09/25/2020 India (International Christian Concern) – Christian leaders in India have expressed their distress over remarks made by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament regarding Graham Staines, an Australian missionary murdered in 1999, during a debate on the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill. Christian leaders have called for an apology and for the remarks to be expunged from the parliamentary record.
On September 21, India’s Lok Sabha debated the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill. During this debate, Satya Pal Singh, a member of the BJP, used an anti-Christian conspiracy theory to partially justify the proposed restrictions on NGOs receiving foreign funds.
“We know what happened in the Northeast, how things have changed in the last 50 years, and how a particular religion has become prominent,” Singh said. Singh went on to claim that foreign donations could also be correlated with civil unrest in India’s Northeast.
Singh told the parliament that Staines’ organization, the Evangelist Missionary Society, was converting tribal people to Christianity. He went on to claim that Staines was also sexually harassing tribal girls.
“They injure the memory of a person who gave the best years in service to this nation, particularly its marginalized,” Reverend Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary for the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said in a press statement. “These remarks besmirch a deceased man’s outstanding life of social service, 21 years after his death, with hearsay and innuendo.”
In January 1999, Staines and his two sons, ages 9 and 7, were burned alive inside of their jeep in India’s Odisha state. According to many, Staines and his sons were killed by radical Hindu nationalists because of his work among India’s tribals and those marginalized by leprosy.
At the time of the killings, India’s Prime Minister said he was ashamed of the incident and formed a judicial inquiry to look into the murders. India’s President at the time also described the murders as “a monumental aberration of time-tested tolerance and harmony. The killings belong to the world’s inventory of black deeds.”
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