(Still life paintings by Luciano Ventrone)
This article was published in the Hindustan Times on April 5th.
Praying to be heared.
Before the report, 'Hindu group involved in Orissa, Karnataka blasts', appeared in this paper on March 24, little had been written or spoken about the possible connection of 'Hindu terror' with attacks on Christians. Now, hopefully, some attention will be given to the role of the Hindu extremist grou p Abhinav Bharat in several attacks on the Christian community in the country as stated by the military investigator's report. The cases being handed over to National Investigation Agency will hopefully bring out this aspect more clearly and firmly.
For India's Christians, this revelation is nothing new. Their voice is often ignored by the police or by the powers that be. Let us take the case of Swami Aseemanand's confession before the magistrate. With revelations made by Aseemanand about his links with various terror attacks such as Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer dargah and the Samjhauta Express, it would be instructive to look into the role played by him and others in anti-Christian attacks.
Aseemanand had reportedly taken upon himself the task of targeting Christian missionaries working in the Dangs district of Gujarat ever since he arrived there in late 1995. Under his leadership, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal organised a rally on Christmas Day in 1998 in Subir to prevent Christmas celebrations. A person, allegedly planted in the crowd, threw a stone at the Hindus who had gathered to attack the Christians. The carnage that began on December 25 lasted for 12 days. The panic-stricken Christian community did not know where to turn, for there was a BJP government in Gujarat and the BJP-led NDA at the Centre.
The Aseemanands of the world heard the message loud and clear. In 2006, Aseemanand organised a Shabri Kumbh in the Dangs. The slogan was, 'Every single person converted to Christianity adds one more enemy to the country'.
The pattern followed by Aseemanand in the Dangs was replicated in Kandhamal by Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. After Saraswati's death in the hands of the Maoists, Sangh parivar workers unleashed violence against Christians for 42 days, killing nearly 100 people, burning 147 churches,leaving nearly 48,000 people homeless, and raping a nun.
The story is the same in Karnataka. According to Justice Michael Saldanha who led the People's Tribunal Enquiry into the attacks on Christians, "The state is under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days... On January 26 , the day we celebrated India's Republic Day, Karnataka's 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city."
In the past few years, the number of attacks on Christians, recorded by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, has been more than 1,000 attacks a year. On a petition by the spokesperson of the Madhya Pradesh Church, Father Anand Muttungal, the MP High Court asked the government to explain how in one year there had been more than 180 attacks on Christians.
India's Christians do not expect much from political parties, as the community is not perceived as a vote-bank for them. But they certainly expect the media to bring the injustice against them to the fore.
Dominic Emmanuel is director and spokesperson, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese
The views expressed by the author are personal.
I read Psalm 44 this morning - a cry of complaint and trust
13You have made us a reproach to our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those around us
14 You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us.
15 My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with sham
16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge
17All this happened to us, though we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals and covered us over with deep darknes
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us for ever
24 Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression
25We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground
26 Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love