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Press Release — January 16, 2003

American Missionary Attacked in Southern India

(Washington, DC – January 16, 2003) On Monday evening January 13, 2003 an American missionary and several Indian Christians were attacked by Hindu militants as they were returning from a church meeting in a village on the outskirts of Trivandrum in Kerala State. Joseph Cooper, 67, a missionary from New Castle, Pennsylvania sustained a deep cut to his right palm as well as other injuries after being beaten and cut with a machete.

In an interview with human rights group, International Christian Concern, Mr. Cooper’s wife, Eleanor, said that her husband along with Indian Pastor Benson Sam and his wife and children were surrounded by Hindu militants carrying sticks and knives. Cooper reported that he was the main target of the attack and could feel an unnatural hatred emanating from the armed group. As the attack became fierce, Pastor Sam threw his body on top of Mr. Cooper to keep him from being killed. Other Christians who heard the commotion came running and the militants were forced to flee the scene. According to the BBC, police suspect that members of the fundamentalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were responsible for the attack. The RSS leadership has denied involvement.

Cooper is currently hospitalized in Trivandrum and is being treated well, according to his wife, who has been able to speak with her husband over the phone from her home in Pennsylvania. In addition to treating the injuries he sustained in the attack, Mrs. Cooper said they also brought in a heart specialist to check up on a previous heart condition.

This is the first such violent attack that has occurred against foreign missionaries in Kerala State, although Mrs. Cooper reported that native Christians, including Pastor Benson Sam, have faced persecution in the past. The Coopers have been working with Indian Christians for 25 years and Mr. Cooper is ordained as Bishop of India by the New Jerusalem International Church in Ohio.

Mrs. Cooper requested prayer for her husband, the Christian community in India, and for the children of Pastor Sam who witnessed the brutal attack against their parents and Mr. Cooper. She also wished to correct media reports that her husband was speaking against Hinduism. She stated, “He has never tried to malign any other faiths in any way. He was trying to give them a choice by presenting the Gospel.” In recent years Hindu militants have tried to stop those wishing to convert to Christianity and have even conducted re-version ceremonies in some parts of the country.

International Christian Concern, a Washington, DC based human rights organization, advocates and aids Christians undergoing persecution worldwide. More information is available at www.www.persecution.org or by calling the ICC office at (301) 989-1708.