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By: John M. Lindner

ASSIST News Service (02/18/06)

ANGAMALY , INDIA – The peace during the Shabri Kumbh in Gujarat State last week was broken yesterday when a band of radicals destroyed a church building and Christian school in Ramganjmandi in the Kota District of Rajasthan State.

From Angamaly, Kerala, Dr. Samuel Thomas of Hopegivers International, said the attack occurred Friday afternoon. The anti-Christian activists also attacked a Hopegivers bus carrying students to one of Hopegivers’ 190 schools, and beat the driver and students badly.

Dr. Thomas said the police in Ramganjmandi refused to give protection to the properties, and in fact arrested the pastor. Thomas asked prayer that the police would allow bail, since in India accusations alone are often sufficient to warrant detention.

The church and school are part of Emmanuel Ministries International, which is known as Hopegivers International outside India . Dr. Thomas is president of the organization with offices in Columbus , Georgia , and is the son of Bishop M.A. Thomas, who founded Emmanuel Ministry in 1960 and oversees its outreach in India .

Dr. Thomas said violence and threats of attacks have been “all over” Rajasthan. He said a group of militants had gone to the town of Sojat and attacked the pastor and his family there, and that others had attacked churches in the Udaipur area, but details were lacking. Rajasthan is home to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or National Volunteer Movement, an anti-Christian group promoting Hindu nationalism.

The violence was reminiscent of the brutal attacks on Bible school students coming for graduation last year, when some 5,000 students came from Emmanuel’s Bible schools all over the country for a combined graduation ceremony. Last year anti-Christian militants boarded trains bringing incoming graduates before they reached Kota , forced them off, beat them with sticks and bicycle chains, and robbed them. Some were taken to the railway police station where they were beaten again. Then, penniless and without tickets, they were forced onto trains returning to their points of origin, but forced off and stranded before they arrived.

Last year radicals also stopped a bus coming from Jaipur, beat the driver and students on it, broke all the windows and slashed the tires. The anarchy went on for several days before federal authorities intervened and enforced order.

Emmanuel was planning another graduation in Kota next weekend, February 25-26, when some 5,000 students were expected to graduate, but those plans have now been put on hold.

“The local police [in Kota ] have warned us that a major attack is imminent,” he said. “I have decided to put it off until the situation is under control. We have the cooperation of the police in Kota , but not everywhere. So I believe we should take the advice of the authorities.”

Dr. Thomas commented from Kerala at a district graduation of about 3,100 students when news of the Rajasthan attack reached him. His father was in Andhra Pradesh State conducting still another graduation for 5,000 more graduates. Emmanuel has leadership training colleges throughout India , as well as a theological seminary in Kota .

“We don’t have money to support new pastors,” Dr. Thomas told the graduates, “nor can we guarantee any money for church buildings. All we can give you today is a Bible and a bicycle, and pray that as you go out as ‘Sisters of Hope’ and ‘Apostles of Hope’ our Lord Jesus will put a hedge of protection around you.”

The Bibles and bicycles were made available by donors in America .

According to Dr. Thomas, Hindu radicals promised to halt the attacks only if he and his father were jailed without bail for three to five years. “They want me and Dad to ask forgiveness for ever preaching Christ in their cities, and to say we will never preach again.”

“It’s not going to happen in this lifetime,” he concluded, referencing Romans 1:16 and 8:28-39.

He said one of the main leaders of a militant anti-Christian organization had suggested there would be a great number of Christians killed in the next few days.

Thomas asked Christians everywhere to pray that revival would break out in India and that the enemies of the gospel would be confounded.