Catholics issue religious freedom report on Pakistan and India.Advani responsible for inciting hate against religious minorities.


Pakistan government fails to ensure safety and justice toward christians. No word about Bishop John Joseph in report Alleanza Cattolica - Cristianita'. INDIA Population 982.223.000 Number of Catholics 17.211.000 From the point of view of the ma

This is the case for example of the Minister for Internal Affairs, Lal Kishan Advani, a member of the Nationalist Hindu Party Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp), which is not foreign to instigating violence against Muslims. The involvement of the Bjp in campaigns of ethnic and religious intolerance has been proved, according to the «Human Rights Watch», even in the case of the State of Maharashtra, where a violent campaign to deport Muslims of the Bengali language group was launched, on the pretext of their clandestine immigration from Bangladesh. The same source denounces that also in the State of Gujarat, where the government is in the hands of the Bjp, Hindu activists have aimed at Christian Churches as an effect of the campaign to rid the Nation of missionaries. On the serious situation of this State there are many witnesses. The Agency «Fides», on July 31 st 1998, refers that in the State of Gujarat along with the destruction of churches, there have been many public burnings of Bibles, assaults on schools and even the profanation of a Christian cemetery. According to the Report 2000 by the Human Rights Watch, even Islamic militants, lead by Pakistan, have been responsible for violations of human rights. In India, there are many religious groups belonging to different faiths, but Hinduism is the predominant faith. The caste system is tightly connected to the Hindu religion and the strong religious conflictuality of the Nation is also due to the fact that the conversions of many of those belonging to the lower castes risk undermining this system. In fact, during the years, members of the lower castes and those outside the caste system (dalits) often converted to Buddhism or to Christianity, encouraged to do this even by their leaders. Therefore the Government promotes different activities for the development and integration of the most disadvantaged levels of the population, simplifying access to jobs, giving benefits from a special fund for the development and realization of projects for formation. However, it must be said that according to the law, members of the lower castes that convert from Hinduism to Christianity lose the possibility of getting into programs for development and support. This does not happen when converting to a religion derived from or connected to the Hindu tradition (Buddhism, Jainism, Sikh). According to the magazine «Mondo e Missione» in September 1999, the presence and the activity of Christian missionaries among the tribal populations, held on the outskirts of the Nation's economic and social life, is one of the main reasons for the growing intolerance of the Hindu nationalists against the Christians. Giampiero Sandionigi, in the same review, indicates in the act ofpromoting human dignity, that the Church continues the unleashing cause for anti-Christian acts among these populations.
There are no national laws that forbid proselytism by Indian Christians, but since the middle of the sixties, the government authorities refused to welcome foreign missionaries that wanted to reside in the Nation. Those arriving today can only get tourist visas and thereby remain in the Nation for brief periods of time. During 1998, state officials refused entry permits to foreign missionaries for the Northeastern States. Usually, missionaries obtained the renewal for their permits, but in March 1999, certain missionaries declared that the government changed this policy, further restricting these concessions. During 1998 and 1999, there were some failed attempts by members of the government authorities to introduce principles and behavior inspired by the Hindu tradition internally. According to the 1999 Report by the United States Government on religious freedom, the situation of religious freedom has gotten worse during the past two years. During 1998-1999 there has been an unusual and serious expansion of social violence against Christians. The Government explicitly criticized this form of violence, but the efforts to prevent these incidents were judged as inadequate by the American Report. Also, in some circumstances, participation in acts of violence and abuses committed against Christians and Muslims by government workers or members of the law and order forces has been proved. Conflicts between Muslims and Hindu are particularly serious in the State of Kashmir because of the political implications of this battle (revendicating independence by the Muslims and the problems with neighboring Pakistan). On various occasions, violence between Muslims and the Hindu has brought to a never-ending cycle of revenge and vendettas, with serious damage on both sides. Both factions in this battle have used the massacre of civilians. The Report by the «Human Rights Watch» denounces at least six cases of serious massacres of civilian Hindus perpetrated by the pro-Pakistani militant groups for 1999. The violation of human rights and summary executions, according to the same source, has also been used by the Indian government forces and by Hindu activist groups. Among the most serious acts of violence is the massacre on January 3 rd 2000 at the market in Batmaloo, in the outskirts of Srinagar, where later a bomb exploded and killed 19 persons and left 25 wounded. Concerning the conflicts between the Muslims and the Hindu, one must also mention that perhaps the governments of India and Pakistan are not extraneous to any of all of this. On January 5 th 2000, «L'Osservatore Romano» reported the mutual accusations the two governments made against each other with reference to the return of violence in January 2000. According to the same source, the Pakistani authorities denounced Indian mortars having hit a mosque in Muzzaffarab twice, killing at least three persons and wounding another seven. On their part, the Indian authorities of Srinagar have denounced the fact that Islamic secessionists attacked three military camps with missiles and grenades, killing one soldier and wounding another. The New Delhi government expressly called Pakistan up for the explosion of a bomb at Batmaloo and for the highjacking of the Indian Airlines Airbus, which concluded in Afghanistan last December 31 st . Even from the social point of view, deterioration of respect for the religious minorities seems more than evident: apart from the endemic violence between Muslims and Hindu, during the last years many attacks and violence have been registered against the Christian communities. Often, this violence has been lead by extremist groups with the collaboration of previously incited crowds. One of the most serious episodes - referred by the Report 2000 by the Human Rights Watch - which occurred on January 23 rd 1999 in Manoharpur, when an Australian Protestant missionary, Graham Staines and his two sons were killed by a crowd yelling Hindu slogans. The three were sleeping in their car when the group of Hindu assailants torched it. While the car was burning, some inhabitants of the village tried to help Staines and his sons, but were beaten by the assailants. The accusation against them was of having tried to convert the masses to Christianity.
On February 12 th 1999, «Fides» believes that the wave of violence against Christians is rowing: a few days after the killing of the Australian missionary and his sons, in the State of Bihar a Catholic schools was the object of stone throwing and two priests were beaten by a group of youths. On February 3 rd 1999, a Catholic nun was assaulted and raped and a few days later, on February 7 th , in the same area, a young 18-year-old Christian girl was killed along with her 10-year-old brother, after being raped. In September 1999, a Catholic priest was killed, Arul Doss, and it is believed that the assassins are the same as the ones who killed Graham Staines. In some of the many cases of violence against Christians, the support by the local police force has been ascertained. On November 13 th 1999, more than 30 Hindu militants attacked some Christians who had grouped together for a prayer meeting in the village of Khayala, west of Delhi. The assailants burnt Bibles and other religious materials and some Christians were wounded. The police identified some important leaders of the local Nationalist Hindu Party among those involved in the attack. Even in the State of Gujarat, anti-Christian violence has not ceased: during the month of December 1999, bands of Hindu fundamentalists burnt churches and other Christian institutions. According to the Forum Cristiano Unito per i Diritti Umani, quoted by «Fides» on January 8 th 1999, hostility against Christians was also activated in the, not less hateful, social boycotting. In fact, in the District of Dangas, State of Gujarat, Christian women are not allowed to draw water from the village wells. «Compass» reported a serious episode of violence against Christians on December 31 st 1999 at Nagod, near New Delhi. A group of Hindu militants attacked the home of the nephew of Arun Shourie, an important journalist and member of the Indian Parliament. The victim of the aggression was Chandrakant Shourie, his wife Rebecca, their son Ashih and some friends. During the attack some assailants, armed with sticks, screamed, "Kill this Christian!" recalling the killings of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons. Physical violence against Christians in India is accompanied by violent political campaigns. «Fides» underlined the fact that the largest fundamentalist Hindu organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, (Rss, Association of volunteers for the Nation) launched repeated campaigns to mobilize the so-called «diabolical proselytism» by the Christian missionaries. According to the same source, the Rss inspired the main government party. This organization was born in 1925 to preserve the Hindu community from external influences such as Islam and Christianity. Mahatma Gandhi's assassins belonged to the Rss. As reported by «Asia News» in April 1999, the involvement of the Bjp (the Rss is linked to it) in anti-Christian violence was explicitly denounced by A. J. Philip, vice-director of the «Indian Express», an English newspaper in New Delhi. The fundamentalist groups are repeatedly asking for the expulsion of all the Christian missionaries. In May 1999, «Asia News» reported the declarations of Mosha Joshi, the national secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), who attributed all the responsibility for the unrest in the Northeast of the Nation to the missionaries and menaced a civil war if the government did not accept his requests. In the same declaration, the Hindu priests were invited to point out the names of those going to Christian encounters and ceremonies. According to a communiqué by the "Indian Christian General Council", quoted by the «Fides», many non-government Christian organizations and other European or American organizations have funded Hindu fundamentalism, while only 4% of the funds that reach India go to the Christian Ongs. This funding has favored cultural associations tied to organizations involved in very serious episodes of violence against Christians and other religious minorities in the country. The climate of heavy intimidation towards the religious minorities and the lack of protection by the government authorities gave rise to moments of true panic in the religious minority communities. This was the case of the attempt to take a census of the Islamic organizations in the State of Western Bengal reported by «Asia News» in May 1999. According to the Muslim religious leaders, this monitoring of Muslims would be used to incite souls against the Islamic community and would reflect the hostile attitudes towards the minorities. A similar monitoring - the same source refers - had been made on Christians in the State of Gujarat, but the research was then interrupted because of the protests by various ecclesial groups.The government of the eastern State of Orissa - reported by «Asia News» in May 1999 - referred that on the March 16 th 157 homes were seriously damaged and 13 persons were killed during episodes of violence against Christians. On April 23 rd 1999, «Fides» reported the numbers on religious violence gathered by the United Christian Forum for Human Rights: the Forum counted over 150 cases of anti-Christian violence in March 1998, when the coalition lead by the Bjp nationalist party had taken power. The same source denounced, on October 1 st 1999, the serious aggression against Father Philip Prashant Lukose, a missionary to Jhadeol (Indore) and his travelling companion, Motilal. The two were forcefully stopped by a group of Hindu, after being mistreated and sworn at for three hours, they were forcefully lead, naked and covered in mud, to a Hindu temple. There the assailants violently applied the sign of reconversion to Hinduism upon them. The preceding September 16 th , according to «Human Rights Without Frontiers» dated October 6 th 1999, the American theologian from the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales, Fr. Anthony Raymond Ceresko, 57 years old, had to leave India without knowing the reason for his expulsion. The same source reports that the following September 20 th in Chapra, Sister Ruby was kidnapped by two men, beaten, abused and a rape attempt. Immediately after the Bjp's victory in the October 1999 political elections, a group of Protestant pastors, meeting in the city of Dahod, in the State of Gujarat, were attacked by a group of Hindu militants, accompanied this time also by members of the police force. The news was made public on October 12 th by the Christian organization «The Voice of the Martyrs» from Canada. The two religious persons were beaten with sticks, sworn at, smacked and made to sing anti-Christian slogans. Two pastors were seriously hurt, while others were lead off to jail and underwent eight hours of detention. In November 1999, «Misna» revealed that the community of the Missionaries of the Immaculate in Kalchini (Western Bengal) had been assaulted by about twenty bandits that wounded the sisters, profaned the Eucharist and stole whatever they could carry away. On the even of the Pope's visit to India - the same bulletin reports - the main Hindu fundamentalist organizations vehemently protested against what they believed to be Catholic infringement in the Nation. Extremist political leaders accused Pope John Paul II of going to India, to confirm, by his presence, the proselytizing of the Church. The leaders of the main religions of the Nation (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) meeting in Delhi protested against these attacks. The Pope's visit incited protests on the part of the Integralists and took place in a climate very different from the preceding one in 1986, even if a minority raised the protests. During the official encounters with those in charge of the Indian government, the Pontiff was reassured of the government's intentions to guarantee religious freedom, the lay characteristic of the State and the rights of the minorities. At the same time, according to «Asia news» on December 1999 - The Pope's visit and the post-synodal Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia, were criticized by the members of radical Hinduism and certain press groups, who titled many passages of the Pope's speech in a factious manner, continuing to accuse the missionaries of using force, money and material goods to convert the tribal populations and the members of the inferior castes.
The problem about the fight against conversions has continued being at the center of India's political and social life. «Human Rights Without Frontiers», on January 28 th 2000, reports that in the State of Gujarat a proposal for a law that forbids conversion from one religion to another by force, praise or fraudulent means. Since the BJP Party, the supporters of the law, have an absolute majority, there are very good probabilities that the law will be put into practice.


Population 130.579.571
Number of Catholics 1.062.000
During the first days of January 1999, while obviating the danger of seeing the shari'a applied by the Parliament to the entire national territory, discrimination against those not adhering to Islam still remains constant. Meanwhile, as informed by «Fides» on January 29 th 1999, two districts at the boundaries with Afghanistan, Malakand and Kohistan adopted the shari'a on January 16 th 1999. After the publication of the decree relative to this by Arif Bangash, the governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, Islamic judges will head the courts, which will manage the trials and judge on the basis ofIslamic law.

According to Father Andrew Francis, the director of the Pontifical Missionary works for the Country, interviewed by «Fides» (October 22 nd 1999), the main difficulties encountered by the Christian community are four: «the first is the nationalization of Catholic schools, despite the government's promise to give them back to the Christian communities». Another painful point is «the prohibition to teach catechism to Christian children, obliged to study Islamic doctrine. We would like to be allowed to teach Christianity and for prejudices and discrimination of Christian children to disappear». «The separate electoral system is a political discrimination: we would like a joint electorate allowing us to vote even for non-Christian candidates», he added. He also spoke about the law on blasphemy, «instrumentalized for reasons of lowly politics». The religious minorities are not allowed the right to vote as the Muslims, but only - as reported by «Asia News» in their August-September 1999 issue - the possibility to elect their own representatives, and for a limited number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies. There are proposals to modify the electoral law that aim giving even the religious minorities the full right of comprehensive voting for representation in the Senate. The restrictions in the electoral system, introduced by General Zia-ul Haq in 1985, were not present in the 1947 Constitution, the first one for the new State of Pakistan.

Today, there is still a law on blasphemy - no. 295C of the penal code , which punishes this crime with the death penalty and does not allow bail while awaiting judgment. According to the 1999 Report on religious freedom by the State Department of the United States, even the Shi'ite Muslims have suffered these consequences. On December 14 th 1999, «Compass» refers that many Christians had to disappear to avoid not only the punishment for blasphemy, but also the violence perpetrated towards them and, in some cases, even ended up in assassination.
At the beginning of 1999, according to the same source, provisional freedom was denied to the Christian brothers Rashid and Saleem Masih, arrested in May of the same year. The two had been arrested after a fight with a vendor who refused to serve them an ice cream in the same cup where Muslims ate. Accused by the vendor of having criticized Islam and Mohammed, the Masih brothers, if condemned for blasphemy, risk the death penalty. The families of the accused fled from their homes for fear of attacks by Islamites. Even if in June 1999 there was a revision by the government on the procedural terms necessary for the accusation of blasphemy - as informed by «Mondo e Missione» in August-September 1999 - substantially the legislative principle that gives the right to repress blasphemy to the State has not changed, thus disarming the hands of the individual Muslims, offended in their religious sensitivities.

The main variations introduced state that the condition for the arrest of a citizen by the police is the verification by a commission of six members of the actual existence of a reason for a judicial trial.«Asia News» in August-September 1999 signals that the modifications are part of a proposed amendment presented by the Ministry for Religious Affairs to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at that time, but that already six cases had been dealt with according to the new procedure and the accused - four Muslims and two Christians - were retained innocent.

On the scholastic level, the government does not allow students belonging to religious minorities of being examined on doctrines other than Islam and imposes the teaching of Islam to everybody, making the exam obligatory. As an alternative for the non-Muslims, moral classes are given (however, based on the Islamic religion), a choice that creates serious problems of discrimination for whoever makes it. «Eglises d'Asie» on May 1 st 1999 informs that in the Christian schools, Christian doctrine is taught as a subject that is not inserted in the official programs. With the October 12 th 1999 coup d'etat, General Pervez Musharraf destituted the Prime Minister Sharif. The new head of the military government, in a speech on the following October 17 th , distanced himself from Islam, stating that - as reported by «Mondo e Missione» in November 1999 - «Islam teaches tolerance and not hate, universal brotherhood and not unfriendliness, peace and not violence, progress and not fanaticism», assuring the minorities «that they will fully receive the rights and the protection due to them as citizens equal to the others in the word and in the spirit of true Islam». Speaking with «Fides» (October 22 nd 1999), Cecil Chaudry, the Catholic leader of the National Christian Action Forum, an organization that gathers Christians of all confessions in Pakistan, he said that he was happy about the fall of Nawaz Sharif, positively interpreting the signs coming from the new government.

An Islamic court of justice however ordered the executive - as referred by the «Associated Press» on January 26 th 2000 - to establish a new banking system, because the one in existence was not in line with Islamic precepts. According to «The Voice of the Martyrs» on May 17 th 1999, the adolescent girl Christian girl, Saleema, was freed from the accusations going back to 1997, when, beginning to read the Bible with a friend, Raheela, had urged her to convert to Christianity. This lat girl was then killed by Muslims from her community, while Saleema, tortured and imprisoned, had to answer the accusation of murder for having been the cause of the apostasy from Islam of the friend killed by the Muslims. However, episodes of violence against Christians in the Nation continue being registered. «The Voice of the Martyrs» on October 22 nd 1999 informs that a church was burnt down by a twenty-five year old Muslim in Lahore. The Report on religious freedom by the State Department of the United States reports that two children, aged 11 and 15 and ex-Christians converted to Islam, have disappeared from their original families. The Christian family was transferred and is now in hiding for fear of revenge, after having criticized the judicial sentence that deprived them of their two daughters. Even relations between the Sunni and the Shi'ite Islamic community periodically go through tensions that first lead to the death of 40 persons in the Punjab, and then the assassination of two Shi'ite leaders, as informed by «Misna» on the 28 th and the 30 th of September 1999. Later, 23 deaths were registered between Karachi and Lahore - as referred by «Avvenire» on October 3rd 1999 - and according to «Misna» on the following 7 th , other three victims in Karachi. According to the Report on religious freedom by the USA State Department, serious discriminations against the Ahmadi religion are occurring. Its followers are forbidden from describing themselves as Muslims (against their own convictions) sanctioning this prohibition in article 298c of the penal code, which provides a sentence of three year in prison and a fine to the transgressors.

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