Christians Still Feel Insecure in Orissa

BHUBANESWAR (Orissa), February 23 (Union Of Catholic Asia News) — Church people in Orissa say the suspected murder of a Baptist lay leader shows that anti-Christian violence continues in the eastern Indian state. The body of Hrudyananda Nayak, 45, was found in the jungle near Rudangia, his village in Kandhamal district, officials of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Catholic archdiocese confirmed on Feb. 20. “The cause of murder is not yet known,” said Bidhan Nayak, the victim’s cousin. He said his cousin had received numerous threats since anti-Christian violence by Hindu radical groups began in the state in August 2008. The violence that lasted seven weeks killed more than 60 people, mostly Christians, and destroyed thousands of homes displacing an estimated 50,000 people. Thousands of Christians are still staying in relief camps as they fear death if they return to their villages. Hindu groups have accused Christians of the murder of a Hindu leader, an allegation Christians have denied. Father Prasanna Singh, a parish priest in Kandhamal, said the latest murder tells the world that violence against Christians is continuing in the tribal-dominated district under Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese. Nayak was the fourth Christian to get abducted and killed after the anti-Christian violence subsided by the end of October. “The state should take strong action against the culprits,” Christian leaders also allege the state government tacitly supports the violence. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party is a partner in the state’s two-party coalition. Nayak is survived by his wife Rina, 39, daughter Jesia and son Saibil.
A Christian Youth Murdered In Orissa's Kandhamal

BHUBANESWAR (Orissa), February 22 (IANS) : A 40-year-old Christian man has been found murdered in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, police said on Saturday. At least 38 people, mostly Christians, were killed in the district in communal riots last year. Hrudananda Naik, a resident of Rudangia village, was found dead in a nearby forest on Thursday. Police found injury marks on his head and near one of his ears. “Somebody may have hit him on the head, causing his death,” District Superintendent of Police S. Praveen Kumar said. “I am not sure if his death has anything to do with the communal violence. Our investigation is on,” he added. However, Prasanna Kumari Naik, mother of the victim, has submitted a written complaint to the police, alleging the hand of last year’s rioters in the murder. Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides August 23. While police blamed Maoists for the killings, some Hindu organisations held Christians responsible for the crime and launched attacks on the community. Christian groups have repeatedly denied any involvement in the murders of Laxmanananda and his aides. At least 38 people were killed and thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes in the district after being attacked by rampaging Hindu mobs. Officials say about 4,000 people are still living in government-run relief camps in the district.
Kerala Nun Claims Sex Is Rife Within Catholic Church

Thiruvanantha (Kerala), February 21 (Dean Nelson for The Telegraph, U.K.) : An Indian nun has stunned the Catholic Church with a confessional autobiography claiming widespread sexual abuse and bullying within its cloisters. Bookshops throughout India’s Christian communities in Kerala have already sold out of Amen, the autobiography of Sister Jesme, who has alleged that priests and nuns not only broke their vows of celibacy with each other but regularly forced novices to have sex with them. The Catholic Church in India is mired in a series of sexual controversies, and has only just begun to recover from the dismissal of a senior bishop who “adopted” an attractive 26-year-old female companion as his “daughter”. The book by the former nun reveals how as a young novice she was propositioned in the confession box by a priest who cited biblical references to “divine kisses”. Later she was cornered by a lesbian nun at a college where they were teaching. “She would come to my bed in the night and do lewd acts and I could not stop her,” she claims. When she was sent to Bangalore to stay with a priest known for his piety, he lectured her about the need for “physical love” and later assaulted her. “Back in his room, he tried to fondle me and when I resisted, got up and asked angrily if I had seen a man. When I said no, he stripped himself, ejaculated and forced me to strip,” she writes. According to Sister Jesme, senior church officials twice tried to admit her into rehabilitation clinics and claimed she had mental problems after she complained about the scale of sexual abuse and the number of illicit affairs between nuns and priests. Dr Paul Thelekkat, a spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Catholic church said he had some sympathy for sister Jesme, and respected her freedom to express her views, but he believed her claims were trivial. “How far what she says is well-founded I can’t say, but the issues are not very serious. We’re living with human beings in a community and she should realise this is part of human life,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
Provocative Image Sparks Christian Outrage In USA

Athens (Georgia, USA), February 20 (Joe Kovacs for World Net Daily) : A modern version of “The Creation of Adam,” one of the most famous pieces of artwork in the world, is now pushing the proper use of condoms at the University of Georgia, sparking outrage among some Christians.A condom appears between the hand of God and the hand of Adam in posters distrubuted at the University of Georgia. Posters have been set up throughout the dormitories on campus, featuring the hand of God giving a condom to the hand of the first created man. Text on the poster states: “Condom Tip #5. Carefully open condom wrappers with your fingers – don’t use a sharp object.” There’s a logo of the university’s health center at the bottom, along with its online address. The original “Creation of Adam” is a fresco adorning the Sistene Chapel in Rome, and is considered of the masterpieces of artist Michelangelo circa 1510. “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo Based on a complaint from a Catholic student at the college, the New York-based Catholic League sent a letter today to Dr. Rodney Bennett, vice president for Student Affairs. “The famous Michelangelo painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling that features the hand of God giving life to Adam has been hijacked to promote condoms,” wrote Bill Donohue, the league’s president. “I hasten to add that the University of Georgia would never choose a depiction of Muhammad to hawk condoms. Indeed, only a few years ago an inoffensive depiction of this Islamic figure in a Danish cartoon led to murder and churches being burned to the ground. One can only imagine what would have happened had he been portrayed pushing condoms to youth.” Donohue noted the university just finished “Sexual Responsibility Week,” which took place Feb. 8-12. He explained if condom distribution were part of that program, “surely it can be done without needlessly offending the religious sensibilities of Catholics and Protestants.” The letter had an impact, as Donohue says the university official immediately apologized: “Dr. Bennett was not aware of the offensive poster until we contacted him, but when he saw it, he reacted swiftly and responsibly: his apology was as sincere as it was thorough. He pledged to take ‘corrective action,’ doing what he can to stop this from happening again on campus. He not only conveyed his ‘deepest apology’ over the phone – he put it in writing.”
Orissa Christian Youth Beaten & Abducted

Bhubneswar (Orissa), February 19 (Nirmala Carvalho for Asia News) – A young Christian Golyat Pradhan, 22, has been abducted and tortured by Hindu fundamentalists without police lifting a finger. Christian Fort.Com feels that such fundamentalists should severely be punished publically by the Govt. machinery (if any), like the Gulf countries. If anything when his mother tried to file a complain about his disappearance, police issued him a summons to come to the police station, this according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), an NGO that monitors the ill-treatment of Christians in the Indian State of Orissa. The activist confirmed that the “situation is still bad” for Christians, and that extremists are “freely roaming villages”, involved in criminal acts and attacking people without much as hiccup from police. In Daringabadi, a village in Kandhamal district (Orissa) police refused to register the statement of disappearance involving the young man; instead, it issued a summons for the abducted Christian to come to the police station. “At 4 pm on 11 February a Hindu mob surrounded Golyat Pradhan’s house, demanding that the 22-year-old and his widowed mother Pusra convert to Hinduism,” said Sajan K. George. “When the two Christians soundly refused, the mob became enraged. Hindu fanatics then “dragged the man out of the house” and “began beating him mercilessly. Helpless the mother watched, pleading with her son’s assailants to have mercy on him.” Instead, “her cries spurred the fanatics who then shoved her inside the house, bolting the door.” The Hindu extremists took Golyat to the neighbouring village of Galabadi, dragging and beating him mercilessly. Armed with sticks they tied him to a post, standing guard near the entrance to the village, to prevent any attempt to rescue him. The mob beat the young man till he lost consciousness. Two fires were lit near the post where he was tied. The torture continued until 10 pm when the extremists called Daringabadi police, informing them that they had arrested a “Maoist” who had come into the village to rape. “Police arrived in the morning around 10 am,” said Sajan K. George, “and freed the young man’s mother, who took the agents to where her son had been taken. But there was no trace of him. He has not been heard ever since.”
India Church Lauds Supreme Court Directive on Ragging

New Delhi, February 18 (Union of Catholic Asian News) — Catholic Church leaders in India have welcomed a recent Supreme Court directive banning hazing. The court on Feb. 11 described hazing as a serious human rights abuse and asked educational institutions to dismiss students indulging in it. It also recommended that the government cuts grants to institutions that shield guilty students. Hazing, commonly called “ragging” in India, sometimes leads to violence, killings and suicides. Welcoming the court directive, Salesian Father Kuriala Chittattukalam, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ education commission, said many freshmen can now be saved from hazing by their seniors. He said hazing often frightens new students, especially the poor ones, and the court directive would help these students lead a normal life during their studies. Capuchin Father Nithiya Sagayam, secretary of the Indian bishops’ justice and peace commission, said the court’s moves were overdue. However, he said it should have taken concrete steps, such as forming a committee to monitor how its directives are implemented. Father Sagayam observed that hazing occurs mostly in cities where elite students have little respect for the law. Salesian Father K.J. Antony, who heads the All India Association of Catholic Schools, regrets that hazing has led to murders and suicides. Hazing prevents students from mixing with others and creates anxiety and tension, he added. The Supreme Court directive is based on recommendations of a committee it set up to study hazing in Indian educational institutions. Headed by R.K. Raghavan, a former police officer, the committee said hazing was a major cause for college dropouts in India. The Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education, a forum of college students, noted that there were 89 reported cases of “severe” hazing from July 2007 to June 2008 in the country. They included 11 deaths and five attempted suicides. Among these cases, 21 percent were incidents of sexual abuse, 43 percent incidents of physical violence and the rest verbal abuse.
Asia’s Biggest Christian Convention Begins In Kerala

Head of Marthoma Church Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan inaugurating the 114th Maramon Convention.

Maramon (Kerala), Feb 17 (IANS) : The Maramon convention, which is billed as the largest congregation of Christians in Asia, organised by Syrian Mar Thoma church of Kerala opened here Sunday. The 114th Maramon convention was inaugurated by the head of Mar Thoma church, Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan. The church is headquartered at Thiruvalla, about 130 km from Thiruvananthapuram. Maramon is situated on the banks of the Pampa river, about 20 km from Thiruvalla. The week-long convention will have a series of prayer and devotional music sessions. The convention sees a mad rush of politicians from various parties trying to make their presence felt among the electorate. The Syrian Mar Thoma church has over one million members in Kerala. Nearly three million Christians are expected to attend the convention that will end Feb 22. Bishop Muame Damdala (South Africa), Reverand Martin Lundae (South Africa) and Bishop Daniel Thygaraj are the main speakers at the convention this year. Inaugurating the convention, Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan called for facing the challenges posed by the global financial meltdown and other dangers faced by the people worldwide. He said that the financial crisis faced by the world at present was the worst one after the First World War. Head of South African Methodist Church Bishop Mume Dandala delivered a discourse. Philipose Mar Chrysostum MarthomaValiya Metropolitan was present on the occasion. Zacharias Mar Theophilus Suffragan Metropolitan, Geevarghese Mar Athanasius, Geevarghese Mar Theodosius, Euyakim Mar Coorilos, Joseph Mar Barnabas, Thomas Mar Thimotheos, Isaac Mar Philexinos, Abraham Mar Paulos, Rev Martin Lund of South Africa, CSI bishops Thomas Abraham and Rev David S Thyagaraja, Malankara Catholic Church Tiruvalla Archbishop Thomas Mar Coorilos were present on the occasion. Water Resources Minister N K Premachandran, Transport Minister Mathew T Thomas, MPs Francis George, P J Kurian, C S Sujatha and Chengara Surendran, MLAs K C Rajagopalan, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, K Sivadasan Nair, Raju Abraham, Adoor Prakash, Joseph M Puthussery, Thomas Chandy and P C Vishnunath, district panchayat president Appinazhikathu Santhakumari, former MP Kodikunnil Suresh, former MLA Malethu Saraladevi and Peelipose Thomas were present at the inaugural session.
UK Christians Feel Discriminated

London (UK), February 16 (Jonathan Wynne-Jones for The Telegraph, UK) : A survey of members of the Church’s parliament found that 63 per cent of them felt that Christians faced discrimination at work. The majority also consider that freedom of belief has been eroded under the Labour government. While 59 per cent agreed that they have seen a decline in religious liberty over the last decade; 38 per cent of members disagreed. The findings follow a series of high profile legal battles fought by Christians who claim to have suffered as a result of their beliefs. In two recent cases, community nurse Caroline Petrie was suspended for offering to pray for a patient’s recovery, while receptionist Jennie Cain faces disciplinary action by her school employer after asking friends to pray for her daughter. Mrs Cain’s five-year-old daughter was told off by a teacher for talking about Jesus with other pupils. Church leaders have made impassioned pleas to Christians to stand up for their beliefs. The cry from the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, for Christians to “reclaim” their “place in the public square” was echoed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who urged them to “wake up” and defend their faith. However, Synod members were divided on whether Christianity should be exempt from equality legislation. While there are limited exemptions for religious employers under equality regulations, a significant number of respondents said that the Church should not be given the opportunity to opt out. During a debate at last week’s Synod, which was held in London, other members called for the Government to do more to protect the Christian faith.
Pakistan Militants Kidnap Christian Mother, Two Children

Murray College Church Sialkot

DANDPUR KHARROLIAN (Sialkot, PAKISTAN), February 15 (Bos News Life)— An impoverished Christian man in Pakistan was still searching for his wife and two small children, nearly one month after they were allegedly kidnapped by Muslim militants because he refused to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ. Pervez Masih, a worker, told BosNewsLife, they were taken away January 19 by “a radical Muslim man and his three accomplices” who ransacked his home in Dandpur Kharrolian village, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) southeast from the city of Sialkot in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Local police have so far failed to recover his family and arrest the suspects, police and Masih told BosNewsLife. Masih said the tensions began last year when a man, identified as Muhammad Asghar, wanted to force him to become a Muslim. Yet, “I continuously turned down Asghar’s invitation to join Islam, saying, I love Jesus Christ.” On January 19, after he left for work, “Muhammad Asghar and his three other unknown accomplices forced their way” into his home, he claimed. “They kidnapped by spouse Iram 28, my son Suhail, 6, and my breast feeding daughter Maryam at gun point,” he said, his voice trembling. Neighbors of Masih told BosNewsLife the perpetrators arrived in a black car, without a registration plate. They said the kidnappers “were armed with deadly firearms and entered Pervez Masih’s house brandishing weapons in the air”. Neighbors said they saw that gunmen forced Masih’s wife and children to sit in the car at gun point, before leaving to an unknown destination. Pervez Masih said police were “reluctant” to register a case against “their rich and powerful Muslim brethren.” He said police only took action “due to my persistent and repeated appeals”, however “they have neither recovered my wife and children nor arrested any of the four accused.” Yet, officials of the local Motra Police Station denied wrong doing. They told BosNewsLife they have “registered a case against the abductors of Masih’s family” and pledged “to put the abductors behind bars soon.”
Egyptian Christian Convert Is In Trouble

Cairo, February 14, (Christopher Landau for BBC) : Maher al-Gohary has converted from Islam to Christianity. In spite of facing death threats, he’s engaged in a legal battle to have his changed religion recognised on his official Egyptian documents. We drive through the chaotic streets of Cairo to meet Mr Gohary’s lawyer at a petrol station. His client lives in hiding, and doesn’t disclose his address. He faces threats to his life - as a result of abandoning Islam for Christianity. When we meet, in a small first floor office on an anonymous Cairo street, Maher al-Gohary is matter-of-fact about the dangers he faces. The problem is that some judges rule according to their beliefs, not according to law. Mr. Nabil Ghobreyal, lawyer said,“I am afraid. Many, many people can kill me and my daughter anytime,” he says. I asked his daughter whether she felt these threats to his life were serious. “While I was going to school, someone stopped me and told me if my father does not go back to Islam, they will kill him and kill me,” His daughter tells me. Egypt has the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East About 10% of Egypt’s 80 million people are Christians Egyptian Christians are known as Copts, a word derived from the Greek word Aigyptos, meaning Egypt The Christian community is divided into: Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholics, Coptic Evangelicans (Protestants) and other minorities They have their own pope, Pope Shenouda III, and give allegiance to him rather than to Rome.
Anti-Conversion Law 'll Draw More To Christianity in Sri Lanka

Colombo (Sri Lanka), February 13 (Mission Network News) : Throughout the world, it remains the fact that wherever persecution increases, growth in the church increases as well. This truth brings hope to believers in Sri Lanka as it seems a proposed anti-conversion law will inevitably be passed. Vice President of Gospel for Asia Danny Yohannan says that, if passed, the new law will keep people from “coercion,” essentially implying that Christians cannot give food to the starving or shelter for the homeless with the intent of ever sharing the Gospel. Yohannan notes that proposed laws have been kept vague on purpose. “They try to keep it as general as possible so they can really catch anyone doing anything to put them in prison.” The law will be voted on officially sometime this month. If passed, may cause GFA missionaries to come up with more subtle ways of sharing the Gospel. But Yohannan says it will undoubtedly be spread more than ever. GFA and many other Mission Network News mission partners have experienced growth in the church as it comes under heavy scrutiny. “What we’ve seen, like in Orissa [India] with the persecution that happened a few months ago, is that there was actually more people coming to Christ and more churches being planted because of this.
Fr. Ignatius Loyola Appointed Bishop Of Simla-Chandigarh Diocese

Chandigarh, February12 : Father Ignatius Loyola Ivan Mascarenhas has been appointed the Bishop of Simla-Chandigarh Diocese. His appointment was announced in Rome by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on the 10th February 2009. The congregation of the diocese and other dignitaries have heartily welcomed the appointment of Father Ignatius Loyola Ivan Masacarenhas by heartily congratulating him. He was born on 3rd June 1949 in Kadri, Mangalore, Karnataka. His father is Mr. R.F.S. Mascarenhas and his mother is Mrs. Florins Mascarenhas. He got his primary education in Christ the King Convent School, Tambaram, Chennai. He passed his middle at St. Columbas’ School, Delhi. He got his Post-Graduation degree in English Punjab University, Chandigarh and B.Ed. from Annamalai University, Kerala. He passed theology from Vidyajyoti, Delhi, Minor Seminary in Ajmer. He is the Secretary to Delhi Archbishop Angelo Fernades. He did his pastoral works in Parishes- Prasad Nagar, RK Puram and Pushp Vihar in Delhi. He has been Rector Vinay Gurukul, Minor Seminary, Gurgaon, Pradiksha, Delhi, Kristu Jyoti Gurukul, Patiala, Vice Principlal in Rosary School, Delhi, Manager, St. Rosary Senor Secondary School, Delhi. Father Sahaya Thatheus Kauli (Distt. Patiala, Punjab) revealed the news to media.
Vatican To Re-Evaluate Darwin's Theory On March 3-7

Vatican City (Rome), February 11 ((Ansa.it) - The Vatican is preparing to re-evaluate 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin 200 years after his birth and 150 years since the publication of his landmark work, On the Origin of Species. As opposed to the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church never condemned Darwin’s work and next month will examine his theory of evolution in depth from the point of view of Christian faith. This will be done at a March 3-7 conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture to be attended by a host of international scholars and theologians. ‘’Now more than ever it is necessary to scientifically discuss the various scientific aspects of the theory of evolution, a theory which has been at the center of the history of science for Catholic and non-Catholic scholars,’’ said Father March Leclerc, a professor of philosophy at the Gregorian University here who has organised the five-day debate. The conference was illustrated in Rome on Tuesday by Father Leclerc who said it will begin with discussions on scientific aspects of Darwin’s theories and then review its philosophic ramifications. The seminar will wind up with a theological debate on ‘’evolution from the point of view of Christian faith, starting with a correct explanation of the Bible’s teachings on creation and then moving on to how the Church has viewed Darwin’s theory,’’ he added. There will also be some discussion on ‘intelligent design’ or Creationism, the literal interpretation of Genesis which fundamentalist Christians accept as the truth, ‘’but this will be impossible to examine scientifically,’’ Father Leclerc said. According to the Vatican’s ‘culture minister’, Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, ‘’it is important to establish a dialogue which unites science and faith’’. ‘’Neither approach alone is sufficient to fully explain the mystery of man and the mystery of the universe. Problems arise when they overlap to the extent that scientific theory becomes an ideological system applied to reality as a whole, which is the absurd case of social Darwinism,’’ the head of the pontifical culture council added. A well-known Biblical scholar in his own right, Msgr. Ravasi observed how ‘’the author of Genesis was most certainly conditioned by the scientific truths and limits of his time and did not intend to explain what literally took place but rather focused on a theological question: what meaning does man have in the universe’’.
Bangladesh Christian Student Beaten By Mob

Dhaka (Bangaladesh), February 10 (Daniel Blake for Christian Today) : A 20-year-old student in Bangladesh was beaten by a mob of 50 Muslims after distributing Christian literature near a large Muslim event. Rajen Murmo, from Believers’ Church Bible College, was distributing books along with 25 other students in the town of Uttara, in northern Dhaka. According to the government, they were just a few kilometres away from four million Muslim pilgrims who had gathered for the annual World Muslim Congregation. Murmo told Compass Direct News that some men approached him and said that Muslims did not follow the Bible as the Quran superseded it. The men reportedly probed him on where he got the books from and the address of his religious leaders and mission. “But I did not give them the address,” he said. “If I had given them the address of the Bible college, they would have destroyed it. My blank denial to give information to them made them enraged, and they started beating me. They told me if I do not give the address of the religious leaders and mission, they would kill me.” Over 50 Muslims reportedly started to beat him and tear at his clothes, leaving Murmo with a split lip. He was saved from the mob only when security forces rescued him. The mob persuaded the security forces to take Murmo to a police station, where he was released by Amos Deory, the principal of the Bible College. Deory claimed that the police were concerned that Murmo would have been killed had he not been rescued in time. The Rev. Kiron Roaza of Believers’ Church told Compass Direct News that the distribution of literature by the students was just a normal part of their evangelistic work, and that the right to propagate their faith was enshrined in the Bangladeshi constitution. Bangladeshi Muslims hold the World Muslim Congregation on a par with the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. The event was first launched in the 1960s by controversial group Tabligh Jamaat, the group behind London’s proposed “mega-mosque”.
Hindu Temple In Place Of Orissa Church

Kandhamal (Orissa), Feb 9 (Asia News) - The foundations have been laid for a Hindu temple on the rubble of the church in Batticola, in the district of Kandhamal (Orissa). And the Christians returning to their villages are being pressured to convert to Hinduism. This information comes from Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, who has received eyewitness testimonies from the northwestern state. The church in Batticola was razed to the ground and burned last August, at the beginning of the violence against Christians. Now, a foundation about one meter high has been laid in order to build a Hindu temple there. “On Feb 2nd around 12 noon, about 17 people, mostly men, left the G. Udaygiri relief camp to check on conditions at the Dokewadi hamlet in Jhimangia village before returning there. These Christians were surrounded by the Hindu villagers and given a dire warning: if they wanted to come back to the village, they had to convert to Hinduism.” Batticola is one of the primary targets of the anti-Christian campaign. This news from Batticola is a sign that the situation on the ground is not calm, although the government continues to give assurances that the danger has passed, and is closing the refugee camps, sending Christians back to their ruined homes. Other sources say that some Christians who have gone back to Batticola have faced constant humiliation and discrimination. The Hindus in the village have instituted 15 unwritten rules against the Christians. One of them is that Christians should always give way to Hindus in the street; that in the public baths, the Christians should bathe last; etc.
Obama Appoints An Indian Christian Nicholas Rathod To The Key Post

Washington (USA), February 8 (PTI for Lalit K. Jha) : US President Barack Obama has appointed an Indian Christian Nicholas Rathod, who was part of his 15-member transition team, to a key White House post. Rathod, 33, will serve as Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. He worked as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama-Biden Transition Project earlier. Rathod also worked as Deputy Director of Federal Affairs Office for Governor David Paterson (NY) and Senior Manager of State and Regional Affairs for the Center for American Progress. Before Nick Rathod worked for a president and represented Barack Obama to pop stars like Jennifer Lopez, his family’s journey began more than 37 years ago, when Sam and Ella left India on Sam’s way to becoming a Methodist minister. Ella Rathod said, “We came with $8 in our pockets when we landed in New York City and to have our son go to Washington D.C. and be part of the White House, it’s amazing. It could only happen in America.” Nick’s role has attracted the attention of the press in India, where his younger brother Jason spent time last summer. Like his brother, Jason worked for the Obama campaign. Jason said Indian-Americans have played a prominent role. Nick Rathod was appointed director to the Office of Inter-governmental Affairs. Jason Rathod is a law student at Duke, where he worked on the presidential campaign. Nick is married with a daughter. He was born in Albion and graduated from high school in Grand Island. The Rathods are retired in Hastings.
American Christian Nuns Invite Pandit Zed To Pray

Reno (USA), February 7 (The News of Baltic and Europe) : In a remarkable interfaith gesture, Carmelite nuns in Reno (USA) invited acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed for dialogue and praying together. Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, prayed from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BCE, with lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. The nuns prayed from Psalms and Hymnal, and read from Romans in New Testament. According to Sr. Susan Weber, Prioress of Carmel of Our Lady of the Mountains Monastery, it was a joy to meet and share conversation and prayer together. They have decided to make this interfaith dialogue and prayer an annual feature. Zed presented nuns with copies of Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord). The life of a Carmelite nun is completely contemplative, consisting of prayer, meditation, manual labor, and silence/solitude. Carmel of Our Lady of the Mountains Monastery, spread over 19 acres on a hill overlooking city of Reno in Nevada, was founded in 1954. Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion followers and moksha (liberation) is its ultimate goal.
Government Shuts Down Orissa Relief Camps

Bhubneshwar (Orissa), February 5 (Mission Network News) : After facing months of violent persecution this fall, believers are now being turned out of government refugee camps in Orissa. Tens of thousands of people are being evicted from relief camps with only 50 kg of rice and 10,000 rupees (appr. $200 US). Mission India is providing emergency relief kits containing basic supplies for believers in Orissa. Many Christian homes have not been rebuilt, and many fear further attacks outside of the relief camps. Persecution continued within relief camps, where Christians were threatened with violence. Local Hindus often refuse to hire Christians, and it’s unlikely that believers will be able to secure employment. With no access to basic supplies after they leave the camps, there is an urgent need to provide for these believers’ physical needs. In August 2008, a wave of violence followed the assassination of Hindu swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Over 100 people, mostly Christian, were killed and 4,500 buildings destroyed or damaged. Hindu nationalist groups placed the blame on Christians and began targeting local believers, despite a Maoist group’s confession to assassinating Saraswati. Last month, India’s Supreme Court ordered Orissa’s state government, led by a local party and a Hindu nationalist party, to ensure protection for the state’s Christian minority. Despite the closing of government relief camps, those run by local churches will remain open. Mission India staff is working with its local ministry partners to distribute emergency materials in relief camps where the needs are most urgent. Relief kits include the following supplies: cooking utensils, rice, a water jug, blankets, clothing for two adults and two children, a Bible, and a picture New Testament in the local language. Food and medicine are also included where most urgently needed.
Staines International Award To Nirmala Carvalho

Mumbai, February 5 (AsiaNews)- Nirmala Carvalho has been chosen for her articles on the attacks against Christians in Orissa, and on violence against women. The prize has also been awarded to the widow of Hemant Karkare, head of the anti-terrorism squad in Maharashtra who was killed in the November attacks in Mumbai. Nirmala Carvalho (on the left in the photo), an AsiaNews correspondent in India, has been awarded the Staines International Award For Religious Harmony, named after Graham Stewart Staines, an Australian Christian missionary burned alive in Orissa in January of 1999. The Indian journalist has been awarded the prize because she “has created awareness of human rights violations against women and other minority groups in India and throughout the world by her writings and fearless reporting over the past four and a half years as a correspondent with the Italian based news agency AsiaNews.” The prize has been given to Kavitha Karkare, head of the anti-terrorism squad in Maharashtra who was killed during the November 28 attacks in Mumbai. The organizers of the Staines International Award gave the prize to the widow of Hemant Karkare because of her message of forgiveness for the terrorists responsible for the killing of her husband and her witness of “ahimsa,” a term indicating the rejection of all forms of violence. The Staines International Award For Religious Harmony was instituted in 2000 at the initiative of the International Council of Evangelical Churches, in collaboration with the Global Council of Indian Christians. Previous editions of the prize have been awarded to, among others, archbishop of New Delhi Allen de Lastic, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, and to John Dayal, a journalist and a representative of the United Christians Forum for Human Rights in India.
Security Of Minorities Must Be Top Agenda During India's Elections

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India), February 4 : The All India Christian Council has demanded that all political parties put the safety and security of religious minorities in the country at the top of their political agenda and manifestos in the coming General Elections. This will reassure minorities and will ensure that India continues to be the secular country envisaged by its founding fathers and guaranteed by the Constitution. Dr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council, Government of India, and Secretary General said that this assurance has become imperative in view of the large scale persecution of the Christian minority in as many as fourteen states during 2007-2008, and particularly in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It will be recalled that even today over 6,000 Christians in Orissa have to live in government refugee camps because of threats to their life and religion by gangs of the Sangh Parivar. At its height in August-October 2008, over 50,000 persons were displaced and forced to run to the jungles as gangs burnt over 4,000 houses in 300 villages in the Kandhamal district of Orissa. Hundreds of churches were destroyed. Many girls and women were molested and raped, including a Catholic Nun. The violence spread to other districts and other states. In Karnataka, over 30 churches were destroyed, and the violence still continues. Christmas could be celebrated in Orissa only after over 6,000 Central Reserve Police personnel were posted to the state.
Christians Assaulted In Assam

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) : A group of people, allegedly Hindu activists, attacked a party of Christians including priests and nuns on Majuli island in Jorhat district in Assam on Jan 24, church officials told. Demanding strong action against the attackers, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said: “They (the attackers) were from a radical Hindu group, led by a seer.” “We are concerned about the development in the area. The government should take strong action against the attackers,” CBCI spokesman Rev Babu Joseph said. According to Father William Horo, the media director of Dibrugarh diocese in Assam, a party of Christians, numbering around 500, were returning from Jengraimukh Jan 24 after attending the consecration of a member of the Mising community, Hemanto Pegu as a priest of the Catholic Church. As they reached Kamalabari Charali in Majuli subdivision, they were threatened and assaulted by a group of people, who accused them of converting tribals and threatened to cut them “into pieces.” Before threatening the group, “some local residents including women stopped the vehicles and asked them the reason for their coming to the island,” Horo said. “Father Caesar Henry, the principal of St. Antony’s High School, Mariani and Father G. P. Amalraj, the principal of St. Xavier’s High School were pulled out from their vehicle and manhandled at the Kamalabari petrol pump. They (the group) kicked them and punched them in their stomach,” he added. He alleged that the members of the group were shouting: “They are missionaries, beat them and kill them” and using abusive language against Christians. The Christians were warned not to come to Majuli again, Horo said. He clarified that the Christians were not on a mission to convert tribals. “They were using the opportunity, when the first Mising priest was getting ordained, to make their first ever visit to the world-famous Majuli island,” he said.
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