Christians still targets in India

*Attacks against Christians in India continue in July. The central government reports that recent bombings of churches in South India are linked to an Islamic group, Deendar Anuman.

While the investigation of Anuman is under way, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman asked for an apology by Indian Christians for blaming Hindu groups for the attacks. Also blamed were national and "foreign media" outfits for calling the attacks a "pattern," rather than isolated incidents.

Since July 1, 10 cases of bombings, beatings, or "hate crimes" against Christians have been reported. July 12, for example, the headmaster of a Roman Catholic school in Bihar was found shot and robbed. July 11, a nun and priest were assaulted in Gujurat.

July 9, a bomb exploded outside St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Bangalore as congregants left a feast; St. John's Lutheran Church in the same city was bombed July 8. Students at St. Xavier's School in Gujurat were stormed by militant Hindu Bajrang Dal activists on July 3.

Since January, some 44 cases of violence, including the killing of four church officials, have occurred. Before 1998, such attacks were rarely heard of.

In the July 11 attack on the priest and nun in Gujurat, a local Hindu leader did claim responsibility.

"Under the guise of charity and helping the drought-affected people they are trying to convert the poor villagers," confirmed a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader from Gujurat, quoted in The Asian Age, explaining why 15 Hindu radicals attacked Sister Lissy and Father Tommy.

In response to attacks, some 30,000 Christians in Andhra Pradesh rallied last week, asking for the violence to stop, and requesting the central government in Delhi to do something.

Analysts say the attacks put pressure on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee from abroad. The prime minister will visit the United States on a 12-day trip in September, in the midst of warming Indo-US relations.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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