Militants Besiege Mission in North India

Hindu nationalists crack down on ministry to poor, sick.

Beginning in late February, Hindu militants have besieged the headquarters of Emmanuel Mission International, the largest Christian charity in the north Indian state of Rajasthan. Militants accuse the mission, based in Kota, of publishing and distributing Haqeeqat (Reality), a book they claim defames Hindu deities.

EMI's founder, 71-year-old Archbishop M.A. Thomas and his son, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, went in hiding as the police hounded them. A prominent Hindu militant leader through local Hindi newspapers offered a bounty of $26,000 for the archbishop's "head on a plate."

On March 16 Rajasthan plainclothes policemen arrested Samuel Thomas, president of EMI. The officers stopped Thomas at gunpoint near New Delhi, India's capital. Thomas was on his way to apply for anticipatory bail for his father and himself. The archbishop is still underground.

EMI denies publishing the book. CT reached Samuel Thomas before his arrest. "The fight is not about the book," Thomas said. "The fight is to close down all the Christian work. [Hindu militants] want to take over all the mission property and declare it as a temple. But we know that God will not allow that to happen."

Christians in Rajasthan have come under increased persecution since the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power there in December 2003. Hindu radicals reportedly have stoned and vandalized schools, orphanages, and churches run by EMI.

Led by BJP social welfare minister Madan Dilawar, the police have already arrested three EMI administrative officers and revoked the mission's charity licenses. Authorities sealed EMI's offices and froze their bank accounts.

The mission serves orphans, tribal peoples, dalits, and leprosy and HIV/AIDS patients. ...

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