BosNewsLife (02/23/06) One of India’s main mission organizations has called off what would have been the largest gradation ceremony ever for Christian ‘dalit’ students, many of them former orphans, after police warned of attacks by Hindu militants, BosNewsLife learned Thursday, February 23.
Hopegivers International (HI) said it would try to hold alternative ceremonies for “some” of the 10,000 graduates from the Emmanuel Theological Seminary in “safer locations” outside the city of Kota in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where the event was originally planned from February 23 through February 26.
Thomas did not indicate how long the Kota ceremony will be postponed but stressed that some students will be able to participate in graduate ceremonies in the areas of Angamali, Kerala and Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh.
The decision to postpone the main ceremony came after Muslim militants in the town of Ramganjmadi near Kota “burned down a Hopegivers supported school and local church there” on February 17, in the latest of a series attacks against HI interests, the organization said.
“Coordinated attacks” also occurred in the Sojat and Udaipur areas of Rajasthan , HI claimed. Last month, January 26, a violent Hindu mob reportedly attacked a Christian orphanage of HI injuring three pastors and some of the 36 orphans, aged two till nine.
Bishop Samuel Thomas, who leads HI, told BosNewsLife that his organization’s Hope Home in the town of Tindole in the state of Rajasthan was stormed by 14 Hindu militants armed with ‘tridents’, three-sponged spears that have reportedly been used to intimidate the Christian minority.
In addition the organization Hindu militants “threatened to carry out massacres among Christians if we continue the planned record-breaking graduation ceremony later this month in the city of Kota in Rajasthan”, said Thomas.
The students, aged 19 till 30, finished a seminar or related education in orphanages and other HI centers. HI operates over 90 Hope Home orphanages in India , nearly 200 schools and 500 outreach programs to people with leprosy.
Most of the graduates are ‘dalits’, the term used for the so-called “untouchables” of India , up to 300-million people, who occupy the lowest place in the country’s ancient caste system of Hinduism. Several millions of them are believed to be Christians, although there are no exact figures.
“Our hope is in God to protect us and knowing that He has put the police in charge of the situation, I believe that at this time we need to listen to the advice of authorities until the situation is under control,” Bishop Thomas said.
He said his organization has urged Christians to participate in the upcoming All India Global Call to Prayer “for the welfare and freedom” of India . “Our hope is in God to protect innocent people from a new wave of communal hatred and violence,” he explained.