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Evangelism In India

This tag is associated with 46 posts

PRIESTS SELL BAPTISM CERTIFICATES

PRIESTS SELL BAPTISM CERTIFICATES

source:

New Delhi: Baptism is one of Christianity’s most sacred rites symbolising purification and a person’s admission to the religion. But for some priests baptism has become a money-spinner.

A CNN-IBN and Cobrapost investigation has found that some unscrupulous members of the church are selling baptism certificates, which are needed to prove that a person is Christian.

Father Benjamin Das, pastor of the Idgaah Baptist Church in Paharganj, New Delhi, sells baptism certificates. The investigation team goes undercover and tells him that we need baptism certificates.

Das agrees and fakes a backdated entry in the church register to show us as old members of the church.

Reporter: Achcha jo baptism banayenge, purani date ka bana denge… (We will have to back date the certificate. People must not get a chance to say how did you get a new certificate.)

DasHaan usmein aisa ki aajkal ke time se saare log jaante hain ki paise se sab kuchh ho sakta hai. Theek hai ya nahin paisa imaan ko bhi kayam nahin rakhta hai, saare kaam ho sakte hain. (People know that money can get anything nowadays. Wrong or right, money can get any work done. Money can even buy your conscience)

Then Das fixes the cost of a certificate. For Rs 15,000 he sells us a certificate. “Total jo hai, mere 15 ho gaye. Two affidavit ke ho gaye and aur 13 yeh ho gaye,” says Das. (Rs 15,000 is for me: Rs 2,000 for the affidavits and Rs 13,000 more)

Reporter: Ek baar inhe check bhi kar lijiye, note kai baar nakli bhi nikal jaate hain. (Check the notes, Father. Sometimes the Rs 500 notes turn out to be fakes)

Nakli kaise honge bhai jab asli kaam ho raha hai toh?” says Das while counting the notes. (How can the notes be fake when you are doing real work?)

Ise sambhal ke rakhna,” says Das. (Keep the certificate safe)

ReporterAaj se matlab hum Christian ho gaye aur yeh aapne hamein baptism ka certificate de diya. (This means that you have given us baptism certificate and we can prove ourselves as Christians from now)

The investigation team then approached Father Henrich James, of the Holy Gospel Baptist Church in Delhi University’s Christian colony, for another baptism certificate.

We told James we need the certificate for a job in a missionary school in Meerut. We got one for Rs 5,000.

Next, the team goes to Father Cecil Newton of the Assembly of Believers Church. We tell Newton we need a baptism certificate to secure admission in a Christian college. He agrees to supply us one, along with a mandatory affidavit signed by a magistrate that declares that we are voluntarily converting to Christianity.

Vakeel ke yahan se banta hai. Woh toh hum logon ko jaan pehchaan rakhni padti hai har kaam ke liye. Agar jaan pehchaan nahin hoti toh aapka yeh kaam nahin ho pata,” says Newton. (We have to keep in touch with lawyers to get this affidavit. If we didn’t know lawyers your work wouldn’t have got completed.

Father Cecil Newton says we need a backdated membership of the church. He charges us Rs 10,000 for it.

Priests from the Baptist Union of India and the Evangelical Church of India in Delhi also agreed to give us fake baptism certificates in lieu of money.

(With inputs from Ashish Saraswat, Neeraj K Singh and Rohit Khanna)

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PASTOR BURNS THE PORTRAITS OF HINDU GODS

PASTOR BURNS THE PORTRAITS OF HINDU GODS

Leaders of Viswa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh demanded that the police take stern action against the pastors and father of a church, who allegedly burnt the portraits of Hindu gods at Vanipenta in Kadapa district on August 18.

source: 

Mydukur, Aug. 21: Leaders of Viswa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh demanded that the police take stern action against the pastors and father of a church, who allegedly burnt the portraits of Hindu gods at Vanipenta in Kadapa district on August 18.

They threatened that they would intensify their agitation if cases were not booked against the Christians. Following a complaint by these leaders, the police registered a case against the Christian pastors and father, said circle-inspector Harinatha Reddy.

The activists led by RSS Zilla Pramukh T Venkateswarlu, district joint secretary B.R. Venkataramana staged a rasta roko at Mydukur on Monday. The leaders alleged that the Christian religious organisations were resorting to religious conversions for the past so many years.

They eyed several Dalitwadas for their religious conversions and as part of it, they organised a meet on August 18 and converted some Hindus into Christians. On the occasion, they reportedly set fire to some portraits of Hindu gods on the premises of the church, they alleged. However, Komara Venkata Ramana, Dumme Pedda Venkanna and G. Venkoji Rao of Vanipenta brought the issue to their notice, the leaders said.

BELLEVUE BAPTIST GOES ON GLOBAL ‘MISSION’

BELLEVUE BAPTIST GOES ON GLOBAL ‘MISSION’

(This is a classic case  of illegal missionary activity.  Missionary activity on visitor or business visa is illegal)

Source:

By Trevor Aaronson (Contact)

HYDERABAD, India — They come at night.

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Memphis & the World: India

Converts: More than 600 women, led in prayer by Pastor Edgar Sathuluri, join Bellevue Baptist Church missionaries at a conference for women in Hyderabad, India. The women, mostly from India's poorest social class, had their  transportation, expenses and meals paid for by the Memphis megachurch fostering Christian conversion in the largely Hindu nation.

More than 600 Indian women — old and young, unmarried, married and widowed, all poor — travel from villages across the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh: Pathikomba, Konala, Koyyada, Suddapalli, Magaluru. Their destination is the same, a walled compound in southern Hyderabad known as the National Training Institute for Village Evangelism.

They come for a one-week conference — underwritten by the largest congregation in Memphis — on how to evangelize to and convert Hindus in some of the most remote areas of India, where less than 3 percent of the population is Christian.

Most travel by bus across miles of bumpy, dirt roads. They hold their saris over mouth and nose to block the plumes of dust that pass through open windows.

For some, such as Yadamma Alloju, the journey is more difficult emotionally than physically. A slender 45-year-old with a gold nose ring and a warm smile, Alloju lives with her husband and two sons in a small concrete-block house around the corner from the compound. She is the first Christian in her family, and when she told her husband and sons of her plans to attend the seminar, they forbade her. During the day, she pleaded. At night, she begged. Finally, her husband relented on one condition: She not be baptized.

Memphis & the World


Commercial Appeal reporter Trevor Aaronson and photographer Alan Spearman traveled the world and found out how one how one Southern city sends ripples around the globe. Click here for videos, photos and more.

Converts: More than 600 women, led in prayer by Pastor Edgar Sathuluri, join Bellevue Baptist Church missionaries at a conference for women in Hyderabad, India. The women, mostly from India's poorest social class, had their  transportation, expenses and meals paid for by the Memphis megachurch fostering Christian conversion in the largely Hindu nation.Photo by Alan Spearman

Converts: More than 600 women, led in prayer by Pastor Edgar Sathuluri, join Bellevue Baptist Church missionaries at a conference for women in Hyderabad, India. The women, mostly from India’s poorest social class, had their transportation, expenses and meals paid for by the Memphis megachurch fostering Christian conversion in the largely Hindu nation.

“I cannot tell my husband what happens here,” Alloju says as she stands in front of the compound gates wearing a purple sari and black sandals.

What happens here is funded entirely by Bellevue Baptist, a 30,000-member church in Memphis, the nation’s second-largest Southern Baptist congregation. Every year, Bellevue shells out $5.5 million — one-fourth of its $22 million annual budget — for missionary work around the world. At any given time, Bellevue is supporting missionaries in more than two dozen countries, and annually sends its Memphis congregants on international mission trips to Central America, South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

India is particularly important for the congregation. The country is at the center of what Bellevue and other evangelical churches refer to as the “10/40 window” — the area 10degrees to 40degrees north of the equator, from North Africa to Japan, where 95percent of the people are “unevangelized” and where only 8percent of evangelical missionary dollars are spent.

“It’s really called ‘The Last Frontier,'” says Steve Marcum, Bellevue’s minister of missions.

In July, with the help of Indian Pastor Edgar Sathuluri, who named the women’s conference after his mother, Grace, Bellevue covered the transportation costs for the hundreds of women and paid for their meals during the five-day religious gathering in Hyderabad.

Bellevue officials declined to specify how much money they’ve paid to Sathuluri, saying only that his organization represents one of the church’s most significant international investments in 2007. Additionally, Bellevue supports Sathuluri’s organization by making monthly contributions.

Ritual mark: Satyavati, a Hindu temple keeper,  places a tilakam, or red mark, on the foreheads of two men riding a motorcycle. She then blesses their motorcycle and asks Kali to protect them from harm in their daily commute.Photo by Alan Spearman

Ritual mark: Satyavati, a Hindu temple keeper, places a tilakam, or red mark, on the foreheads of two men riding a motorcycle. She then blesses their motorcycle and asks Kali to protect them from harm in their daily commute.

Hard life: Thorona, a 20-year-old Christian convert, loads granite into containers at a quarry for 12 hours a day for just over $1.50. Iswar, 30, (left) holds the couple's 3-year-old child. In a culture where women perform much of the backbreaking labor, Thorona earns the family's wages before taking a break to breast-feed the child and make lunch for her waiting husband.Photo by Alan Spearman

Hard life: Thorona, a 20-year-old Christian convert, loads granite into containers at a quarry for 12 hours a day for just over $1.50. Iswar, 30, (left) holds the couple’s 3-year-old child. In a culture where women perform much of the backbreaking labor, Thorona earns the family’s wages before taking a break to breast-feed the child and make lunch for her waiting husband.

Donna Gaines, the wife of Bellevue Pastor Steve Gaines, led the summer mission to Sathuluri’s compound. A tall former beauty queen with a mini-bouffant, Gaines speaks in a thick southern accent about Bellevue’s work in the “10/40 window.”

In India, Bellevue and Sathuluri have for years targeted a specific group for their evangelism: the poorest women in a crowded, complex country of more than 1billion people.

“Edgar doesn’t invest in fields where there is little return, and there is such a hunger and such a desire for Jesus in these villages,” she says.

Bellevue puts faith — and millions of of dollars — in international partners. But by investing money and people in central India, the megachurch has entered a world vastly dissimilar to its Cordova surroundings. Bellevue has put its members at the center of increasing religious tensions amid allegations of persecution and fraud.

* * *

On a July afternoon, a day before the compound is set to host the 600 women, Edgar Sathuluri escorts around the site a dozen women and several men from Bellevue. A soft-spoken 49-year-old with a mustache and pronounced limp, Sathuluri invited the Bellevue missionaries to India as part of the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women.

In years past, this conference has been supported by money from several churches, including Bellevue and Grace Evangelical Church in Germantown. This year, as part of its expanding missionary work in India, Bellevue became the sole sponsor of the conference and dispatched to the region a group of seasoned and first-time missionaries.

Sathuluri takes the group into a small building near the edge of the compound. The women, dressed in loose-fitting clothing, crowd shoulder to shoulder in a small room.

As Sathuluri introduces his nephew, Aaron, and tells the women about how treacherous conditions are for Christians in India, three Hindu men walk up to the compound, as if on cue. Dressed in kurta pajamas, a traditional Indian outfit consisting of a baggy cotton shirt and bottoms, the men peer into the building and eye the Memphis missionaries.

“Excuse me, please,” Sathuluri says as he walks outside.

The men amble over to an area where three dust-covered sport utility vehicles are parked. Aaron continues the discussion as the Bellevue women sneak glances outside, trying to figure out what’s happening. Sathuluri and the men talk in Telugu, the language of Andhra Pradesh, for several minutes before Sathuluri raises his voice and points to the gates. The men walk away, into the surrounding neighborhood.

“They know Americans are here,” Sathuluri tells the women as he returns to the building. It’s as if Sathuluri was given the introduction he needed.

For the next 10 minutes, he talks about the religious persecution Christians face in India. He tells a story of how people he refers to as “radical Hindus” from the neighborhood once stormed his compound, turned over tables of food and vandalized cars.

Hair offering: At the Narasimha Swamy Temple, a Hindu man has his head shaved as an offering. Many people come to offer their hair for good health, business success or family welfare.Hair offering: At the Narasimha Swamy Temple, a Hindu man has his head shaved as an offering. Many people come to offer their hair for good health, business success or family welfare.

Converted: Local  women offer prayers to Jesus with the Bellevue Baptist missionaries at Grace Church in Atmakur. Built by Edgar Sathuluri, the church provides vocational training for women in the village.Photo by Alan Spearman

Converted: Local women offer prayers to Jesus with the Bellevue Baptist missionaries at Grace Church in Atmakur. Built by Edgar Sathuluri, the church provides vocational training for women in the village.

Possessed: This woman, claiming to be possessed by Kali, marches with followers to Jai Kali Temple in Hyderabad, where they sacrificed a goat to release Kali's spirit from her body. One form of the goddess is believed to protect the villagers from mosquito-born diseases common in the monsoon season, while another form protects the fields and farms from  epidemics. Photo by Alan Spearman

Possessed: This woman, claiming to be possessed by Kali, marches with followers to Jai Kali Temple in Hyderabad, where they sacrificed a goat to release Kali’s spirit from her body. One form of the goddess is believed to protect the villagers from mosquito-born diseases common in the monsoon season, while another form protects the fields and farms from epidemics.

On another occasion, Sathuluri explained, he and his older brother, Mohan, also a minister, were preaching in a small village in Andhra Pradesh when a group of locals charged toward them. A Christian family took them in, barricading the brothers in the house until police arrived to break up the demonstration.

“The men had sticks, clubs,” Sathuluri says. “They wanted to kill us.”

Craig Stockdale, owner of a Memphis landscaping company who came to India to escort his wife and the other women, shakes his head. “The persecution he faces here is unbelievable,” Stockdale says.

Sathuluri has been unafraid to market that alleged persecution. On Jan. 11, six months before the Bellevue group arrived in India, he sent an e-mail to the church, which was posted on its Web site. In the message, Sathuluri described how his compound was attacked by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a political party that advocates the strengthening of traditional Hindu culture.

“There was total mayhem as they were beating up the little children, kicked their rice plates from their hands and threw all the food on the ground,” Sathuluri wrote.

Although questions exist about the legitimacy of Sathuluri’s claims, Hyderabad and other parts of India can be religiously volatile. Tensions among the Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities are common and at times have turned violent. In May, for example, a cell phone-triggered pipe bomb exploded at Mecca Masjid, a large mosque in central Hyderabad, as more than 10,000 people worshipped inside. Sixteen people were killed.

Conflicts between the dominant Hindu community and the growing Christian community aren’t infrequent in India. Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization that publicizes persecutions of Christians, regularly reports the arrest and detainment of Christian missionaries in India. Some are detained unnecessarily and illegally — India’s laws provide for freedom of religion — while others are harassed by authorities for resorting to unjustifiably brash tactics, such as distributing Christian materials inside and around Hindu temples.

Most Christian missionaries in India, including Bellevue’s, refer to Australian Graham Stewart Staines to illustrate the dangers they face. In January 1999, Staines and his two sons were burned alive while sleeping in their car in Orissa, 620 miles southeast of New Delhi. Police believe Staines and his sons were murdered by members of Bajrang Dal, a radical group affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

But that political party has long claimed it is not responsible for such attacks.

* * *

The offices of the Bharatiya Janata Party are in a cavernous, marble-floored building guarded by men with AK-47s. Open windows create cross-breezes and wind tunnels throughout. The noises of Hyderabad’s congested traffic seep through the walls, creating background choruses in all the rooms.

On the second floor, surrounded by staff and messengers, is Vidyasagar Rao. A former Parliamentarian and cabinet member of India’s previous ruling government, Rao is now the chairman of BJP in Andhra Pradesh.

Sacred wine: At a Sunday service in Atmakur, a local woman drinks communion wine, the Christian rite in remembrance of the Last Supper,  in which Jesus likened his body to bread and his blood to wine.Photo by Alan Spearman

Sacred wine: At a Sunday service in Atmakur, a local woman drinks communion wine, the Christian rite in remembrance of the Last Supper, in which Jesus likened his body to bread and his blood to wine.

Children of God: Leelarani Chitti Prolu and Pradeep Banothu, both 9,  portray Adam and Eve in a skit while their pastor fathers attend the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women in Hyderabad. According to the book of Genesis, Adam was created by God from the dust of the earth and brought to life with God's breath. Eve was made from Adam's rib. Both are cursed and cast out of the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their children then populate the Earth.Photo by Alan Spearman

Children of God: Leelarani Chitti Prolu and Pradeep Banothu, both 9, portray Adam and Eve in a skit while their pastor fathers attend the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women in Hyderabad. According to the book of Genesis, Adam was created by God from the dust of the earth and brought to life with God’s breath. Eve was made from Adam’s rib. Both are cursed and cast out of the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their children then populate the Earth.

Rao, a Hindu, is accustomed to mixing religion and politics in conversation. Here, in a state of 76million people, politicos joke about the religion of the chief minister — he’s Christian — the way Americans laugh about a U.S. senator being nabbed by police in an airport bathroom.

Those who snicker the loudest in Andhra Pradesh tend to come from BJP, which is partially responsible for laws that prohibit Christians from using gifts and money to induce conversions. Owing to the party’s political assaults on organizations they believe are encumbering traditional Hindu culture and values, BJP is often blamed for physical attacks on Christian groups in India.

“As a state and national party, we are not responsible for any attacks on Christians,” Rao says. “These are lies.”

While the party chairman supports Christian groups’ freedom to operate in India, he questions how many are obeying the country’s inducement laws since Christian conversions in India happen disproportionately more among poor people than middle-class and wealthy Indians.

“BJP is in the forefront to highlight these issues — that there are certain missionaries who are trying to convert people to Christianity by doing things that are illegal, such as giving money or gifts,” Rao says.

He believes most claims of persecution are fabricated by Christian organizations hoping to pull at the purse strings of wealthy American churches. “These people will do anything for American money,” Rao says.

Asked about Sathuluri’s and Bellevue’s claims of BJP attacks, Rao denies having any knowledge of Sathuluri’s organization. “But I can’t assure you these attacks didn’t happen,” Rao says. “For that, you would have to talk to the local party activists.”

Those local activists worship in a temple around the corner from Sathuluri’s walled compound. On a July evening, Ramreddy Kolanu is standing barefoot on the steps of the temple. He wears a tilakam, a red mark, on his forehead. Inside the temple, a priest is standing near a statue of Ganesha, the Hindu deity with the head of an elephant.

“I’ve lived here for years,” Kolanu says. “I know what happens here, and I can you tell you that attacks have never happened over there. I would know if they did.”

Kolanu says he and his neighbors don’t care what goes on inside the walls. “Everybody’s faith is their own,” he says.

Sathuluri isn’t as easygoing as his neighbor. When he discovers that an interpreter, who is Hindu, is in the compound the day he is to perform baptisms, Sathuluri threatens to call police to remove her and a Commercial Appeal reporter and photographer from the property. He says the interpreter hired by the newspaper could be a “spy” for the government.

“I could be killed,” Sathuluri says in front of several Bellevue missionaries.

“India is a strange place in that any day the radical Hindus can get upset and attack a church or a known group of Christians when technically by government standards people have freedom, the right to worship,” says Ellie Marcum, wife of Bellevue minister of missions Steve Marcum and one of Bellevue’s most seasoned missionaries to India, as if to explain Sathuluri’s hostility.

How much of the Indian pastor’s reaction is out of fear for his safety or trepidation about an independent interpreter is unknown. Some evidence suggests the latter: Sathuluri consistently exaggerated facts he would give the Bellevue women, claiming, for example, that the 600 women who attended the conference were so poor they only had one sari when, in fact, many said they were better off than Sathuluri suggested.

Others, who would talk openly of being beaten by husbands and sons for converting to Christianity, said they had never heard of attacks on Sathuluri or his compound.

Spiritual climax:  Late one evening, as part of a large ceremony, Darlene Stroud washes the feet of Indian women.  This was the spiritual climax for the Bellevue evangelists attending the conference.Photo by Alan Spearman

Spiritual climax: Late one evening, as part of a large ceremony, Darlene Stroud washes the feet of Indian women. This was the spiritual climax for the Bellevue evangelists attending the conference.

Weeping: This Indian woman cries after her feet were washed by the hands of women from Bellevue Baptist Church, an act of humility in emulation of Jesus.Photo by Alan Spearman

Weeping: This Indian woman cries after her feet were washed by the hands of women from Bellevue Baptist Church, an act of humility in emulation of Jesus.

Baptists in saris: Shari Ray (from left), Jerri Nelson, Donna Gaines and Susie Wright pray with a number of other Bellevue missionaries at Grace Church in Atmakur, south of Hyderabad.Photo by Alan Spearman

Baptists in saris: Shari Ray (from left), Jerri Nelson, Donna Gaines and Susie Wright pray with a number of other Bellevue missionaries at Grace Church in Atmakur, south of Hyderabad.

* * *

Yadamma Alloju isn’t thinking about her orange sari as she steps into the water. Mohan Sathuluri, wearing black pants and a white button-down shirt, is chest-deep in the small pool in the middle of the religious compound. He takes Alloju by the hand; she steps forward, deeper into the pool as the sari’s light fabric wafts in the water.

Positioned to the side of Alloju, Sathuluri prays. He gently places one hand on her back, the other on her forehead, and pushes her beneath the water’s surface. A second later, he pulls her up; she emerges, wet and crying.

The Bellevue missionaries watch from a viewing area next to the pool. Some offer tears, others camera flashes. None get close to the baptismal pool and wet women.

“This is why I am here,” Alloju says as dozens of other Indian women wait in line to be baptized. Against her husband’s instruction, Alloju was reborn in Christ. But in her excitement, she hadn’t thought to bring a second sari, and if she were to return home wet, her husband would know what she’d done. He’d beat her, she says.

Alloju runs off to borrow an extra sari from another attendee and let hers dry in the sun.

For five days just like this one, 600 women crowd into the compound. Each morning and night, they gather under a large pavilion built weeks earlier by Bellevue volunteers and with Bellevue money. They listen to hours of sermons in Telugu and English. In the afternoons, they break into smaller groups, each with a Bellevue missionary, to discuss the Bible and its teachings and how they can more effectively talk to other women in their village about the Bible.

The conference is particularly moving for Susie Wright, a 52-year-old Memphian who was born in Kerala, a state in south India whose Christian community dates back to the arrival of St. Thomas on the Asian subcontinent in the year 52.

As with other Bellevue members who believe their religion is the only way to a peaceful afterlife — Donna Gaines, for example, describes Hinduism’s holiest city, Varanasi, as “the darkest place I saw in India” — Wright sees her native country as a much bleaker place than the one she adopted.

“It is dark with sin,” she says of India. “Satan has blinded the eyes of every person, Hindus, here. The only way the darkness can go and the lightness can come is through Jesus Christ. … But God is going to raise a lot of Christians here. The Christians here in India, they are the most devoted, humble, godly, fire-for-the-Lord Christians. With their prayer, with their eagerness to bring this country to the Lord, one of these days God is going to raise these people.”

But these people, the 600 sleeping in open-air pavilions at Sathuluri’s compound, have little in common with Wright.

While she has a master’s degree in microbiology from an American university, many of the women at the conference are either illiterate or read at rudimentary levels. The Telugu-language Bibles they carry are for many more symbolic than useful, and determining whether their Christianity is comprehended or recited is at times difficult.

Most speak in a rough, uneducated Telugu, but when asked why they believe in Christianity, some answer, “When God has given His life for me, I must do at least that much,” in perfect Telugu. Others admit they know little of Christianity and came to the conference for the free meals and the new sari they receive for attending — inducements potentially illegal under Indian law.

Donna Gaines sees only the hope, the mission, in Sathuluri’s and Bellevue’s work in India. “Edgar’s doing for women what Christ did for women in his time,” she says. “And, really, India, in the primitive, remote areas, reminds me so much of what Biblical times must have been like, looked like, smelled like.”

Meeting villagers: Missionary Donna McFarland jokes with women in Atmakur as she learns how hard it is to carry a heavy  bowl on her head. The women transport goods to and from nearby cotton fields.Photo by Alan Spearman

Meeting villagers: Missionary Donna McFarland jokes with women in Atmakur as she learns how hard it is to carry a heavy bowl on her head. The women transport goods to and from nearby cotton fields.

 At home: Guno Sadan, 7, was abandoned after her mother died and her father left. She lives with Jayanti Kanto, 20, a Christian who is sweeping the floor of her concrete home. Photo by Alan Spearman

At home: Guno Sadan, 7, was abandoned after her mother died and her father left. She lives with Jayanti Kanto, 20, a Christian who is sweeping the floor of her concrete home.

Gaines and other Bellevue missionaries see great purpose in their presence in India. Not only are they sharing their religion with others, they believe, but they are saving others from what they term a “pagan religion.”

In Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam, followers worship a variety of deities and incarnations. Although Hinduism has its fringe sects — some, for example, worship Kali, a violent deity with a blood-soaked tongue — many of its believers consider Hinduism more of a way of life than a religion.

However, Gaines sees Hinduism as nothing more than idol-worship. “It’s sad, actually, because we were and are created in the image of God,” she says.

“God placed, Ecclesiastes said, eternity in our hearts. So we have that longing. I call it the God-shaped vacuum, the hole in our heart. We’re searching and we try to fill it. Every other religion is simply man’s attempt to work his way up to God, and it’s only in Christianity that God came down to man, through his son Jesus Christ.”

That’s the message Gaines is trying to deliver in India. “Because America is so saturated (with Christians), you realize there are places in the world with a much greater need,” she says.

But conversion to Christianity is a complicated matter in India, particularly for the poor women Sathuluri and Bellevue target. These women are at the bottom of India’s ancient caste system, which organizes society according to birth.

Brahmans, at the top of the caste system, are society’s priests and thinkers, while Dalits, at the bottom of the caste system, are subjected to society’s hardest and dirtiest jobs. The women attending the conference make a living performing backbreaking work, doing everything from climbing coconut trees to collect fermented liquor (known as “toddy tapping”) to breaking and lifting rocks at a quarry.

Their conversion to Christianity is so discouraged by the Indian government that Bellevue’s missionaries are forced to enter the country using tourist visas.

In coming weeks: 

Elvis in Israel: Across the lines that divide Israelis and Palestinians, “The King” has his place.

Dunavant in Zambia: Cotton firm discovers AIDS is the boll weevil of Africa’s cotton industry.

COGIC in South Africa: The church of God in Christ works to heal a neighborhood created and destroyed by apartheid.

St. Jude in Brazil: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital holds death back from the girl who lives on Happiness Street.

FedEx in China: Air express giant bets heavily on country’s contrived, free-market economy.

Since lower-caste Indians are marginalized by Hindu society, they are the most susceptible to Bellevue and other Christians, whose missionaries peddle equality and sin-cleansing.

Yet in modern India, accepting Christ and giving up Hindu caste identity, while legal, can have severe consequences for lower-caste Indians. Legislation similar to affirmative-action laws in the United States affords Dalits and other lower-caste Indians places at companies and universities. By becoming a Christian, they lose those benefits, though Indian courts are currently debating the issue of extending benefits to lower-caste Christians.

However, many of the women Sathuluri and Bellevue convert are not sophisticated enough to understand the implications of becoming a Christian in India. Poolamma Gyana, a 16-year-old from Suddapalli who was baptized a few days before the Bellevue-funded women’s conference, shakes her head upon learning that she has lost the special benefits provided to her caste.

“Is this true?” she asks.

The answer to that question isn’t something Sathuluri and Bellevue offer to their converts.

“In my charitable interpretation of this, either the people at Bellevue didn’t know about the caste benefits, that they themselves are ignorant of this, or theologically they are predisposed to thinking that converting to Christ is the highest good and any kind of material benefits one receives in this world tails behind the benefits one would receive in salvation,” says Mark Muesse, a religious studies professor at Rhodes College.

“If people are given full understanding of what this conversion might mean, it might give them pause to make that commitment. They still might make it. You really would hope that people who commit to Christianity would do so with the understanding of what that means for them and the benefits they might lose from the government.”

* * *

Late one evening, as part of a large ceremony, the Bellevue ladies and the Indian women gather in about a dozen circles. The Indian women sit at the circles’ edges as the missionaries, in the centers, wash the feet of each woman.

“It’s a spiritual picture, obviously, of what Christ did for His disciples but also of us being willing to humble ourselves,” Gaines says. “It’s one of those paradoxes of Christian life: When you humble yourself, you’ll be exalted.”

Mission accomplished: Edgar Sathuluri (from left), Donna Gaines, Ellie Marcum and Jean Stockdale laugh along with the other Bellevue missionaries on the last evening of the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women in Hyderabad.Uncertain future: Yadamma Alloju disobeyed her family's wishes by being baptized at the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women. She says if her husband finds out, he will beat her.Photo by Alan Spearman

Mission accomplished: Edgar Sathuluri (from left), Donna Gaines, Ellie Marcum and Jean Stockdale laugh along with the other Bellevue missionaries on the last evening of the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women in Hyderabad.Uncertain future: Yadamma Alloju disobeyed her family’s wishes by being baptized at the Grace Sathuluri Conference for Women. She says if her husband finds out, he will beat her.

Many of the Indian women break down, tears falling from their eyes, as their feet are being washed. And when they do, their counterparts from Memphis begin to cry as well.

“They become very emotional. It’s understandable,” says Aaron, Sathuluri’s nephew. “Who would bend down to wash another’s feet? This means a lot in India, where unlike in America, we do not wear shoes; we wear sandals. But for many of these women, they usually do not even wear sandals. Their feet are hard and cracked.”

For Bellevue’s representatives, the foot-washing ceremony is a departure from their weeklong, arms-length missionary work.

During the conference, the Memphis women drink from separate communal cups. During lunch and dinner, they eat different food in a separate area, away from the stink and flies that complement the meals of the women they are in India to reach. And at night, they sleep in a three-star hotel in neighboring Secunderabad, an hour’s drive from the heat and mosquitoes that accompany the Indian women’s rest.

* * *

Just before 5 p.m. on the final day of the conference, Alloju opens the gates of the religious compound and walks out along the dusty road. Wearing her purple sari with gold trim, she needs to get home for her chores.

In the background, she can hear Edgar Sathuluri’s sermon from the pavilion. He’s talking about his Christian mother and how she became the inspiration for the conference. The Bellevue women are there, listening intently to Sathuluri, the star of the rural religious revival they’ve funded more than 8,000 miles from Memphis.

For the past five days, Alloju has come to the Christian conference against her family’s wishes and volunteered to do anything she could do to help: wash dishes, mop floors, pick up trash. Her husband and sons know she’s here, but they don’t know her secret — about how a pastor dipped her body into a pool of water and how she re-emerged.

“Someday I will tell my husband what happened here,” she says and returns to her life as one of India’s hidden Christians.

US evangelist stopped from preaching in Kerala

US evangelist stopped from preaching in Kerala

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US evangelist stopped from preaching in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: An American evangelist, who was on a visit to here on a business visa, was restrained by police from preaching at a church convention near here.

Evangelist David Terrel had arrived here a few days back on an invitation from the Church of South India to preach at the annual convention at Amaravila near here.

Police, however, restricted Terrel from addressing the religious meet on the ground that he was not supposed to evangelise while on a visit on a business or tourist visa.

“Terrel and his companion were told that if they carried out evangelical activities it would amount to violation of visa conditions. They followed our instruction and kept off the convention,” a police official said.

The Hindu Aikyavedi unit at Neyyattinkara had lodged a complaint with police about the possibility of Terrel preaching at the religious convention

Four Arrested for Forcing Religious Conversions

Puttur: Four Arrested for Forcing Religious Conversions

Monday, August 29, 2011 9:44:59 AM (IST)

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Puttur, Aug 29: Four persons, reportedly belonging to a Christian sect, were handed over to the police by the residents of Boodujal of Nedle village near Uppinangady on Sunday August 28. The locals, including some dalits, accused K J Kunhimonu (30) from Mundruppady in Dharmasthala, Saino P T (23), Lenny (26), and Mary (60) from Amminadka in Kalenja village, of visiting their homes every Sunday since a month, handing over books aimed at achieving their religious conversions, and advising them to pray to Jesus.

It is said that the houses which were targeted by the groups belong to dalits and economically backward Hindus. The locals said that the foursome forced them to convert into Christianity on Sunday. “When we refused, the visitors showed aggression, assaulted us, and spoke derogatorily on the basis of our caste affiliations,” the locals, who got together and handed these four people to the policemen, claimed.

Prema Mugera, a dalit from the locality, said in her police complaint that the group had berated her on the basis of her caste affiliation, and that the Hindu gods she believed in were derided with abusive words. Pravin, another resident, said that two members of the gang held his collar and assaulted him when he refused their demand for religious conversion.

The policemen of Uppinangady police station, who have registered cases against the above four people, have also registered complaint against two youth from Nedle relating the assault on the members of the said team.

Swarnesh, president of Hindu Jagaran Vedike, alleged that the policemen had initially not registered the complaint given by Prema Mugera. He also said that the station house officer had meted out injustice to the people of Nedle by registering counter-complaints against two residents, with the ulterior purpose of favouring the wrongdoers.


Andhra Pradesh: Church priest rapes minor girl and sets her ablaze

Andhra Pradesh: Church priest rapes minor girl and sets her ablaze

A. Srinivasa Rao  | Hyderabad, July 1, 2011 | Updated 08:01 IST

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Christian priest raped and set ablaze his a minor girl

N. Mounika (right) was a domestic help in Dasi Ajay Babu’s house.
The girl, N. Mounika, who was working as a domestic help in the house of Dasi Ajay Babu, a pastor in the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, succumbed to her burns at the Guntur General Hospital on Wednesday. Before dying, the girl told her parents – N. Prasad and Rani – that she had been sexually exploited by the pastor for the past one year. On Tuesday, when he molested her again, she threatened to inform her parents about this. So, he beat her up, following which she lost consciousness.

Afraid that she had died, Ajay poured kerosene on her, set her ablaze and fled. Neighbours, who heard Mounika’s cries, rescued her and rushed her to a hospital in Chilakaluripet, from where she was shifted to Guntur.

The police said the pastor’s uncle and aunt – Steven and Ratna Prashanti – then forced Mounika to give a declaration to the magistrate that she had suffered burns while cooking in the house.

But Mounika’s parents complained to Guntur (rural) superintendent of police Ravichandra about the dying declaration given under force and Ajay was arrested.

Ajay’s wife had been staying separately. In her absence, he lured Mounika into a relationship. The girl, who completed Class X recently, was pressuring him to marry her, the police said.

Norway suspect inspired by Unabomber

Norway suspect inspired by Unabomber
(AP)25 July 2011, 4:19 PM

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OSLO, Norway — He lifted words from the “Unabomber” and had fantasies of being a Knights Templar crusader who along with like-minded immigrant haters would seize power in Europe in a string of coups d’etat.

The writings of Anders Behring Breivik reveal a delusional personality filled with hatred and self-aggrandizing dreams that possibly fueled his horrific shooting rampage on a tranquil island retreat that killed at least 86 people.

In his 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik styles himself as a Christian conservative, patriot and nationalist. Despite his own anti-Muslim views, he looks down on neo-Nazis as “underprivileged racist skinheads with a short temper.”

Police and Breivik’s lawyer says he confessed to, but denied criminal responsibility for, Friday’s bombing at government headquarters in Oslo and the mass shooting later that day at an island summer camp organized by the youth wing of the ruling Labor Party. At least 93 people were killed in the attacks.

Part of Breivik’s manifesto was taken almost word for word from the first few pages of the anti-technology manifesto written by “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, who is in federal prison for mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others across the US from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Breivik changed a Kaczynski screed on leftism and what he considered to be leftists’ “feelings of inferiority” — mainly by substituting the words “multiculturalism” or “cultural Marxism” for “leftism.”

For instance, Kaczynski wrote: “One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.”

Breivik’s manifesto reads: “One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is multiculturalism, so a discussion of the psychology of multiculturalists can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of Western Europe in general.”

In Internet postings attributed to Breivik on Norwegian websites, he blamed Europe’s left-wing parties for destroying the continent’s Christian heritage by allowing mass immigration of Muslims.

He said he came into contact with like-minded individuals across Europe, and together they formed a military order inspired by the Knights Templar crusaders. Their goal: to conquer Europe by 2083 in a string of coups. Norwegian police couldn’t say whether the group existed.

Two European security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation said they were familiar with increased Internet chatter from individuals claiming they belonged to a group called the new Knights Templar.

Breivik wrote in his manifesto that he was a boy when his life’s path began to turn. It was during the first Gulf War, when a Muslim friend cheered at reports of missile attacks against American forces.

“I was completely ignorant at the time and apolitical but his total lack of respect for my culture (and Western culture in general) actually sparked my interest and passion for it,” the suspect in Norway’s bombing and mass shooting wrote in his 1,500-page manifesto.

The 32-year-old Norwegian said it was the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 that “tipped the scales” for him because he sympathized with Serbia’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian Muslims in Kosovo. A year later he said he realized that what he called the “Islamization of Europe” couldn’t be stopped by peaceful means.

Breivik’s manifesto chronicled events that deepened his contempt for Muslims and “Marxists” he blamed for making Europe multicultural. He suggested his friends didn’t even know what he was up to, and comments from several people who had contact with the quiet blond man indicate he was right.

From September 2009 through October 2010, Breivik posted more than 70 times on Dokument.no, a Norwegian site with critical views on Islam and immigration. In one comment, he entertained the idea of a European Tea Party movement.

In December of 2009, Breivik showed up at a meeting organized by the website’s staff.

“He was a bit strange. As one could see from his postings, he had obviously read a lot but not really digesting it,” said Hans Rustad, the editor of the website.

But Rustad said he “hadn’t the faintest idea” about Breivik’s murderous plans.

“Other people have the same views on the Net and they don’t go out and become mass murderers. So how can you tell?” Rustad told The Associated Press.

Breivik called his upbringing in a middle-class home in Oslo privileged even though his parents divorced when he was 1 and he lost contact with his father in his teens. His parents split when the family lived in London, where his father, Jens Breivik, was a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in London. A spokesman for the embassy, Stein Iversen, confirmed that Jens Breivik was employed at the embassy in the late 1970s, but wouldn’t discuss his relationship with the Oslo suspect.

Breivik said both parents supported Norway’s center-left Labor Party, which he viewed as infiltrated by Marxists.

His mother won a custody battle, but Breivik said he regularly visited his father and his new wife in France, where they lived, until his father cut off contact when Breivik was 15. The father told Norwegian newspaper VG that they lost touch in 1995, but that it was his son who wanted to cut off contact.

“We’ve never lived together, but we had some contact in his childhood,” the older Breivik, who VG said is now retired in France, was quoted as saying. “When he was young he was an ordinary boy, but reclusive. He wasn’t interested in politics at the time.”

He learned about Breivik’s massacre on the Internet. “I was reading online newspapers and then I suddenly saw his name and picture on the net,” he told VG. “It was a shock to find out. I haven’t gotten over it yet.”

Breivik’s mother lives in an ivy-covered brick apartment building in western Oslo, currently protected by police. Neighbors said they hadn’t seen her since a few days before the shooting. Police said they’ve spoken to her and that she didn’t know of her son’s plans.

In his manifesto, Breivik said he had no negative experiences from his childhood, though he had issues with his mother being a “moderate feminist.”

“I do not approve of the super-liberal, matriarchal upbringing though as it completely lacked discipline and has contributed to feminize me to a certain degree,” he said.

But Breivik claims he never lacked courage: “If anyone threatened me or my friends, regardless if we were at a disadvantage, we would rather face our foes than submit and lose face.” He said that attitude was atypical among ethnic Norwegians, who had a tendency to “sissy out.”

Breivik said he also tried to get engaged in domestic politics, in the Progress Party, and a populist opposition party which calls for stricter immigration controls. He claims he was a popular party member who almost got elected to the Oslo City Council seven years ago.

“That’s just something he imagined,” said Joeran Kallmyr, whom Breivik described as his “rival” in the party.

Breivik attended only five or six party meetings during those two years and left the party quietly, said Kallmyr, now a vice mayor of Oslo.

“He was very quiet, almost shy. He seemed like a well-educated man. He was very well dressed and very polite. He wore a tie all the time,” Kallmyr said. “I couldn’t see any signs that he was coming apart.”

Kallmyr said he only had one conversation with Breivik, a forgettable chat about Breivik’s business. According to Breivik’s manifesto, he was the director of Anders Behring Breivik ENK at the time, a business he describes as a “front” and a “milking cow” to finance “resistance/liberation related military operations.”

He describes elsewhere in the document how he used his own companies to secure bank loans and credit to fund his attack.

Breivik, who detailed his preparations for the attacks in eerie detail, also anticipated the hostility he would face, even from his friends and family, if he survived his “mission” and was brought to trial.

Levin said that part could be part of the motivation for the manifesto.

“He talks about visiting prostitutes and taking steroids. Why would he say such negative things about himself? I think what he’s doing is — this humanizes him,” Levin said. “He’s trying to tell people he’s not a monster, that he’s a person with frailties and weaknesses like everybody else.

THE CHANGING FACE OF THE CHURCH

THE CHANGING FACE OF THE CHURCH

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It’s a well-documented fact that people adopt aspects of other cultures around them. The churches in Andhra Pradesh are following this custom and Indianising some of practices. At St Andrew’s Orthodox Church, West Marredpally, a Dwaja Stambam has been erected. A common phenomenon in temples, and seen in the Kerala churches, it is the first of its kind in the state.

13hydmchurch.jpg.crop_display.jpg

With a cross on top, bells and imprints of the saints, the bronze Dwaja Sthambam stands tall, highlighting how Indian Christians are adopting the religious customs of their Hindu brethren. During parish feasts the faithful light the multi-storied traditional lamp in front of it. Fr Koshy Thomas, the vicar at St Andrews, says, “The Dwaja Stambam flag pole is seen in Kerala churches but in Andhra Pradesh we are the first ones to have adapted this Indian tradition. For us, this is a flag-hoisting pillar, with a cross on top and imprints of the martyrs of the Church. A flag will be hoisted during festivals. This is one of our efforts to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord.”

Already, meditation rooms, small kiosks resembling Hindu shrines and lamps are a part of churches. Fr Anthony Raj, executive secretary of the AP Federation of Churches, which has conducted several inter-religious dialogues, says, “It is easy to relate Lord Jesus to local customs and traditions and the adaptation of these, by the Church, has been taking place from centuries.” Catholic historians say that there are striking similarities between the systems followed at shrines, in marriages and in pujas. Mr Gurram Pratap Reddy, a Catholic historian and writer, says, “Adopting Hindu customs, though not new, has taken a new shape with latest trends like the Dwaja Sthambam. In fact, French priests wore saffron dress, three hundred years ago and they are called Swamis. Even today, in villages, Fathers are called Swamuluvaru. In marriages too, several Hindu traditions are followed, like wearing a mangalsutra and tying the knot thrice. In a relatively recent trend, deekshas, similar to Ayyappa and Bhavani deeksha, are being taken up like the lent season.” He adds, “At Christian shrines, devotees break coconuts, and tonsuring has become common.”

Pastor arrested for murdering minor girl

Pastor arrested for murdering minor girl
30/06/2011

Guntur (AP), Jun 30 (PTI) A local pastor was arrested for allegedly murdering a teenager after she became pregnant with his child, police said today.

The victim, identified as Monica (17) from Nadendla village in the district was working as a cook for the pastor, S Ajay Babu for the past one year.

Babu became intimate with the girl after his wife left him and the girl allegedly became pregnant with his child.
She was brought to a government hospital with 90 per cent burns where she succumbed to her injuries yesterday, they said.
The pastor was arrested after the family members of the girl lodged a complaint.
He allegedly set her on fire to avoid the matter from coming to light.

Conversation with a Convert


26th March, 2011

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Conversation with a Convert
Somewhere in Tamil Nadu

The cab was waiting at the end of the road waiting to take us to our destination. The driver was a 50 something man and there was a picture of the Christian prophet Jesus on his dash board. After a few kilometeres of driving in silence, we asked him if he would mind if we talked about religion. This is the conversation we had after he replied in affirmative.

Undercurrent: Why did u get converted to Christianity?
The Convert: I believe that Jesus is the true prophet. (A brief pause and then with a wry smile) The recent death of pilgrims at a Temple Stampede in South India and resultant controversy proves that Hindu faith has lot of untruths in it.

Undercurrent: You want to know the beauty of Hinduism? We practice our faith but we also do not talk bad about your faith. But the foundation of your faith is talking bad about Hindu religion.
The Convert: Lot of miracles have happend to me. I am a cab driver but my son’s wedding was performed in such a manner that people never believed that its the wedding of the son of a Cab driver. Unknown people came and gave me money.

Undercurrent: How much money are you talking about?
The Convert: Rs 5000.00 ($ 120.0)

A long silence. (Silence that conveyed that he got himself tricked quite cheaply)

The Convert: My family’s original deity was Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi. Each time Deepavali or Pongal festival comes, we start off our days in festivities. We drink a lot, stuff ourselves with food of our choice fish, meat and are drunk and out. Those days used to be so stressful because of hang-overs and left us in a bad state.

Undercurrent: Did Lord Venkateswara asked you to get drunk? Whose choice was it? Why do you want to blame him after you misuse your freedom.

A long silence.

Undercurrent: Hinduism is a democratic religion. It does not impose strict regulations on how you have to lead your life. Were you ever told that you must Temple on each Sunday’s without fail? You tell me how it is for your now. Your freedom is determined by the church. So are you telling that allowing people to live with democracy and freedom is the mistake than Hinduism is doing?
The Convert
: I am a free person. No body has any right to tell me what to do. If they push me I would not care and will surely refuse their attempts on dominance over my life.

Undercurrent: Seeking change is a natural thing. Over a period of time its possible that you felt bored and wanted to move away from the religion of your ancestors. The same happens in the west too. Do you know how many people have moved away from the Church because they don’t like many things about it.
The Convert: We don’t know much of things that happen in the world. Our lives are in a small cycle. I have to pay for my existence and when something was presented to us we felt the information was logical.

Undercurrent: Tomorrow assuming war breaks out between India and some western country. Your church that has is head quarters there asks you to be their partners and fight against India, will you do so?
The Convert: (Visibly annoyed) Why would I do such a thing? I live here and make my living here and I would fight in the interests of my country. If the Church asks me to work against my country I will shun them once and for all.

Undercurrent: Who is paying for your living now?
The Convert: I work hard, morning 7.00 am to 10.00 p.m.. No one pays for my bread and butter. If I dont sweat I have to starve.

Undercurrent: So no one pays for your bread and butter but you have forgotten the religion of your ancestors just because someone came and told you that there are bad things about Hinduism? Are you saying there are no bad things at all about Christianity?
The Convert: I have nothing against Hinduism. In fact there is lot of stress at home because my wife practices Hinduism and my children are confused. I still go to Temple and in our home we have pictures of both Hindu gods and Christ

Undercurrent: Let us say this once more. Hinduism does not talk bad about your faith. But that is not the same in your case. The foundation of your newly adopted faith is to talk bad about Hinduism. Do you see the difference?

This time the silence was deep. We could hear it over the noisy traffic. There seemed to be some kind of connection that comes out of reason. We gave an unusually rewarding tip, and parted with a smile.

Editors Note: One of the prime reasons for conversion seems to be the free run that Evangelists seems to have in India. In the information war, they seem to have absolute freedom to,say anything and do anything. It appears that used car salesmen would carry more morality in their business then these Evangelists. We bet that evangelists have more freedom in India then in western countries. It is also a battle between the rupee and dollar where the dollar has an unusually large advantage which is being taken advantage of. But make no mistake. The fight back is strong. Individuals and organizations both big and small in their own way are fighting back. Its remarkable to see the fight back. Most converts are simple innocent Hindus who would not get converted if someone presented them facts to counter the misinformation that is spread by missionaries.

What would you think your role is in this scenario?

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