The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Friday, March 28, 2008

20,000 Tamil Christians threaten to revert to Hinduism

P ARUL
Friday March 28 2008 10:01 IST

VILLUPURAM, Tamil Nadu: Exposing the deep-seated animosities and divisions within the fold, over 20,000 caste Christians of Eraiyur village have threatened to revert to Hinduism unless a seperate parish was provided to the Dalit Christians there.

A parish in Eraiyur village was devastated by violent clashes between two groups a fortnight ago. It all started with the Arch Bishop Antony Anandarayar permitting Dalit Christians to undertake a funeral procession on Church Road, a privilege they have been denied for more than a century. Amidst tight security the procession was taken out.

Protesting against this, the caste Christians have boycotted prayer sessions at the St Rosary Church for the past three days.

Anandarayar assured that none would be discriminated in church on any ground and this has not gone well with the caste Christians who have accused the bishop of not considering the sentiments of the majority. They have also stated that by the decree an age-old custom and tradition has been broken.

Meanwhile, Anandarayar has stated that politics and caste must not be allowed in Christianity and that such instances would affect peace in the village.

The caste Christians have wanted the Arch Diocese to provide a separate Parish to the Dalit Christians, who had set up St Sahaya Madha Church in the Dalit colony.

A total of 20,000 Vanniya Christians have threatened to revert to Hinduism if the Diocese ignores their demand. In this regard a memorandum has been submitted to the District Collector, DRO, RDO and Arch Diocese, Puducherry and Cuddalore.



Lock up churches and hoist black flags in some places
They call it a 'Black Day': Dalit Christians of Alagappa Samudhram near Panruti in Cuddalore district protest in front of a church on Sunday.



CUDDALORE: The Palm Sunday celebrations in at least a dozen churches located in the Dalit Christian dominated areas in Cuddalore and Villupuram districts were either obstructed or suspended on Sunday.

Palm Sunday is one of the important church festivals commemorating the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The festivities are stretched over a period of one week preceding Easter, which is termed Holy Week. On the occasion the Christians take out processions carrying tender palm leaves to churches as offerings.

The Dalit Christians, observing the day as a 'black day,' boycotted the festivities. In some places, they locked up the churches and hoisted black flags to protest the "discriminatory practices" adopted against them and the attack on their houses at Eraiyur near Ulundurpet on March 9. In the subsequent police firing two persons had been killed.

The Dalit Christians also evicted the parish priests and asked them to take up their cause in the meeting convened by Archbishop Anandarayan in Puducherry on Monday.

The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Dalit Christians' Liberation Movement have given the call to observe the Holy Week as the "untouchability protest week." State deputy general secretary of the VCK Sinthanai Selvan told Hindu The that the Archdiocese was not following the tenet of Pope John Paul that priests should shun caste bias and discriminatory practices.

The VCK was insisting upon equality in places of worship but the ground reality was contrary to the expectations. Party general secretary Thol. Thirumavalavan would lead a demonstration in Puducherry on March 19, seeking justice for the Dalit Christians, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Thirumavalavan put off his visit to Eraiyur on Sunday following requests from Villupuram Collector Brajendra Navnit and Superintendent of Police A. Amalraj who felt that the visit might escalate tension and precipitate the issue.

The police said the Palm Sunday fete passed peacefully at Eraiyur Jebamalai Matha Church (of the majority Christians) in which even a handful of Dalit Christians participated.


* * *

DALIT CHRISTIAN CONVERTS OPPRESSED, DENIED ENTRY BY VANNIYAR CHRISTIAN CHURCH:
2 dead, 3 maimed; Dalit village burnt down
by Christian mob in Villupuram (Tamil Nadu)

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TN violence: Two killed in police firing
10 Mar 2008, 0557 hrs IST , TNN

CHENNAI: Two persons were killed and three others injured when police opened fire while trying to quell a riot between two Christian communities in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday. Police said the firing was in self-defence.

Tension had been mounting in Erayur village since last Friday when some Dalit Christians began an indefinite fast against discrimination in the parish by the Vanniyars.

The caste flare-up started when the Vanniyars, also a backward community, protested against posters put up in the village condemning the alleged discrimination. On Sunday, a group of Vanniyars went on a rampage in the Dalit-dominated village ransacking homes.

Villupuram SP A Amalraj said the cops were attacked with stones by a mob of several hundreds when they tried to disperse the Vanniyars.

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Two killed in police firing in Villupuram
P ARUL
Monday March 10 2008 01:55 IST


VILLUPURAM: Two persons were killed and another injured in police firing at an unruly mob following a clash between two groups of a church in Ulundurpet on Sunday.

As the Dalit Christians of St Jabamalai Annai Church in Eraiyur were reportedly neglected, they built a 'Saghaya Madha church' in the area three months ago, and sought appointment of a priest for it.

The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and the Ambedkar Makkal Iyakkam also took up the issue. A few days ago, 15 persons went on an indefinite fast, demanding the Arch Bishop, Puducherry-Cuddalore appoint a priest. Revenue officials and police tried to pacify them and a contingent of policemen was posted to the village.

Meanwhile, posters were put up by the VCK in the village, demanding closure of St Jabamalai Church and recognition to Saghaya Madha Church. This provoked the rival group, dominated by BC Christians, and around 500 of them went on the rampage on Sunday, assaulting Dalits and torching their huts. Over 30 huts were gutted.

Superintendent of Police Amalraj along with a police team resorted to lathi charge. The mob retaliated and indulged in stone-pelting, injuring several policemen. As the violence continued, the police opened fire, in which M Periya Nayagam (40) and A Magimai (24) were killed on the spot.

Another person, Devasagayam, was admitted to Government Hospital. Over 40 persons were injured in the lathi-charge. District Collector Prajendra Navneeth and senior police officials rushed to the spot. A large contingent of policemen have been posted to the village.

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Carnage, firing kill two; leave behind fears, tears
March 10th, 2008


Eraiyur (Tamil Nadu), March 9 (IANS)

Tension gripped this little hamlet in Tamil Nadu, lying in ruins following Sunday's clashes between two groups belonging to a minority community that left two dead in police firing. While police dismissed the incident as yet another minor law and order problem, villagers in Eraiyur, 205 km south of Chennai, remained distraught.

"Our men folk have deserted the village because of police oppression," said Pappamma, 63, amid rubble of what was her hut. Her two sons have fled.

"I hope that neither of them is injured in the firing," she remarked wiping tears, looking sick with worry.

Only women, children and bovine animals were left in two sections of the village that looks as if hit by a tornado.

Trouble arose earlier in the day when the faithful sought recognition for a shrine in the poorer quarter of this habitat from the local diocese, leading to an altercation and arson.

A posse of police that tried to enforce peace was pelted with stones from both groups resulting in a volley of bullets that left two men belonging to the upper-caste Vanniyar community dead and three critically injured.

Superintendent of police K. Amalraj and four other police officials sustained minor injuries.

Over 250 heavily armed policemen were now camping in the neighbourhood.

"The very fact that journalists are able to visit the village proves that the situation is very much under control," Director General of Police P. Rajendiran said.

"Skirmishes between the upper and lower caste sections are nothing new in the district. But this is the first time that members belonging to the same minority community fought for worshipping rights, something usually done by the majority community.

"This only goes to show that our people have to learn about peaceful coexistence much more regardless of religious denominations," Rajendiran commented further while reacting to repeated queries about the sudden unrest.

Hindu religious leaders blamed proselytising missions for the violence.

"Those who converted the masses here in the name of a better god and an egalitarian society have actually worsened the situation. This only exposes the hollowness of conversions," commented Hindu Front leader Rama Gopalan.

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Christians clash: Cops to maintain vigil
NT Bureau | Tue, 11 Mar, 2008, 03:56 PM


In the backdrop of police firing after a clash at Villupuram, Inspector General of Police, North Zone, Radhakrishnan on Tuesday said that police would continue to intensify the security until the situation in the district is brought back to normalcy.

He further said special control rooms have been set-up to monitor the situation here.

He was speaking to reporters after inspecting the area where a clash broke out between two sects of the Christian community over a place of worship at Eraiyur.

He said 'if there was any difference of opinion between the two sects, they could have immediately taken up the issue with the police instead of taking law into their hands'.

When the police went to the spot to bring the situation under control, stones were thrown at them, injuring 13 policemen. After repeated warnings, police had to open fire, he said.

However he said police would put in efforts to bring in harmony among the people. It may be recalled, two persons were killed and five injured in police firing following a clash between two sects of the Christian community.

The two sects had been at loggerheads over the right to pray at a particular place of worship in the village.

Denied permission to worship along with others, people belonging to one sect built a church of their own but no priest was appointed by the authorities concerned. Protesting against this, they had been agitating over the past few days.

Later the rival group went on the rampage and damaged the houses of the people belonging to the other group in which 10 people were injured.

After repeated warnings, police opened fire in which two persons were killed on the spot.

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Magisterial probe into police firing sought
Monday March 10 2008
ENS

PUDUCHERRY: Condemning the police firing at Eraiyur village in Villupuram in Tamil Nadu, the Archbishop of Puducherry, Cuddalore and Anandharayar has urged Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to order an judicial enquiry by a commission, headed by a magistrate, into the incident.

Reading out the Bishop's message, Rev Fr Antonirajsamy, vicar general, archdiocese of Puducherry and Cuddalore, at a press conference here on Sunday, condemned the police firing, in which two persons were killed and several sustained injuries.

Antonirajsamy said a group of people from the village had approached the archbishop for a separate parish, weekly mass on every Saturday and a common pathway for the church, located at Eraiyur, three months ago.

He said the archbishop granted weekly mass on Monday and it was communicated to locals.

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Two killed in police firing


Villupuram (PTI): Two persons were killed and five injured in police firing following a clash between two sects of the Christian community over a place of worship at Eraiyur, about 20 km from Ulundurpet near here, on Sunday.

Police said the two sects had been at loggerheads over the right to pray at a particular place of worship in the village.

Denied permission to worship along with others, people belonging to one sect built a church of their own but no priest was appointed by the authorities concerned. Protesting against this, they had been agitating over the past few days.

Police said the rival group today went on the rampage and damaged the houses of the people belonging to the other group in which 10 people were injured.

When the police went to the spot to bring the situation under control, stones were thrown at them. After repeated warnings, police opened fire in which two persons were killed on the spot, police said.

The injured were admitted to a hospital in Puducherry.

Police said the situation was tense but under control now.

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