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Andhra Pradesh, Christians ask for protection from persecution

ICC Note: Christians are asking their state government for protection in the face of a concerted campaign by Hindu radicals to outlaw Christianity in a Hindu holy city.

by Nirmala Carvalho

3/20/07 India (AsiaNews) –The Christian community of Hyderabad , Capital of Andhra Pradesh (Ap), have asked the local government for a law protection ethnic minorities. Meanwhile the Hindu activists carry out aggressive attacks on Christians and the parties organize public protests calling for all Christian activities to be banned in the Hindu Holy city of Tirupati .

Christians recall the frequent attacks. Dr J J Kumar Luke, member of the Centenary Methodist Telugu Church , tells of A pastor in Asifnagar was beaten up when he visited a church member’s residence and was beaten up by some self-proclaimed Hindu activists. “When he went to lodge a police complaint, a case was registered against him on charges of conversion” (In Ap it is illegal to convert a Hindu to another faith).

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr. Anthony Thumma Diocesan Director of Ecumenism, Secundrabad (AP) said that he is not informed of this initiative but that “We (AP Christian Federation) had been lobbying for the same from 2004 general election. The NCMP included something similar which has now been introduced in the Parliament under the title “Prevention of Communal Riots Bill. Given the situation in A.P. where four pastors had been killed and many pastors including foreigners had been attacked, we do need an act similar to “the SC / ST Prevention of Atrocities Act”.

While the Christians appeal for greater protection, on March 6th Sangh Parivar activists launched the “Save Tirupati” with protest meetings at Mysore (Karnataka) against the Christian missionaries at the temple of Tirumala Tirupati , in Tirupati city (Andhra Pradesh).

Inaugurating the campaign, senior advocate M.A. Sampath Iyengar alleged that the Christian Missionaries were trying to disturb the atmosphere of Sanatana Dharma (in sanscritt: eternal law, another name for Hinduism) and called upon the Hindus to launch a united struggle to protect Tirupati shrine against ‘Christianisation”. The activists including women, who are participating in the dharna, belong to BJP, Viswa Hindu Parishat and Bhajrang Dal. The Tirupati temples are revered by Hindus to the same degree as the Vatican for Christians. Venkateshwara temple which lies in the city is Hinduisms chief temple and the second most visited religious site in the after the St Peter’s at the Vatican .

The aim of the protests s to force the federal government as well as the regional authorities of Andhra Pradesh – as organizer Ramdas explains – to issue a law which will prohibit all Christian activity in the area and readdress the religious importance of the temple, limiting bars and restaurants which have occupied vast areas of the complex to the discredit of the Temple. They are also contesting the recent appointment of a Christian convert to the post of Padmavati University vice chancellor , Veena Nobel Das, who removed the portrait of Lord Venkateshwara and his bride Padmavathi from the classrooms and offices of the University.

Last week following a series of attacks on Christians, a student Umamaheswari – who had allegedly been converted to Christianity sometime ago, committed suicide, in the Tirupati university hostel.