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Indian Christians stage united protest against rising hate, violence

Christians in India marched in the national capital Delhi to demand action from the government, judiciary, and civil society to stop rising anti-Christian hate crimes in the country.

Published: February 24, 2023 11:15 AM GMT

Updated: February 24, 2023 11:16 AM GMT

More than 2,000 Christians representing nearly 79 denominations staged a protest march in India’s capital last Sunday against a growing number of hate crimes against them.

The protesters demanded the federal government, judiciary, and civil society should take action to stop the persecution of Christians, particularly those facing violent attacks in more than 6 states especially in North India.  Most of these states, ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, have enacted sweeping anti-conversion laws.

According to New Delhi-based United Christian Forum, Indian Christians faced 598 incidents of hate crimes in 2022 including intimidation, mob attacks, brutal assaults, vandalism and closure of churches. Further, sexual violence, social ostracism, denial of burial for the dead, and filing false reports on conversion activities under the draconian new laws were common in these places.

The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America reported a much higher number of 1,198 hate crimes against Christians in India in 2022, an astronomical 157 percent increase compared with 2021.

Christians protest against rising hate crimes against them in New Delhi on Feb. 19

Christians protest against rising hate crimes against them in New Delhi on Feb. 19. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

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South Korean Church officials have asked for research and education plans as Catholics in the country experience a drop in priestly ordinations amid decreasing birth rate and religiosity.

The number of newly ordained priests dropped to 87 in 2023 from 131 in 2011, a decrease of 35 percent, according to the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea. This year, the Jeonju Diocese had no priestly ordination as there was no candidate. The number of priests ordained in the diocese had dropped from six in 2011 to two in 2021.

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick ordains 23 new priests at Myeongdong Cathedral in capital Seoul on Jan. 28, 2022. Korean Church data shows overall priestly vocation has declined by 35 percent over the past 12 years. (Photo: Seoul Archdiocese)

Besides, the number of students at seminaries nationwide decreased by about 30 percent from 1,587 in 2011 to 1,137 in 2021. Catholic dioceses carried out research on the decline of priestly vocations.

Among the factors identified are low birth rate, increasing indifference to religion and faith, realism, and secularism. The growing apathy at home toward religious education and prioritizing professional success over faith are also identified as reasons for low priestly vocations.

Chinese authorities have taken away Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of the Diocese of Yongjia about a year after he was released from detention. The bishop with his secretary, Father Paolo Jiang Sunian, was reportedly ‘disappeared’ earlier this year and their whereabouts are still unknown.

They were said to have been prevented from attending the funeral of Father Leo Chen Nailiang, a priest who was loyal to the Vatican and was seen as a dissenter by the Chinese Communist Party. The communists persecuted Father Nailiang several times and once sent him to a labor camp for several years for “re-education.”

Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of the Diocese of Yongjia (Wenzhou) seen in this file image

The 59-year-old Bishop Zhumin was ordained as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Yongjia in 2011 with a Papal mandate. He became bishop in 2016.

However, his appointment was not approved by the state-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Besides, he consistently refused to join the state-run church bodies, drawing the ire of the authorities. He was detained and released several times since 2011.

The Sri Lankan Church has strongly criticized the government’s decision to suspend local council elections scheduled in March. The Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that it is unable to hold elections on March 9 due to a funds crisis.

The move disappointed the people and opposition parties, who continue to hold street protests across the country. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said postponing the vote might be due to rising public dissatisfaction with the government. He asked the nation’s rulers to face the people and accept their verdict.

Supporters and activists of Sri Lanka's main opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya party shout slogans during a protest held to urge the government to hold local council elections as scheduled, in Colombo on Feb. 20. (Photo: AFP)

The cardinal termed the postponement of the election as a “totalitarian attempt” and “anti-democratic” move. His views were shared with the media during a press conference on Tuesday. Sri Lanka’s local council elections, supposed to be held every four years, were last held in 2018.

In 2022, the government issued a gazette to extend the tenure of the councils by another year. Critics say the reason to postpone the election is the ruling government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe will suffer a massive defeat amid a massive economic crisis and ongoing protests in the country.

Indonesian Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo has called on Catholics to fight the scourge of human trafficking during the Season of Lent which began on Wednesday.

The cardinal termed human trafficking as "one of the greatest crimes against humanity” in a pastoral letter, which was read throughout Jakarta Archdiocese during Sunday Mass last week. He asked Catholics to help poor people by providing them with skills, capital, and marketing technical assistance, and create new jobs and raising awareness in society and families.

Indonesian cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo called on Catholics to fight human trafficking during the Season Lent. (Photo: YouTube)

The appeal came amid concerns about rising cases of trafficking in Indonesia including in Christian-majority areas. Government data shows human trafficking cases increased from 213 in 2019 to 400 in 2020.

Anti-trafficking campaigners say the actual number of trafficking should be much higher as most cases remain unreported. The United States downgraded Indonesia to Tier 2 Watch List in 2022, saying that the country’s anti-trafficking legislation is inconsistent with international law.

An Italian missionary priest Father Peter Geramia strongly criticized the Philippine legal justice system over the very slow trial for murder of a confrere, Father Fausto Tentorio, who was shot dead 11 years ago.

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The 84-year-old member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions said last Friday that the case has been limping since the beginning as the state prosecutors first thought the case was weak, but later moved it to the regional court for a full trial.

Italian PIME missionary Father Fausto Tentorio was shot and killed in the Philippines in 2011. (Photo: St. Columban's Mission Society)

Father Tentorio was killed on Oct. 17, 2011, inside a Church compound in Arakan of Cotabato province. Police arrested only one of seven suspects for the murder in 2022; the other six are still at large. Father Tentorio arrived in the Philippines in 1977.

He was vocal for the rights of indigenous people to help them protect their ancestral lands and human rights from loggers, land grabbers and mining corporations. He was accused of having links with communist rebels and was allegedly killed by members of anti-communist paramilitary forces linked to the military.

The military rulers in conflict-torn Myanmar have decided to shut down camps for thousands of internally displaced persons in Christian-majority Kachin state.

Critics say with the move, the military junta aims to prove that normalcy has returned ahead of polls in August. The military has ordered the residents of nearly 25 camps in Kachin state capital Myitkyina to leave by the end of March.

This photo taken on May 21, 2020 shows children at a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) near Myitkyina in northern Kachin state, where civilians have sought refuge in the wake of ongoing conflict involving rebel groups and the Myanmar military. (Photo: AFP)

The order has sparked fear among 11,000 residents living in the camps with support from Catholic and Baptist churches since 2011. Local sources say people want to go back but they are concerned about security amid ongoing fighting between the military and rebel forces.

Despite these concerns, some families have returned to their places of origin. The military has reportedly also ordered all residents in the camps in northern Shan, Chin and Rakhine states to return to their native places. United Nations estimated that more than 1.6 million people have been displaced in Myanmar including over 328,000 people displaced since the military coup in 2021.

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has ordered a probe into allegations that he ordained an unqualified Vietnamese man as a Catholic priest based on false testimonies and fake documents.

In a statement last Friday Philippine Bishop Precioso Cantillas of Maasin, who ordained 38-year-old John Baptist Ho Huu Hoa a priest last December, admitted that the controversy over the ordination "is truly unfortunate and upsetting."

Ho Huu Hoa (left), a former Vietnamese fortune teller who was jailed for brokering a bribe in 2021 was ordained a Catholic priest in December last year. (Photo: Facebook)

The controversy began in February after Catholics in Vietnam objected to Hoa administering sacraments saying he was earlier jailed for bribery and not known to have trained in a seminary.

Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh Diocese, where Hoa’s parish is based in Vietnam, banned him “from celebrating sacraments and services.” The diocese sent a letter to all priests saying that Bishop Long has also suspended the diocesan chancellor of Father Gerard Nguyen Nam Viet, who testified for Hoa during his ordination in the Philippine diocese.

Cambodia’s long-ruling authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen has vented anger at diplomats, non-government organizations, outlawed politicians and journalists who strongly criticized the forced closure of the Church-backed independent news outlet Voice of Democracy.

He also hinted at delaying the transfer of power to his oldest son and heir-apparent Hun Manet by another three to four years. His outbursts followed a report by UN experts expressing alarm at the revocation of the media outlet’s license, saying it was done without due process.

France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, greets Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, on Dec. 13, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

The United States government, Western embassies, NGOs, press freedom groups and social commentators, have also criticized his decision to shut Voice of Democracy, among the last independent news outlets in Cambodia.

Hun Sen said foreigners should not interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs without knowing the facts, and claimed closing down one outlet does not adversely affect media freedom. 

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Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
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