Tens of thousands of India’s Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables), upset over India’s Hindu caste system and recent anti-conversion laws, pledged to convert to Christianity on December 6th, the anniversary of the death of Bhimrao Ambedkar.
A Dalit himself, Ambedkar earned doctor’s degrees at Columbia University and London School of Economics and was chiefly responsible for the drafting of India’s constitution. He is much beloved by the Dalits as a human rights advocate who fought for their emancipation in the first half of the 20th century. He left Hinduism and embraced Buddhism two months before he died in 1956.
Joseph D’souza, president of the All India Christian Council, told Christian Aid that this conversion event would be unlike the one a year ago. Whereas last year most of the Dalits who left Hinduism switched to Buddhism, this time their first profession of choice is Christianity, although some of them will switch to other religions. D’souza said the member churches of the AICC “will always keep the doors open to the Dalits—no matter what the price.”
Thousands of Christian pastors and leaders planned to be on hand at the public ceremony to witness the conversion. The proposed mass conversion is a reaction to the anti-conversion laws now in effect in four states, including Tamil Nadu’s ordinance that went into effect on October 31.
In Haryana State, five Dalit youths were skinning a dead cow on October 15, which they had legal license to do; it is the trade of their caste. Suddenly they were attacked by a mob of several thousand people and lynched while the police reportedly stood by and supported the killings. Giriraj Kishore, leader of the VHP (World Hindu Council), reportedly celebrated the killings by saying that the cow was more valuable than a human being (i.e. Dalit).
One Dalit who declared his conversion to Christianity Oct. 27, told news media: “I do not want to be treated as less than an animal any more. I am sick of the caste system. I have read about Jesus Christ and know that He offers equality, dignity and salvation. I want to follow Him as my Lord.”
“The anti-conversion ordinance...is anti-Dalit, anti-Christian, and anti-minority,” said Dr. D’souza. “Its agenda is to carry forward the extremist Hindu agendas of the BJP government and extremist Hindu groups who want to create a Hindu India and impose Brahminism on all its citizens.” The BJP is the current political party in power.
Millions in Ethiopia and Eritrea are on the brink of malnutrition and starvation as sustained drought has all but eliminated crops and killed livestock. If relief assistance is not delivered soon, Ethiopia faces conditions similar to the famine of 1984-85, reports Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The agency also reported that nearly half of Eritrea’s population will need food assistance as conditions worsen. “The situation here is deteriorating fast,” said CRS spokesman Anne Bousquet in Ethiopia. “This year there are areas of the country that have never before experienced severe drought, and in many areas people have not had enough time to fully recover from previous periods of drought.” An estimated 10 million to 14 million Ethiopian farmers have been affected by the lack of rainfall. CRS has requested more than 300,000 metric tons of food for distribution starting in November, 2002, in partnership with international and Ethiopian relief organizations. However, Bousquet said that nearly 2 million metric tons of food may be required in 2003. In Eritrea the drought’s effects had not yet begun to take their toll. But the agency emphasized that emergency relief operations must be in place to deal with a potential disaster that threatens nearly half of the country’s 3.3 million people.
Assist News Service via
HCJB World Radio
Information has been pouring out of Vietnam about a recent wave of government repression against Montagnard evangelicals in Vietnam’s central highlands. Documents acquired by religious and human rights workers confirm that 354 of 412 churches have been forcibly disbanded in Dak Lak Province alone. About 50 Christian pastors and elders in this province had been arrested or have “disappeared.” It was expected that the remaining 58 churches in the province would soon be closed. In addition, church leaders were specifically prohibited from any further religious activity outside their own homes with their own families. All communal activities of the churches—worship, teaching, prayer for the sick, observing holy days, administering sacraments, performing baptisms, weddings, and funerals—were forbidden. Leaders were forced to sign statements of compliance. Even seasoned observers of the religious liberty abuses in communist Vietnam were surprised at the ferocity in the latest persecution of Christians.
Compass Direct via
Religion Today Summaries
Pro-life leaders have praised the Bush administration’s directive to an advisory panel that could recommend protection for embryos as “human subjects” in research.
The administration changed the charter for a federal committee that deals with the safety of research subjects, saying the welfare of embryos should be considered along with that of more developed unborn babies, children, and adults in medical experiments. The change was reported in the Washington Post.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., commended the president “for recognizing that human embryos should not be treated as property to be exploited for financial gain.”
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has released a five-nation survey showing what it called “alarming” levels of anti-Semitism in Europe. The survey also appeared to show a continuation of a trend, first disclosed in a June, 2002, ADL survey of American attitudes. A poll of Americans, published by the ADL in June, found 17% harboring strongly anti-Semitic views—up from 12% in 1998, but still below the 1992 figure of 20%.
The new survey covered five countries, mainly in southern Europe: Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands. It found that 21% of respondents in the five countries harbored “strong ant-Semitic views.” Respondents in Spain showed far more anti-Semitism than others—34% displayed “strong anti-Semitic views;” while respondents in the Netherlands showed far less, with only 7% appearing strongly anti-Semitic.
The U.S. has condemned Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko for signing what human rights workers call “Europe’s most restrictive” religion law. U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip T. Reeker seemed to share concern that the legislation, signed October 31, will force especially non-Orthodox Christians and other groups to go underground or to leave the country, as during the Soviet era. “We join the European Union and members of many faiths in our opposition to this law, which appears intended primarily to hinder and prevent the activities of religious groups that the Lukashenko regime considers “non-traditional” faiths,” Reeker said. The controversial legislation bans unregistered religious activity, requires censorship of religious literature, and bans foreign citizens from leading religious organizations. Religious education is also restricted to faiths that have at least 10 registered communities.
Assist News Service via
HCJB World Radio
The Boy Scouts’ constitutional rights to determine membership and guiding moral principals have been upheld once again. Last year the D.C. Human Rights Commission ordered the Boy Scouts to reinstate two homosexuals as scout masters and pay $50,000 to each in penalties. In November, a D.C. federal appeals court rejected the commission’s ruling, holding that it violated the Scouts’ constitutional rights. The appellate court cited the June, 2000, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Boy Scouts’ right to exclude homosexuals from leadership positions.
Family Research Council via
Religion Today Summaries
“We are raising today’s cheats and thieves to become tomorrow’s leaders,” asserts Tom DeCair, spokesman for the Josephson Institute of Ethics, based in Marina del Ray.
High school students are not only cheating, lying and stealing more, but they are less ashamed of it than ever, according to a national survey released October 22. Of 12,000 students polled by the institute, 74% admitted to cheating on an exam once in the past year. Nearly 4 of 10 adolescents acknowledged stealing from a store during that time, and about 93% confessed to lying to their parents or relatives.
DeCair also worried about elementary and junior high school pupils. Children often imitate their older siblings, he said, prompting illegal behavior at an ever-younger age.
Chattanooga Free Press
A recent spate of ethnic cleansing against Muslims in western India’s Gujarat State has reached genocidal proportions, and a similar assault may soon be unleashed against India’s most threatened Christian community, the Dang Tribe, unless the central government intervenes.
Karsan Patel, a senior minister in the state government, recently warned Dang children studying at a parochial school “to decide whether they want to live as Hindus or die as Christians.” Systematic persecution that began in the Dang tribal belt four years ago has intensified recently as militant Hindus campaign to confiscate Dang territory for the god Rama and build a temple in the village of Subir. Local sources say the controversy is a “powder keg waiting to explode.”
Compass via HCJB World Radio
The World We Live in
A homosexual serial murderer in a British prison in November won the right of all prisoners to receive hard-core pornography in their cells. The killer used the European Convention on Human Rights, which was incorporated into British law in 2000, to win this victory.
The killer, Dennis Nilsen, was jailed in 1983 for killing six young men. He sued the government for the right to receive hard-core homosexual pornography in prison. Prison authorities now have to rewrite their regulations to allow inmates to receive hard-core materials.
Via Traditional Values Coalition