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PASTOR BEATEN UNCONSCIOUS FACES CHARGES BY HINDU EXTREMISTS IN JHARKHAND, INDIA

Family is attacked with axe, rods.

Hindu extremists hit the mother of pastor Basant Kumar Paul, 68-year-old Lakhpati Devi, with an axe in Parihara, Jharkhand state, India, on Nov. 12, 2019. (Morning Star News)

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A pastor and his family in eastern India are facing police charges after Hindu extremists with an axe, bamboo rods and wooden sticks attacked them in their home, leaving the pastor for dead, sources said.

The eight assailants, including a policeman, who attacked pastor Basant Kumar Paul as he prayed in his home at 6 a.m. on Nov. 12 in Parihara, Garhwa District, Jharkhand state, also seriously injured his mother, son, wife and brother.

Pastor Paul, 45, fell unconscious from blows from wooden clubs, and members of his family were assaulted as they came to rescue each other one after the other, sources said.

“Because he fell unconscious, he was saved, otherwise he would have been killed,” said pastor Gautam Kumar, presbyter of Indian Pentecostal Church in Nalanda Patna in Bihar.

Pastor Paul said he sustained serious injuries to his head and the rest of his body.

“I cannot even lift my finger without pain,” Pastor Paul told Morning Star News. “If I touch my head, it pains severely and feels swelled.”

The pastor’s mother, Lakhpati Devi, sustained a head injury from an axe blow, as did his brother, Uday Ram. Pastor Paul’s wife, Shila Devi, sustained several internal injuries, and his 20-year-old son, Anugrah Raj, suffered injuries that required him to undergo knee replacement surgery on Thursday (Nov. 21).

Anugrah Raj, 20, needed knee replacement surgery after Hindu extremists broke his leg. (Morning Star News)

“I had closed my eyes in prayer when one person from behind suddenly pressed my mouth and closed my nose, so that I could not breath, while another pair of hands started to choke me at my throat,” Pastor Paul told Morning Star News. “I began to throw my hands and feet in all directions, trying to rescue myself as I choked to death. A third person picked up my Bible and threw it.”

His wife, Devi, rushed to help him. Two of the assailants held him as the others beat her with wooden sticks, he said.

“They hit my wife while abusing her with vulgar language, accusing her of performing witchcraft and spreading it among the women of the village,” Pastor Paul said.

His son then ran into the room, he said.

“Leaving my wife, the attackers pounced on my son,” the pastor said. “Four of them caught hold of him, lay him on the floor, and the others began to hit him with the wooden sticks. They aimed at his leg and beat him mercilessly, till his leg broke.”

While the Hindu extremists were beating Raj, villagers ran to inform the pastor’s mother and brother, who live about 500 meters away. His 68-year-old mother, Lakhpati Devi, and brother ran to his rescue.

“The attackers did not even spare my old mother – they hit her with wooden sticks, and one of them attacked her with an axe, injuring her head,” he said. “They beat my brother Uday and struck him with the axe on his head as well.”

Some 15 to 20 supporters and relatives of the Hindu extremists joined in, each carrying a thick wooden club, he said.

“They all began to beat me. I got several blows on my back, legs, head and every inch of my body,” Pastor Paul said, adding that eyewitnesses later told him that everyone in the mob hit him until each one’s wooden club broke. “From 200 to 250 spectators stood witnessing the assault, but none dared stop the brutality, fearing their own lives.”

He said he later learned that assailants left with a warning to Devi that if she approached police, her complaint would not be considered, as one of their number, Dineshwar Ram, was a policeman.

After regaining consciousness about 15 minutes later, he put each of his injured family members into his motorized three-wheeler and drove straight to the police station, he said, as crime victims in India are required to first go to police who take them to a hospital.

Reaching the Garhwa police station at about 8 a.m., officers immediately sent them to a government hospital about 500 meters away, he said.

Pastor Paul said he was also nearly killed in a 2015 attack, and that his is the only Christian family in the village, though the front room of his home accommodates 35 families from surrounding areas as far as 20 kilometers (12 miles) away for worship services.

“I have faced so much opposition from my own family, my clan and from the [Hindu extremist group] Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, where I was deeply involved as a teacher before I came to Christ, that I have become immune to persecution now,” Pastor Paul told Morning Star News. “I am not scared of persecution anymore. Though in the initial years of my faith, I would be scared.

“My physical body might be weak, but my spirit is very strong, it will not break with persecution. They tried to kill me twice, I was almost dead, but I still did not die. I will not die until the Lord calls me back home. This assurance drives away all my fears.”

Police Response

The pastor said the assailants were all from his same caste. Five men – Dineshwar Ram, Janeshwar Ram, Kamesh Ram (all sons of Jagdev Ram), Nagendra Ram, and Pappu Ram – along with three women, Sulakshmi Devi (wife of Jagdev Ram), Lalita Devi (wife of Janeshwar Ram) and an unidentified woman, trespassed into his house intending to kill him, he said.

After admitting family members into the hospital, Pastor Paul wrote a hand-written complaint and submitted it at the police station.

“As I walked out of the police station, I collapsed at the door,” he said.

He was carried to the hospital, where his wife and family thought he had died, he said.

“My wife and family in the hospital began to lament for me, thinking I was dead,” he said, adding that he regained consciousness at 5 p.m. that day.

The pastor and his family were discharged from the hospital the next day, Nov. 13, despite the severity of their injuries.

“My mother is still not able to walk,” he said, adding that an unregistered medical practitioner in the village is treating her at her home.

The pastor is foregoing treatment for himself in order to arrange finances for his son’s surgery, he said.

“Anugrah is young and has his life ahead of him – I want to concentrate on getting his operation done,” he said. “If later I will be able to arrange finances for myself, I will get myself checked.”

In his police complaint, he noted that the assailants also robbed him of 80,000 rupees (US$1,115), a wristwatch and his cell phone. He had been planning to use the money stolen to make a payment on his newly purchased, three-wheeler vehicle, he stated in the complaint.

Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the Hindu extremists but have taken no action and made no arrests, he said.

“No policeman accompanied us to the hospital or came to visit us,” he said. “In fact, my written complaint was manipulated and reported in a milder form.”

Though the alleged assailants have been identified, police registered the FIR, Case No. 724/19, against five identified men and two identified women under Indian Penal Code sections 147 for rioting, 148 for rioting armed with deadly weapon, 149 for unlawful assembly, 295 for injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class, 341 for wrongful restraint, 323 for voluntarily causing hurt, 379 for theft and 506 for criminal intimidation.

Police summoned Pastor Paul to the station on Monday (Nov. 18), where the same officer investigating his complaint, Arun Kumar Tiwari, informed him that an FIR had been registered against him and seven family members 20 minutes before his was registered.

“The I/O [Investigating Officer] asked me to procure anticipatory bail, or else I would be arrested,” the shocked Pastor Paul told Morning Star News.

The FIR against them, Case No. 723/19 dated Nov. 12, lists charges under IPC sections 147 for rioting, 149 for unlawful assembly, 341 for wrongful restraint, 448 for punishment for house-trespass, 323 for voluntarily causing hurt, 379 for theft and 504 for provocation, and Section 3/4 of the Prevention of Witch Practices Act, 1999.

The pastor petitioned a court on Monday (Nov. 18) that Section 307 for attempted murder and five other sections be included in his FIR.

“The police deliberately left these sections out of the compliant I placed,” he said. “My application has been accepted by the court, and soon I will hear from them.”

Officer Tiwari told Morning Star News that state elections are occupying police, and that the case is on hold until after that.

“Hence, we are not going to proceed with anything related to this case till the 30th of this month, as elections would have been concluded by then,” Tiwari said. “Only after that, investigation will be done, and will be done so in a neutral manner without favor to anyone.”

Asked how he could guarantee neutrality when one of the attackers was a policeman, Tiwari told Morning Star News that Ram was no longer posted at the Garhwa police station, having been transferred long before the incident.

Asked about the severity of the injuries to the Christians, Tiwari downplayed their appearance.

“We can only go on what the medical report says, not on what we can see,” he told Morning Star News. “Once we have the report, then we will take suitable action.”

Pastor Paul, who has another son, a daughter and a grandson, has led a house church since 2010 under Calvary Gospel Ministries with its head office in Ranchi.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Source: Morning Star News



Christian Evangelist Murdered in Southeast Turkey

Tatev, Armenia – October 1, 2016: A woman prays in front of burning candles inside Sts. Paul and Peter Church at Tatev Monastery in Armenia.

Korean Evangelist Stabbed by Assailant on Diyarbakir Street

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 19, 2019, Korean evangelist Jinwook Kim was stabbed on the streets in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. He later died in the hospital from his injuries; he was 41 years old. The Public Security Branch Directorate of Murder Bureau has arrested a 16-year-old suspect and an investigation is ongoing.

Kim had arrived in Diyarbakir with his family earlier this year and was pastoring a small community of Christians. The assailant stabbed Kim three times: twice in the heart, once in the back. Officials, however, claim that the incident occurred in an effort to steal Kim’s phone. Local believers urge the authorities to investigate the incident as an assassination, rather than an attempt at extortion. Kim was married and had one child, although his second is expected to be born in the coming days. A funeral service will be held tomorrow. He had lived in Turkey for five years.

Kim is the first Christian murdered in Turkey since the 2007 Zirve Publishing House murders, which left three Christians martyred in Malatya. Christians living in Turkey have reported an increase in harassment, threats, and other non-violent incidents over the past three years. Turkey is considered a Tier 2 Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“This is the first martyrdom since Malatya. The Turkish government has started a massive deportation of Protestant leaders who served in Turkey for many years,” said one church leader. “But deportation isn’t enough for evangelists. This kind of attack would scare [them]. I think this is the last level of a plan, being like China.”

“This wasn’t just a robbery; they came to kill him,” added a Turkish evangelist, who received a death threat the day after this incident. “We always get threats. A brother prophesied a few days ago that they (the government) are going to kick out these foreigners, and probably kill a few Turkish brothers. They are going to cause chaos. They know that I am trying to spread the Gospel, so they may target me too. This may be a sign.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The grief among Turkey’s Christian community is strongly felt, along with great shock and fear. Martyrdom is not normal in Turkey, and this incident sadly shows just how much the country has changed. Just this year, we have seen a significant increase in incidents proving how the environment has grown more hostile toward Christianity. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and pray for God’s peace for them through this difficult time. We also urge the authorities to set public examples of religious tolerance, and to investigate this incident with honesty and due process of law.”

Source: International Christian Concern



Asia Bibi lawyer vows to keep working in Pakistan despite risks

By Press Association

A lawyer who represented a Christian woman given a death sentence in Pakistan after being convicted of blasphemy says he aims to keep working despite risks to his life.

Saif ul-Malook (pictured above right), who helped get Asia Bibi’s conviction overturned, has told lawyers and academics in London that he is involved with another blasphemy case in Pakistan.

He told a seminar chaired by a London-based barrister that no Christian accused of blasphemy could get a fair trial in Pakistan.

Ms Bibi, a Pakistani, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed after she drank from the same well as Muslim co-workers. She was held for eight years before her conviction was overturned by the Pakistani Supreme Court. She now lives in Canada.

Mr ul-Malook, who is also Pakistani, aired his thoughts at a seminar, staged to discuss freedom of religion in Pakistan and chaired by barrister Zimran Samuel, during a visit to London.

He said that when he took up Ms Bibi’s case no one would help him because they thought they would not be safe in his company.

“Can a Christian accused of blasphemy get a fair trial in Pakistan?” Mr ul-Malook asked.

“The short answer is ‘no’. A big ‘no’.”

He said no one would sit with him when he was working on Ms Bibi’s case and added: “They said, ‘he is going to get killed. Why should we sit with him to be killed?'”

Mr ul-Malook was asked why he was continuing to work in Pakistan when his life was at risk.

He said he wanted to keep helping people like Ms Bibi, said he was involved in another case in Pakistan, and added: “I think my life is not all that important.”

Source: Premier



Church minister and his father gunned down on same day as bombings target Christians in north-east Syria

Syriac Christian minister Hoseb Abraham Bedoian and his father were shot dead by two motorcycle gunmen who ambushed their car on the road from Qamishli to Deir al-Zor, in north-east Syria, on 11 November.

Another church leader managed to escape the unidentified assailants, who attacked their un-escorted vehicle around midday. Some reports have linked the gunmen to ISIS.

A number of similar bombs in vehicles and motorcycles have been detonated in or nearby Qamishli in the last few years [Image credit: World Council of Armenians

A few hours later, three bombs concealed on motorbikes were detonated in the city of Qamishli, in a coordinated attack targeting Kurdish and Christian communities, killing at least eight people. Some reports numbered fatalities as high as 30. More than 50 people were injured in the blasts.

The bombs were detonated by remote control at five-minute intervals. The first exploded in Qadurbek, a quiet predominantly Kurdish district. The second bomb exploded in the heart of the city’s market where a large number of Christians own property. The third was detonated on a road near a church and Christian school. Businesses were damaged in the third explosion, but no casualties were reported.

Source: Barnabas Fund



Hong Kong: Christian activist warns of threat to religious freedom as protests escalate

Protestors react as police fire tear gas in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. As night fell in Hong Kong, police tightened a siege Monday at a university campus as hundreds of anti-government protesters trapped inside sought to escape. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

By Heather Preston

A Christian activist says the religious freedoms of Hong Kong citizens could be at risk if the government continues to ignore the demands of protesters.

A number of protesters have been arrested while trying to run from a Hong Kong university campus surrounded by police.

Officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons to fight off protesters as they tried to break through a cordon that is trapping hundreds on a university campus.

Some campaigners have thrown petrol bombs and fired arrows at officers.

The violence is some of the worst seen in the territory since anti-government demonstrations began almost six months ago.

The protests started over a controversial extradition bill, and have now evolved into broader anti-government demonstrations.

Co-founder and chair of human rights charity Hong Kong Watch, Ben Rogers told Premier the Hong Kong government is to blame for the escalating violence and called for it to “address the grievances and the demands of the protesters”.

“We of course, condemn acts of violence by the students, but we also have to understand that has been as a result of the desperation and frustration.

“It’s worth remembering that the violence really was started by the police. The protests were entirely peaceful some months ago.”

“The government need to hold an independent inquiry into police brutality, an inquiry that holds the police accountable for horrific violence that they have carried out, but also to set out a plan for political reform for universal suffrage for democracy.”

“If they don’t do that, the only way it’s going to end is I fear is with an even more severe and bloody crackdown,” he added.

The former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, issued an appeal to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sunday, urging her to order the Hong Kong Police Force to show restraint in its response to protests at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University.

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming has warned against foreign countries, including Britain, interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Rogers says the international community are obligated to intervene in “any major human rights crisis and to speak out for the universal values of human rights.”

He added: “Britain in particular has not just a moral responsibility because of our history with Hong Kong but also a legal responsibility under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, to which we’re a signatory.

“We have a responsibility to monitor the situation and to speak out for the promises that were made to the people of Hong Kong.”

Rogers expressed concern for the potential implications the conflict could have on religious rights in Hong Kong and urged Christians to pray.

“It’s important to remember that if general freedoms in Hong Kong are further eroded, sooner or later religious freedom will be affected.

“If Hong Kong’s way of life is dismantled, then the church will be directly affected in that way, and so pray specifically for the church at this time in Hong Kong.

“Pray for an end to violence on both sides and pray for a peaceful political solution to this crisis.”

Source: Premier