are no evidences to show that the foundation misused the funds meant for the programme,” it said.

The committee, after verifying the guidelines issued by the Centre for Akshara Dasoha programme, concluded that there was nothing wrong in raising donations from the public for effective implementation of the programme. The foundation had submitted before the committee that it raised Rs 77.34 crore from the public in cash as per the norms fixed by the National Committee for Social and Economic Welfare of the Finance Department. It said the amount collected was spent only for the programme.

The commissioner of the Education department attracted the wrath of the committee for making contradictory statements before it. The department in its submission on January 25, 2010, had said the foundation was not entitled to raise funds for the programme. But in its revised submission on September 22, 2010, the department said there was nothing wrong in collecting funds for effective implementation of the programme.

The Legislature Committee, which inquired into the alleged irregularities in the implementation of Akshara Dasoha scheme by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has suggested the society project the scheme as being implemented in association with the State and Central governments.

The committee has expressed its inability to check the veracity of the video CDs, through which Iskcon allegedly attracted donations from across the globe by projecting India’s poverty. The committee said it could not land at any conclusion based on the CDs and decided to refer it to the Home department for further investigation. The committee’s report records that Congress member D K Shivakumar had said he would be ready to face punishment if the documents he submitted were found to be doctored. The committee also found nothing wrong in the foundation involving in real estate business.

The House constituted the committee after D K Shivakumar made allegations against Iskcon in July 2009. BJP MLA Yogish Bhat headed the committee, which also comprised Shivakumar as a member. Yet, none of the allegations made by him was proved in the inquiry.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation of Iskcon has been providing food under Akshara Dasoha programme for about 5.13 lakh children in Bangalore, Hubli, Bellary, Mysore and Mangalore. The allegations made against Iskcon included misuse of government grants released for the programme and raising of donations by projecting India’s poverty. Chanchalapati Das, Iskcon vice president, in his submission to the committee said the foundation had received Rs 54 crore as grant from the government, while it spent Rs 113 crore for the programme.


NE tribals clash for religious reasons

Religious conflicts erupted between the Rabhas and Garos Christians along the Assam-Meghalaya border. On 5th January, trouble started with four people dead and thousands are displaced. On 30th October, a temple in Williamnagar was allegedly attacked by Garos while protesting against civic polls in the Garo Hills. Prior to this, the Garos complained that Rabhas blockades restricted their movement on NH-37, the only link that connects NH-40 leading to Shillong. Rabhas were blocking National Highway 37 in Assam to press their demand for autonomy under the Sixth Schedule. This is also said to have prevented many Garo students in Shillong from reaching home in time for Christmas. On 22 December, a Garo pastor and his family was attacked while they were travelling on NH-37 during a bandh and it was alleged to be an act of Rabha youth. The Army is reported to have moved into the affected areas.

Over 34,000 people, both Garo and Rabha tribals, have left their homes and taken shelter in relief camps. A number of these people have no houses to go back to, while those who do have homes have fled for fear of being attacked. More than 7 people are killed in the clashes. At least 103 people have been arrested and 25 cases of attempted arson and rioting have been registered in the ethnic-violence-hit areas in Meghalaya

Since the time Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram were carved out of Assam, the inter-state border issues combined with various social factors including active proselytization of Christian missionaries are creating simmering tensions in the region and sometimes lead to death and destruction.