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Morning Star News India Correspondent

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

NEW DELHI, January 13, 2021 (Morning Star News) – Six Christian families were worshipping in a wood-and-hay structure in eastern India last month when an influential man of wealth wielding an axe led others in and, in coarse language, asked why they had abandoned their tribal religion.

Elder Burjo Tadinji of the church in Odisha state’s Chichima village, answered, “We have known the true living God; we will not leave him. We used to indulge in fights and speak lies, but we do not do all that now. We like this faith, and that is why we follow it.”

Outraged, the leader of the mob of 20-25 men from three different villages began swinging the axe on the church structure, according to pastor Bibudhan Pradhan, who normally leads the small congregation of 15 but was absent that day (Dec. 13).

“They manhandled the Christians, damaged [an adjacent] Christian home, and broke the thatched structure with the axe,” Pastor Pradhan, 48, told Morning Star News. “They threatened to chase them out of their homes and the village if they reported the matter to the police.”

The mob joined in, and soon the church structure was reduced to pieces, with Tadinji’s adjoining home also damaged. They tore the clothes of one Christian and with a stone broke the mobile phone of another Christian recording the attack, Pastor Pradhan said.

The mob leader, whose name is withheld to protect area Christians, then warned them not to report the attack to police, church elder Tadinji said.

“If the police come, we will not let you live in the village and we will chase you away,” he said, according to Tadinji.

The Christians present were all converts from animistic tribal religion. The animist assailants were trained and incited by Hindu nationalists, sources said.

Pastor Pradhan established the church in Chichima, a remote mountain village in Rayagada District, five years ago. The land on which the structure was built belongs to Tadinji.

“Though I insisted that we file a complaint, the villagers fear the repercussions and refuse to risk losing their birth-village,” Pastor Pradhan said.

Tadinji said the Christians delivered a written complaint of the assault to the village head.

“He said, ‘I will deal will this’ but did nothing,” Tainji said. “He too fears the influential man.”

'Hinduization' of Tribals

Members of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are visiting area villages and appointing leaders, sources said.

RSS members usually identify a tribal villager with leadership qualities and a strong physique, train him in influential speaking, and task him with propagating the idea that the tribal people are Hindus even if they practice the animistic rituals of their ancestors. In every village in Rayagada District, a source who requested anonymity said, Hindu nationalists have placed an image of the Hindu deity Shiva.

Pastor Pradhan said all the villagers are told to sacrifice a chicken to Shiva every year.

“It is in the tribal culture to offer a sacrifice of a chicken while buying land, planting seed, harvesting the land, and other occasions,” he told Morning Star News. “When someone in their homes has fever or illness, they sacrifice a chicken to please the god of nature. They seldomly visit hospitals – only in emergencies. They often visit the witch doctor, who again demands them to perform sacrifice.”

Sukanta Naik, a volunteer for the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) who has travelled to Odisha for 40 years, said Hindu nationalist groups have become very active in indoctrinating tribal people. Hindu nationalists increasingly try to drive a wedge between tribal peoples and Christians, persuading villagers that those who have left their beliefs and other rituals have betrayed their ancestors, gods, and the country of India.

The Hindu nationalists then obtain tribal support for political candidates and policies and introduce Hindu beliefs and practices into animist religious systems, analysts say.

Ostracized

Villagers in Chichima stopped associating with Christians when tribal people there first converted about five years ago, Pastor Pradhan said.

“Fear has gripped their minds, and they need much prayer,” he said, unsure when church services might resume.

Villagers have warned the pastor not to enter the village, saying they will damage his motorbike, he said, adding that police stand with the Hindus and do not protect the Christians.

Odisha (formerly Orissa) state, where Christians make up less than 2.8 percent of the total population, saw anti-Christian violence in 2008 in which more than 120 people lost their lives, at least 50,000 people were internally displaced and more than 6,000 Christian homes were destroyed and damaged.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2020. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened each year after Modi came to power.

Chhattisgarh Attack

Pastor Pradhan, who has also ministered to Christians in Kondagaon District, Chhattisgarh state, said that Christians in the area are still living in fear after a mob of more than 3,000 agitators on Sept. 22 damaged 10 homes belonging to seven Christians in Kakadbeda.

The next morning, they proceeded to Singanpur village, damaging homes of three Christians, and Tiliyabeda village, damaging the homes of two Christians, he said. They assaulted Christians and sent them fleeing for their lives.

“They are praying in their own homes,” Pastor Pradhan said. “I went to visit them to start regular worship service, but they refused. Only after they feel safe to start a church service, they will inform me. So they have asked me not to visit them until then.”

Worship in a church in Perigaon village, Rayagada District, Odisha state has also ceased. Tribal animists there have on three occasions blocked Pastor Pradhan and his wife from entering by placing a huge log on the road, he said. On Dec. 1, 2018, the animists burned the church building where he had led services.

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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: ©Morning Star News

President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration order for the District of Columbia ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The declaration will allow the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help the city in the event of an emergency response.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has already declared a state of emergency in the city last week after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Five people have died as a result of the riots.

Lawmakers are concerned there could be more violence ahead of Inauguration Day.

Biden told reporters on Monday that he would still be taking the oath of office outdoors.

“No, I am not (scared),” Biden said.

Also Monday, Bowser, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan encouraged people to refrain from attending inaugural events because of “last week’s violent insurrection as well as the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic.”

The emergency declaration is in effect until Jan. 24.

The declaration comes amid changes at the DHS. This week, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf stepped down from his role. He said ongoing court proceedings were part of the reason he would be leaving the office. An administration official told reporters the Capitol riot also led to his resignation.

“I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration,” Wolf said.

After the Capitol attack, Wolf tweeted, “Violence in any form is unacceptable. NO one has the right to attack ANY federal institution regardless of motivation.”

In a statement he said, “Any appearance of inciting violence by an elected official goes against who we are as Americans.”

Also, during the week, Trump withdrew his nomination to confirm Wolf as the official Secretary of Homeland Security. Trump’s team, however, said his nomination was not withdrawn because of his comments.

Pete Gaynor, administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will replace Wolf.

Photo courtesy: ©Kayla Koslosky


Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

Parler, largely known as a conservative social media site, is suing Amazon after the internet giant pulled Parler from its web hosting services.

In the lawsuit, Parler claims that Amazon Web Services violated antitrust laws and is in breach of contract because Amazon did not give Parler 30 days’ notice before removing the account.

“AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus,” reads the legal complaint. “It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.

“Doing so is the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support,” the lawsuit says. “It will kill Parler’s business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket.”

In an email from Amazon Web Services, Parler was told that the platform did not properly manage “violent content” on the site.

“Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms,” the email reads. “It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service.”

Parler is asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order so the site can go live again.

“This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place,” Parler CEO John Matze said in a statement. “We were too successful too fast.”

The Apple App Store and Google Play both suspended Parler over the weekend. The decisions come after speculation that the site was used “to plan, coordinate, and facilitate” the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021, that led (among other things) to loss of life, numerous injuries, and the destruction of property,” Apple wrote to Parler.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Staff


Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

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