Sri Lanka probes first Lankan ISIS man
COLOMBO: A 37-year-old Sri Lankan, who graduated in Sharia Law from Pakistan, has reportedly died fighting along the dreaded Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, prompting authorities to probe whether he was a Lankan national.
Abhu Shuraih Sailani, a father of six, was a karate instructor from the central town of Galewela. He has also worked as the principal of a privately owned education institution at Galewela having come over from Kandy city.
He was reportedly killed in an airstrike in Syria. After completing primary education, he had pursued Islamic studies mastering Hadith science. He later completed his LLB in Shariah Law from the International Islamic University in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, on behalf of the Muslim community, expressed its deep dismay at media reports of the first Sri Lankan killed in battle in Syria fighting along the Islamic State (IS) militants.
In a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena, the Council said that the group of extremists, who call themselves the caliphate or Islamic State (formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), is a threat to Islam and the group violates both Sharia law and humanitarian law.
Islam is a religion of mercy and tolerance that totally prohibits the taking of innocent lives. There is no theological basis for any crimes to be committed through terrorism or violence, it said.
The Muslims of Sri Lanka join Islamic scholars and Muslim leaders around the world to condemn without any reservation the ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for failing to respect key tenants of Islam. Their actions are un-Islamic and inhumane, the Council added.
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.
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’
(This is a classic caseÂ of illegal missionary activity.Â Missionary activity on visitor or business visa is illegal)
By Trevor Aaronson (Contact)
HYDERABAD, India — They come at night.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* * *
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Puttur: Four Arrested for Forcing Religious Conversions
Monday, August 29, 2011 9:44:59 AM (IST)
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.
LONDON — A report that Norway’s bomb and gun rampage may be the work of a far-right militant confronts Europe with the possibility that a new paramilitary threat is emerging, a decade after al-Qaida’s Sept. 11 attacks.
One analyst called the attacks possibly Europe’s “Oklahoma City” moment, a reference to American right-wing militant Timothy McVeigh who detonated a truck bomb at a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.
Police forces in many western European countries worry about rising far-right sentiment, fueled by a toxic mix of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry and increasing economic hardship.
But violence, while sometimes fatal, has rarely escalated beyond group thuggery and the use of knives.
That may have changed in Oslo and on the holiday island of Utoya on Friday. Seven people were killed in a bombing in the capital — Western Europe’s worst since the 2005 London al-Qaida-linked suicide attacks that killed 52 people — and at least 80 in a shooting rampage by a lake.
Independent Norwegian television TV2 reported on Saturday that the Norwegian man detained after the attacks had links to right-wing extremism .
Police were searching a flat in west Oslo where he lived, TV2 said.
“If true this would be pretty significant — such a far-right attack in Europe, and certainly Scandinavia, would be unprecedented,” said Hagai Segal, a security specialist at New York University in London.
“It would be the European/Scandinavian equivalent of Oklahoma City — an attack by a individual (with extremist anti-government views, linked to certain groups) aimed at the government by attacking its buildings/institutions.”
“The next key question is whether he was acting alone, or whether he is part of a group.”
A report by European police agency Europol on security in 2010 said that there was no right-wing terrorism on the continent in that period.
But it added the far right was becoming very professional at producing online propaganda of an anti-Semitic and xenophobic nature and was increasingly active in online social networking.
“Although the overall threat from right-wing extremism appears to be on the wane and the numbers of right-wing extremist criminal offences are relatively low, the professionalism in their propaganda and organization shows that right-wing extremist groups have the will to enlarge and spread their ideology and still pose a threat in EU member states,” it said.
If the unrest in the Arab world, especially in North Africa, leads to a major influx of immigrants into Europe, “right-wing extremism and terrorism might gain a new lease of life by articulating more widespread public apprehension about immigration from Muslim countries into Europe,” it added.
Public manifestations of right-wing extremism can often provoke counter-activity by extreme left-wing groups. Such confrontations invariably result in physical violence.
In May 2010, a far-right supporter was assaulted and knifed in Sweden during a demonstration staged by a white supremacist movement. An activist was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and attempted murder.
The Swedish Security Service says on its website that the so-called White Power scene is made up individuals, groups and networks with right-wing extremist views prepared to use violence for political gain.
In a speech in September 2010, Jonathan Evans, the Director-General of Britain’s MI5 Security Service, cited a notorious far-right militant in a passage describing the security outlook for the country.
“Determination can take you a long way and even determined amateurs can cause devastation. The case of the neo-Nazi David Copeland, who attacked the gay and ethnic minority communities with such appalling results in 1999, is a good example of the threat posed by the determined lone bomber.”
Copeland struck three targets in London with nail bombs. Three people were killed and scores were wounded at a gay bar in Soho. It followed attacks against the Muslim community in Brick Lane, east London, and a market in Brixton, south London.
In an unclassified 2011 national security outlook published by the Norway Police Security Service (PST) in February 2011, the service said it saw a picture of “increased uncertainty.”
Part of that was due to what it called an expected increased level of activity in 2011 by far-right militants.
“Norwegian far-right extremists are in contact with Swedish far-right extremists, as well as with other far-right extremist groups in Europe. Contact also takes place between Norwegian and Russian far-right extremists,” it said.
“An increased level of activity among some anti-Islamic groups could lead to increased polarization and unease, especially during, and in connection with, commemorations and demonstrations.”
In Britain, police chiefs and Muslim groups are worried about a rise in attacks by far-right groups, and in 2009 one senior officer, Commander Shaun Sawyer, from London’s counter-terrorism unit, told a meeting of the Muslim Safety Forum that senior officers had increased surveillance of suspects to monitor their ability to stage attacks.
“I fear that they will have a spectacular … They will carry out an attack that will lead to a loss of life or injury to a community somewhere,” he said.
An analysis by Michael Whine, the Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust, an agency of the UK Jewish community, said the willingness to employ extreme violence in defense of European ‘values’ is apparent in the ideology of several groups, among them the British Patriots of the White European Resistance (POWER), which emerged in 2006, and which claims supporters in Croatia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Sweden.
Security specialist Segal said of Friday’s bombing and shootings: “The tactics and actuality of these attacks would be quite striking if carried out by a domestic far-right actor – trying to kill Norway’s PM is one thing and not surprising from any extremist elements, but killing average citizens in this manner is very, very unusual indeed for far-right/supremacists, and certainly for ones in Europe.”
Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters.
Balawegaya Question? It can either be the militant islamists or right wingers. Think…, how similar the right wing is to militant Islamists.?
The Norwegian suspect in the double attacks that left at least 92 dead described himself as a fundamentalist Christian
The Norwegian suspect in the double attacks that left at least 92 dead described himself as a fundamentalist Christian, said police, as evidence emerged that he had flirted with the political far-right.
The 32 year old, previously unknown to police, was arrested Friday. Local media have identified him as Anders Behring Breivik, whose picture on his Facebook page shows a man with longish blonde hair and piercing eyes.
The posting lists his religion as “fundamentalist Christian” and his political opinions lean “to the right”, police said. “He has certain political traits that lean to the right and are anti-Muslim but it is too early to say if that was the motive for his actions,” police commissioner Sevinung Sponheim told public television NRK.
Breivik bought six tonnes of fertiliser before the massacres, the supplier said yesterday. Oddny Estenstad, a spokeswoman for agricultural supplier Felleskjopet, confirmed yesterday that the suspect in custody purchased fertiliser 10 weeks ago.
Balwegaya Question: fundamentalist are danger for the world. That’s why Balwegaya Question the Fundamentalist act always…
THE CHANGING FACE OF THE CHURCH
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.
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.”
In her police complaint, Priyalatha has charged Shantaraju, pastor of Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre, with having sex with young girls and getting them to abort
Friday, June 17, 2011
A city pastor has been accused by his own wife of being a paedophile and of misappropriating church funds. The charges against K Shantaraju, the 45-year-old pastor of the Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre in Siddhartha Nagar, Jalahalli West, are being probed by the police after a complaint was filed by his wife Priyalatha at Gangammanagudi police station on Wednesday.
Priyalatha said she deferred filing a police complaint against her husband all these years because she thought it fit to first raise the issue with his superiors. She also believed she could prevail upon him to mend his ways, but having failed she has now provided the police with photos which show Shantaraju in various poses with an alleged minor girl.
“The children who were brought to the centre for the purpose of education are being used for illegal activities. Minor children are being used for sexual activities in the centre. He has sexual relationships with many girl children. I have witnessed these activities. When questioned, he threatened to kill me and my two children,” Priyalatha says in her complaint.
Priyalatha has been married to Shantaraju for 15 years ago. After the death of her father-in-law Moses, her husband inherited the Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre and she alleges that her husband has been misusing donations from abroad that the centre and church receives.
Shantaraju, who claimed that he has been separated from his wife for 11 years and is fighting a divorce case, denied all charges. “The whole thing is a plot to gain control over the trust and its properties. We used to receive Rs 2.5 lakh per month to provide for 275 children. She has made these allegations to the donors and donations have stopped in the last few months. She has brainwashed my mother and brother and they are also making false claims against me,” Shantaraju told Bangalore Mirror.
“Our second daughter is just seven years old; now explain that,” said Priyalatha, in a curt response to Shantaraju’s claim that they had been separated for 11 years.
Shantaraju also alleged that the photos were taken in 2005 and that his wife has manipulated them to show him in bad light. “The girl is 21 years old now and not a minor. My wife is trying to cheat the law with old photos. I have been called by the police now and I will show them the real facts. I am a trained pastor and my only aim is to continue the good work of my father in helping poor children,” Shantaraju said. Priyalatha clarified that the photos have been in her possession after she came across an unexposed roll of film two years ago. Suspecting something amiss, she got them developed and printed.
Gangammanagudi police station’s inspector S D Chabbi confirmed the complaint and said that a FIR has already been registered and investigation is on. “I do not want to pass any comments on the issue and we are still investigating the matter.
There has been no arrests made. There are two parties, Shantaraju on the one side, and his wife, mother and brother on the other. The wife has complained to donors and they have stopped funding the organisation. We also came to know that they is a marital dispute between them and they are still fighting a divorce case. We are humans first and do not want to make arrests and then investigate,” Chabbi said.
The couple has two daughters and Priyalatha revealed that they have been sent to Hyderabad for their safety. In her complaint, Priyalatha mentions that she is living in a shed in the compound of the centre along with her mother-in-law Shantamma and brother-in-law Vinay Kumar Mathew.
Priyalatha rubbished her alleged interest in getting hold of church property. “His allegation against me of trying to gain property is the latest to hide his sins. He started having an affair with this girl when she was just 14. She got an abortion at the age of 16. In front of me they have lived together. Of course, she is a major now. Other minor girls were also abused by him and had abortions. Their parents are afraid to come forward for fear of spoiling their lives. My own daughter who is 15 years old now has gone into depression after seeing his affairs with minor girls,” she explained.
This is not the first complaint against Shantaraju. An anonymous letter sent to the Karuna Bal Vikas, an organisation in Chennai that funds the Bethel Student Centre, earlier this year had accused Shantaraju of sexually exploiting minor girls in the centre. This letter also had photos of Shantaraju while on excursions with female students.
Priyalatha’s advocate RLN Murthy said that a complaint has also been given to the city police commissioner’s office. “A pastor should be a model to society. Ordinary people look up to him. The allegations here are of a very serious nature. It also calls for keeping a check on dubious institutions which are using foreign donations for nefarious activities,” Murthy said.