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(February 10, 2006) – The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has received additional information on the anti-Christian violence that has erupted in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh, causing fear among the miniscule Christian community. After reports of four attacks during the past week, Christians witnessed arson attempts on at least two churches on January 31.

ICC spoke to local police of Hoshangabad and Betul districts who confirmed that unidentified persons tried to burn down two churches in these districts on Tuesday.

The office of the Superintendent of Police of Hoshangabad, Mr. Arun Yogi, informed ICC that an attempt was made to burn down a church in Seoni Malwa area.

A group of unidentified persons burned the main gate of a 150-year-old Mitra Church , which belongs to the Church of North India , after midnight on Tuesday, said an official of the Seoni Malwa police station. The police said that the persons responsible for the attack also vandalized the gate of the church.

The police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against unidentified persons when a Christian, Jeevan Masih, 72, lodged a complaint in the police station. But no one has been identified or arrested so far.

In a separate incident the same day, some unidentified men tried to burn down a church belonging to the Pentecostal Church of India (PCI), allegedly to protest “conversions” in Sadar area of Betul district.

A Hindi daily, Dainik Bhaskar (dated January 31), quoted a senior pastor of the church, Mr. Matthew K Thomas, as saying that the church did not indulge in forced conversions. Thomas also demanded that a prompt inquiry be done to identify the attackers.

Pastor KP Paulouse of the PCI informed the police of the arson attempt. However, the Sadar police station has not been able to identify or arrest the culprits.

Meanwhile, a leading English daily, The Indian Express, reported on February 3 that the Bajrang Dal had launched an anti-Christian campaign, “Bhandafod Abhiyan” (Mission to Expose Misdeeds) “to highlight cases of people who converted for money or other considerations,” in the run-up to a massive anti-Christian rally scheduled for February 11-16 in Dangs district of Gujarat state.

The daily quoted an anonymous leader of the Bajrang Dal as saying, “We will produce before the media all Christians who want to reconvert to Hinduism.”

The daily also said that the tense atmosphere had forced Governor Balram Jakhar to call Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and express concern over the situation. Chouhan allegedly directed the police chief to act sternly and ensure that such incidents did not recur.

According to media reports, Madhya Pradesh witnessed four attacks on four consecutive days in the past week.

  • On January 28, activists of the radical Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) stormed a Christian seminar in Bhopal and assaulted Christians. The attackers were carrying sticks and rods. Six Christians were seriously injured and at least a dozen more sustained minor injuries.
  • On January 27, unidentified men launched an attack on three pastors and 20 others while they were attending a prayer meeting in a Christian’s house at Govindpur district.
  • On January 26, local police arrested three elders of the Church of the Nazarene on charges of forced conversion of 23 tribal villagers from Dindori in Jabalpur .

On January 25, local police barged into the house of a Christian at Chapri village in Jhabua and beat up two pastors. The pastors were in the house to conduct a prayer meeting.