(World Watch Monitor)— Around 20 Hindu extremists in saffron-coloured clothes barged inside a church in eastern India’s Uttar Pradesh state yesterday (March 28), violently assaulting the pastor and two church members.
Shouting in extremely offensive language, they entered the Evangelical Churches of India (ECI) building in the Fatehpur district of the city, and bolted it from the inside.
The church had gathered for a monthly baptism and fasting-prayer service, as Pastor Jose Prakash from Uttar Pradesh Missions explained to World Watch Monitor: “We don’t have a baptism tank at Fatehpur central. We only assemble in the community hall of the Missions’ hospital regularly.”
Like every month, Pastor Jose Prakash sent invitations for the prayer and fasting to be conducted at Fatehpur Central prayer hall. “At least 550 people accepted the invitation and joined in worship and the Bible-study sessions that followed,” he said.
Girl Guide leaders are protesting against new rules allowing boys who claim to be girls to share changing rooms, tents and shower facilities with girls.
Guidance released by Girlguiding UK last year says biological males can “use the facilities of the gender that they self-identify as”.
It also advises leaders not to inform parents if their daughter will be sharing facilities with a boy. Some leaders say girls’ concerns are being overlooked.
Twenty leaders have written to Girlguiding’s headquarters to challenge the rules, which apply to all girl guides aged 5 to 25, but they say they have been ignored.
Helen Watts, one of the leaders defending girls’ safety, said the emphasis is being placed on the demands of trans activists “and not on the needs and views of the other girls”.
Parents Lindsay and Richard are uncomfortable with the pressure being put on girls ahead of their daughter going away on her first camp.
“You are putting the onus on a young girl to say whether or not she is uncomfortable sharing with a boy”, they said. “It could lead to her being labelled transphobic if she says she is unhappy.”
The guidelines came under fierce criticism when they were released, with feminist campaigner Julie Bindel saying: “This signifies the end to girl-only space and the safety of girls in single-sex organisations.”
An Argentinian man has legally changed his gender so that he can retire five years early and has rebuffed critics by saying he does not have to “explain anything to anyone”.
Sergio Lazarovich, a tax worker, is 60 years old, and laws in the country state that men must be 65 to receive a state pension. Women are allowed to draw their pension at 60.
A family member has said Sergio is simply cheating the pension system.
Describing his decision as a “totally selfish and harmful act”, the anonymous relative told a local Argentinian newspaper: “It saddens me to be related to a person capable of stooping so low to get what he wants.
“He is taking advantage of the law.”
Head of the local civil registry, Matias Assennato, added: “This is a clear case of misuse of retirement rights and of the law on gender identity”.
Sergio has claimed that his decision is personal and he does “not have to explain anything to anyone”. Once his pension application is received, officials say it will be up to lawyers to decide whether or not it is legitimate.
The UK Government announced last year that the Gender Recognition Act would be reviewed, saying medical checks should be removed to allow for the legal ‘self-declaration’ of gender.
Both Prime Minister Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have spoken out in favour of such plans – with the Labour leader saying he wanted people to be able to ‘self-identify’ their sex.
But women’s groups, therapists, doctors, academics, campaigners and transgender activists have challenged politicians over the idea.
The plans have been delayed in England and Wales but Scotland is pressing ahead with the issue.
Daughter to ‘son’
The fifth Earl of Balfour suggested last November that after his death, one of his daughters could declare herself to be male in order to receive his title and inherit the family home.
The Earl has four daughters and no sons. According to the law of primogeniture, his title would pass on to his younger brother.
In a letter to The Times, the Earl suggested that his daughter could claim his title “as a son” by declaring “that there has always been a man screaming to get out of her female body”.
“What is there to stop someone from changing gender and taking a title? I think it would be interesting question for constitutional lawyers”, he told The Telegraph.
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – About 20 villagers questioning Christians gathered for worship in a home in Odisha state, India were animists who worshipped objects in nature and other gods, but Hindu nationalists had led them there.
“Why have you left your ancestral faith and begun following the Christian faith?” a few of them asked, in succession, accusing them of trying to convert everyone in Kendupada village, Dhenkanal District. “If everyone in the village becomes Christian, where would the village gods go?”
In an increasingly common phenomenon, Hindu nationalists trying to drive a wedge between tribal peoples and Christians had persuaded the villagers that those who had left their beliefs, sacrifices and other rituals had 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.
“They were told that no Christian would be allowed to stay in the village and strictly instructed them not to share the gospel with anybody,” said Sukanta Naik, a volunteer for the Evangelical Fellowship of India, who visited the 27 Christians after the mob attacked them that day (Feb. 20).
The villagers issued threats to the five families of the house church, pressuring them to return to their ancestral beliefs, and when the Christians refused to do so, the tribal animists and Hindu nationalists began to beat them, Naik said.
Pandu Tirai. (Morning Star News via social media)
“They grabbed three women – Raibari, Sabita and Malati – and paraded them around the village while beating them severely,” he told Morning Star News.
The women sustained serious internal injuries, and Raibari, 54, injured her left eye, while the 26-year-old Sabita’s right hand was hurt. In all, seven Christians were reported to have sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack.
The five families, the only Christians in a village of 206 families, had all previously practiced native tribal religions, with four of them converting in the past two years and one family eight years ago.
Rango Kuldi, 52, the first in the village to become a follower of Christ, was beaten ruthlessly and still complains of pain, Naik said. His son, Guru Kuldi, an 18-year-old high school student, received stitches from a deep cut on his head. Rango Kuldi’s wife, Dusama, suffered internal injuries.
Pandu Tirai, 62, was beaten badly on his right ear, which bled relentlessly, sources said. He has lost his hearing in the ear. When Naik visited him nearly a month after the attack, his ear was still bleeding.
“The doctor has advised a scan,” Naik said.
Raju Chatar, 40, sustained an injury on his left leg and continues to have swelling. Uchhaba Taison, 32, the husband of Malati, sustained several blows on his back and internal injuries, besides visible external wounds.
Some of the injured were admitted at the hospital at Kamakhya Nagar, nearly 35 kilometers (21 miles) from their village, while others were treated at a local clinic.
“They got their treatment done at their own expense, even though the police station in-charge had instructed the assaulters to pay for the Christians,” Naik told Morning Star News.
The five Christian families fled their homes to save their lives, taking refuge in a neighboring village for almost a week.
After the Christians filed a First Information Report (FIR) at a local police station, officers summoned the families and the assailants and brokered an agreement, Naik said.
“The police personnel have instructed the Hindu extremists not to interfere in the Christian worship services and fellowship meetings,” he said. “We wonder how long the extremists will abide with the instructions. Such warnings have been issued to them even in the past, but to no avail.”
In spite of the opposition and ostracization from villagers, the Christian families remain steadfast in their commitment to Jesus, he said.
“Though they have begun to find relief in their physical bodies, fear has gripped their minds, and they need much prayer,” Naik said.
Kendupada village, nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Bhubaneshwar, the state capital, is an undeveloped area where most of the population follows the tribal faith with the exception of a few Hindus.
“Lately Hindu right-wing groups have been very active here in reaching out to the tribals and indoctrinating them,” Naik said.
The remote Christian families are overseen by a pastor from Mayurbhanj, nearly 350 kilometers (217 miles) away. He travels regularly to offer them care.
Odisha, where Christians make up less than 2.8 percent of the total population, was known as Orissa when the worst persecution of Christians in India took place there in 2008. 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 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.
LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Medical staff and security guards at a major government hospital in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday (March 26) killed a Christian father of four and injured five members of his family, including the pregnant sister he had brought because she was in labor, sources said.
Anil Saleem said that he, his brother Sunil Saleem and other relatives had taken their pregnant sister Kiran Kashif to the emergency labor ward of the Government Services Institute of Medical Sciences (commonly known as Services Hospital), because she was suffering labor pains.
“Kiran went to the doctor on duty, Dr. Saira, who was playing with her cell phone while sipping on tea,” Anil Saleem said. “Dr. Saira told Kiran to wait outside until she finished her tea. We waited for some time, but since Kiran was experiencing severe pain, she again went inside the ward to request for immediate attention.”
As soon as the woman in labor approached Dr. Saira, she started cursing her for not waiting and told a nurse to attend her, he said.
“When my sister protested against the rude behavior, the doctor started slapping her, throwing her on the floor,” Anil Saleem said. “She asked my sister how dare a Chuhri [a derogatory term for Christians] question her order?”
On hearing the commotion, Anil Saleem, his brother, brother-in-law Kashif Ashiq and cousins Raza Guddu and Kashif Robin entered the ward, but as soon as she saw them, Dr. Saira shouted to the other doctors and security guards to lock the ward’s doors from the inside and “teach these Christians a lesson,” Anil Saleem said.
“Around 15 to 20 paramedical staff and security guards and eight to 10 young doctors, including Dr. Salman, Dr. Irfan, Dr. Hasan and Dr. Sahi lunged at us with iron rods, chairs, leather belts and other things and started beating us,” he said. “Sunil, a police constable in the National Highway and Motorway Police, tried his best to placate the assailants but they continued to beat him mercilessly, kicking and punching him in the groin and chest until he fell unconscious.”
Anil Saleem and the three other men tried to defend themselves, but they were greatly outnumbered and were saved only when police arrived, he said.
He said that the doctors also beat the crew of a local news channel who happened to be in the hospital at that time; published reports indicate the altercation spilled into the hospital corridor, which they caught on film.
After a delay in treatment, Sunil Saleem died for lack of timely emergency medical assistance, he said.
“Most of the doctors fled after the incident, while those who were present paid no attention to our cries to help our dying brother,” Anil Saleem told Morning Star News.
Sunil Saleem leaves behind his wife and four children, the eldest son 10 and the youngest barely 3 months old.
Anil Saleem, who works for the state-owned Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Company Limited as a staff attendant, said that although police registered a First Information Report (FIR No. 163/18) under sections related to murder and violent rioting, they have not arrested any of those named in the killing.
“The police called us to the station today for conducting our medical examination but we refused to go with them as they wanted to take us to the same hospital where we had been subjected to torture and also lost our brother,” Anil Saleem said. “Moreover, we have registered a murder case against the doctors and other staff members, so how could the police even think that the hospital staff will treat us fairly?”
Services Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr. Amiruddin told Morning Star News that the doctors were “innocent” as the family had attacked them first.
“I can’t say anything for sure, but I’ve been told that the patient’s family started the quarrel after they were told to wait,” he said.
Amiruddin declined to comment on Sunil Saleem’s death, saying a committee headed by a former principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College, Eice Muhammad, will investigate and submit a report within three days to Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Najam Ahmed Shah.
The hospital administration has filed an application for a counter-FIR against the family for violent rioting and injuries to medical staff. Hospital officials claim that the conflict arose because doctors refused to carry out a C-section on the sister of Anil Saleem.
Anil Saleem denied this version, reiterating that the violence grew out of Dr. Saira’s unprofessional remarks. He also denied that family members had injured anyone seriously, though he acknowledged they acted in self defense.
The Young Doctors Association has issued a threat to the Punjab government that it will call a strike in all government hospitals across the province if police do not withdraw the FIR registered against the hospital staff within two days.
Rights activists suspect the government will use the police to pressure the impoverished family into reaching an out-of-court agreement with the accused doctors.
Punjab Province officials released a press statement saying that Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had taken notice of the matter and ordered authorities to arrest those involved in the rioting and murder. Despite the chief minister’s orders, no arrest was made at this writing.
Sunil Saleem’s sister, Kashif, had yet to give birth at this writing.
Expressing serious concern over religiously-motivated violence perpetrated by doctors at a government hospital, political and human rights activists told Morning Star News it reflected growing prejudice towards minority communities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis.
“We had barely overcome the Sajid Masih incident, and now we have got this lynching inside a government hospital,” said Christian rights activist Napolean Qayyum. “It pains to say this, but the Pakistani government has failed to make this country safe for its minority communities, especially Christians. The government showed no interest in investigating the federal officers involved in the inhumane torture on Sajid Masih and Patras Masih, so I don’t think there’s any hope for justice for the Christians in this case as well.”
Shunila Ruth, a lawmaker with the the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), echoed the sentiment.
“It’s shocking that even doctors, who are supposedly educated and have taken an oath to save lives regardless of caste, color or faith, have resorted to such acts of religious intolerance and violence,” she said, adding that had the state showed some courage against religious persecution of minorities in the name of blasphemy, the situation could have been different.
Ruth said that the Punjab government was directly responsible for the crime and should therefore compensate the family.
“All those involved in the incident should be arrested immediately, specially the lady doctor who provoked the attack on the Christians, and the state itself should guarantee punishment for each one of them,” she said.
Rights activist Rufus Solomon said the harrowing ordeal had marred Easter enthusiasm among Christians.
“I am still trying to digest the fact that doctors took the life of an innocent man,” Solomon said. “What hope can one have for justice to the family if police have been unable to arrest even one of the accused?”
He added that the crime shows that an anti-Christian narrative propagated by such ultra-extremist, Islamist clerics as Khadim Hussain Rizvi of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) is gradually gaining traction among Muslims, who make up more than 96 percent of Pakistan’s population.
“Rizvi and other mullahs continue to spew hatred publicly against Christians and Ahmadis, but what is the government doing about it?” he said. “Nothing, absolutely nothing.”
Pakistan is ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 Word Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
A Coptic teacher at an Egyptian state school has been charged with contempt of religion after including wordplays in a set of questions about Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
Magdy Farag Samir, 49, a teacher of social studies at Barot Preparatory School for Girls in Beni Suef Governorate, asked his students: “Where was the prophet Muhammad born?” He then suggested three options: 1. Yathrib (in Saudi Arabia). 2. Mecca (also in Saudi Arabia) 3. Hafiza Abo Tartour (Abo Tartour is a village in Egypt, but also the word for a cone hat).
He also asked: “Who was the nurse of the prophet Muhammad?” The two options were: 1. Halima Al-Saadia (the correct answer). 2. Halima Bta’at El ta’amiya (“Bta’at El ta’amiya” translates as “a seller of falafel”, a Middle Eastern dish).
“The students and their parents considered this as an insult to the prophet Muhammad and Islam,” said a relative of the teacher, who did not wish to be named, “But Magdy didn’t mean any kind of insult, he did that just to facilitate the right answers to the two questions.”
Samir was forced to transfer to a different school following the incident, which took place in December, but the parents of his former students also submitted a formal complaint against him to the governorate’s Directorate of Education, which was then sent to the Public Prosecution Office for investigation.
On 14 March, Samir was arrested and charged with contempt of religion. He was initially detained for four days, but a day later his detention was extended to 15 days, pending investigation.
“The revolution of June 2013 was supposed to get rid of the religious regime,” a human rights activist from Minya, who also did not wish to be named, told World Watch Monitor, “But this has not been achieved so far. Many Copts are being charged with contempt of religion and jailed for nothing … because the revolution dropped the Muslim Brotherhood but left their ideology unchanged.”
“Egypt’s law of contempt of religion only applies to one side – Islam,” he added. “Crimes of contempt in Egypt only refer to contempt of Islam.”
A Coptic lawyer from Beni Suef, who again wished to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor: “The judicial system has recently discriminated against Copts and perpetrated injustice. Copts face judicial discrimination most blatantly in prosecutions for blasphemy.”
Convictions for contempt of religion are “harsh” against Copts, said another Coptic lawyer, from Cairo. “The accused person is charged with several offences, such as ‘provoking sectarian strife’ and ‘contempt of religion’. This is done in order to increase the term of their incarceration,” he said.
“People accused of contempt of Islam are not only sanctioned by the courts but also ostracised by their community, who force Copts to leave their homes,” the lawyer added, saying extremist Muslims play a significant role in cases of contempt of Islam filed against Christians – by assembling in front of courts to put pressure on judges.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
The heroic French officer killed after he offered to swap his life for a female hostage in an ISIS-inspired terror attack in Trebes, was motivated by his faith and the example of Jesus Christ.
Arnaud Beltrame, 44, a lieutenant colonel in the French National Gendarmerie, left his gun outside when he entered a supermarket where a terrorist affiliated with ISIS had already shot and killed two people on March 23rd.
While he carried no weapons, he had “the sword of the Spirit.” The officer left his phone on so authorities could listen in, according to The New York Times.
Beltrame spent two hours inside the Super U market face-to-face with Radouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old French citizen born in Morocco.
The French officer was a double valedictorian who graduated at the top of his class from military school in 1999 and from the gendarmerie school in 2001. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005 and received military honors for his service there.
Tragically, authorities heard gunshots through the open phone connection, rushed in and killed the terrorist, but Colonel Beltrame had been “seriously wounded” and passed away that night due to his injuries.
Beltrame was born into a nonreligious family but converted to Christ at age 33. During a Catholic pilgrimage in 2015, he prayed to meet the “woman of his life” and a short time later met Marielle, whom he married in a civil ceremony the following year. The couple did not have children.
Beltrame recently made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The city’s cathedral is the final destination of the “Camino” or “Way of St. James,” a leading Catholic pilgrimage route. The cathedral is said to contain the remains of the Apostle James, brother of the Apostle John.
The French officer and his wife planned a church wedding in June in the medieval city of Carcassonne. Poignantly, he and his wife were married in a Catholic ceremony as he lay dying in the hospital, according to Aleteia.
Colonel Beltrame maintained an avid interest in the history of France and its Christian roots, according to The Catholic Herald.
Father Dominique Arz, national chaplain of the gendarmerie, said Beltrame gave the ultimate sacrifice. “We can say that his act of offering is consistent with what he believed. He went to the end of his service to the country and to the end of his testimony of faith.”
The officer’s brother, Cédric Beltrame, said he thought his brother realized he had little chance to survive when he went into the market. “He was very aware of what he was doing; he didn’t hesitate for a second,” he told the French radio network RTL.
Colonel Beltrame’s mother said his act of sacrificial love was not unexpected. “I am not surprised that it was him,” she told RTL. “He would tell me, ‘I am doing my job, mom, that’s all.’”
Criminalising smacking in Scotland would remove parental rights and hand them to the state, an MSP has warned.
Gordon Lindhurst, a lawyer as well as an MSP, dismantled the Scottish Government’s arguments for a ban, before accusing it of being underhand in its tactics to outlaw smacking.
Writing for Scottish Legal News, he said that rather than banning assault on children (which is already illegal), the proposal aims to rebrand loving parental discipline as ‘assault’.
The Scottish advocate also points out that despite John Finnie MSP’s claims that a ban would not criminalise parents, removing the current legal defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ would create a new criminal offence.
He added that there is a longstanding principle “that parents, rather than the state, should have primary responsibility for their children and that intervention by the courts in family matters should be a last resort”.
As evidence, he cited the recent UK Supreme Court judgment against the Scottish Government’s intrusion into family life through its Named Person scheme.
Lindhurst’s comments were welcomed by the Be Reasonable campaign who oppose the smacking ban.
A spokesman said: “Parents will be pleased to receive Mr Lindhurst’s support and we look forward to many more MSPs speaking out in the months to come as this debate is thrust to the forefront of the political agenda.
“Many MSPs have no wish to criminalise loving mums and dads for reasonably chastising their own children.
“How much police time would be wasted in pursuing decent families while real cases of concern slip through the already overstretched safety net?”