Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

Christians Welcome Guilty Verdicts In Church Blast Cases But Oppose Death Sentences

12/3/08 BANGALORE, India (UCAN) — A court in southern India has handed death sentences to 11 people convicted of bombing churches in three states in 2000, but some Christians said they cannot support capital punishment.

“We would welcome harsh punishment,” Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore said, but he pointed out that Church teaching opposes capital punishment, “no matter how severe the crime is.”

In addition to the death sentences, the court in Bangalore, capital of Karnataka state, 2,060 kilometers south of New Delhi, also sentenced 12 others involved in the blasts to life imprisonment on Nov. 29.

The explosions damaged the churches, but the only deaths were of two people suspected of involvement in the bombings. The convicted are members of a Muslim sect, Deendar Anjuman (organization for duty).

The group, now banned, was founded in 1924 in Karnataka to unite Muslims and Hindus, but that aim later changed and members began to work for the Islamization of India through violent activities, the prosecution reportedly told the special court. Police intelligence reports say the sect has some 12,000 followers in villages of Karnataka and neighboring Andhra Pradesh.

The sentences should be seen as “a lesson” to people involved in repeated attacks on churches, Archbishop Moras told UCA News on Dec. 1. Indians put “religious sentiments above their lives,” and those attacking churches “should learn from this judgment.”

Archbishop Moras was referring to Hindu fanatics who have attacked about 125 churches in India since August, accusing Christians of engaging in unethical conversion activities. The violence rocked Karnataka Sept. 14-15, when 15 churches and prayer halls were attacked in the state. Around 110 churches were attacked in the eastern state of Orissa from late August through mid-October.

The Church opposes the death penalty, but the prelate noted that those sentenced to death in the bombings still have the option of appealing to higher courts for leniency. And in the Indian judicial system, death sentences meted by a special court have to be confirmed by the state High Court, even without an appeal.

“Whether the death penalty stands or not, I am happy that a severe punishment has been announced in the case, particularly in the context of growing attacks on churches,” Archbishop Moras said.

The prelate acknowledged that those convicted in the church blast cases are all Muslims, but said “Hindus who attack the churches also must remember that the law is applicable to them too.”

A Bangalore-based Christian organization, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), has urged the government to commute all 11 death sentences to life imprisonment.

Its president, Sajan K. George, told UCA News he welcomed the “award of punishment” but explained that Christians cannot support capital punishment as “we believe life as a pure gift” of God.

George said his organization would appeal to the Karnataka governor and Indian president for clemency toward the 11 sentenced to death.