don't want people, like Christians,
to learn that
there is more to life than slavery
Indian Christian church in suburban Bellwood calls
for peace with Hindus
Groups in India have clashed over killing of a
By Joseph Ruzich | Special to the Chicago Tribune
September 26, 2008
Hindu extremists have targeted Christians in India recently, blaming
them for killing a Hindu spiritual chief, leaders at an Indian-Christian
church in west suburban Bellwood are calling for calm and intervention.
"This is an urgent matter," Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath said Friday
during a news conference in St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral.
"[Christians] have been burnt alive. Churches and homes are being burnt
down and families are fleeing into the forests surrounding their
Asking the international community and leaders in India to help halt
the violence, church officials and parishioners will hold a rally at
1:30 p.m. Sunday on the church grounds at 5000 St. Charles Rd.
Tensions in India have risen in the last few weeks after the
assassination of Hindu spiritual leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati.
Police blamed Maoist rebels who are active in the area, but right-wing
Hindu groups blamed local Christians.
The Associated Press reported that 20 churches and prayer halls were
attacked in the Karnataka state last week. Dozens of people have
reportedly been killed and more than 20,000 people have fled their homes
to government camps.
Angadiath makes it clear that the killing is being done by extremists
and not those who follow the peaceful Hindu religion.
He said he just wants the killing to stop. He and other church
officials have drafted a letter to the president of India, Pratibha
Patil, asking her to exercise her authority to help stop the violence.
One section of the letter reads, "We, the peace loving Christians,
condemn this killing of a Swamiji. But we find that the state government
is very remiss in taking action against the criminals who destroyed
churches, orphanages, homes and convents."
Jos Anthony Puthenveetil, regional vice president of the Federation
of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, said part
of the underlying reason for the violence against Christians is that the
extremist groups don't want the Christians to gain too much power.
"Slavery still exists in India," Puthenveetil said. "Some
[impoverished] people are even in shackles and chains. They don't want
people, like Christians, to learn that there is more to life than
Christians make up just over 2 percent of the population in India,
which is mainly Hindu and Muslim.
The Bellwood cathedral echoes the growth in North America of the
Indian Catholic church, which traces its roots to the Apostle Thomas,
who is credited with bringing Christianity to India in A.D. 52.
The $9 million cathedral opened in July and draws about 800 families.