INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: India elections worry Christians; Taliban executes officials ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--With Hindu nationalists rising in influence across India, Christians in that country are praying a secular party comes to power in national elections currently underway.
The 10 states in which the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party wields political influence have become "absolutely inhospitable" and "hostile" to Christians because of the "inaction of the federal government," Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told the Compass Direct news service.
Christians and other non-Hindu minorities need a federal government willing to use its power to issue warnings, ultimately dismiss state legislatures and state executives and make laws applicable across the nation, said John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council.
"What is at stake now, as never before, is the stability and consistency of India's constitutional institutions in their response to critical situations, their zeal to correct wrongs and their commitment to the welfare of the weakest and the lowest," Dayal told Compass Direct. "Personally, I would even welcome a Third Front [a grouping of anti-Congress Party and anti-BJP parties led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist] government supported by the Congress Party," he added. "Certainly, a BJP-led government is the least desirable, as we fear major erosion and even regression in issues of freedom of faith, Dalit liberation and affirmative action for the poor."
Christians are especially concerned about state assembly elections in Orissa state, where Hindu nationalist violence following a swami's murder in August 2008 left more than 127 people dead and more than 50,000 homeless. Christian leaders believe the results will either embolden Hindu nationalists to launch more attacks or compel them to refrain from violence, Compass reported. The BJP has made the killing of Saraswati its main election plank.
With 714 million eligible voters, India's five-phase elections began April 16, with results of the polling not due to be reported until May 16, Compass reported. Negotiations after that will determine the multi-party alliance on which the new government will be based.
"The results of the elections on May 16 will show whether the ideology of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of the nation who promoted communal harmony, will prevail in India, or that of his killer Nathuram Godse, allegedly a member of the RSS," George told Compass Direct.
TALIBAN EXECUTES GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS -- Taliban militants executed two government officials May 2 in Pakistan's Swat Valley as a reprisal for the deaths of two Taliban commanders in fighting with government security forces. Pakistan's military launched operations against the Taliban after they violated terms of a February peace deal and moved gunmen into neighboring districts.
Baptist Press reported in late April that Taliban militants physically abused Christians in Karachi after the Christians protested orders from the Taliban to convert to Islam or die. Christians complained to the government and then staged a peaceful protest, after which more than 100 masked Taliban militants invaded the community with automatic rifles. Christian homes were pillaged and Christians were abused, according to reports.
Pakistan's military reported more than 170 militants have been killed since the offensive was launched April 26. The two government officials were kidnapped and beheaded in a village 10 miles north of Swat's main town, Mingora, police officials told the Reuters news service. Their bodies were dumped beside a road.
The brazen retribution raised even further concerns that the national government may not be able to contain the Taliban insurgency. President Obama has said the situation in Pakistan warranted "grave concern," given both the country's possession of nuclear weapons and the fact that Pakistan's northwestern region has fed instability in neighboring Afghanistan.
The number of people killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan rose by more than 70 percent in 2008, according to the U.S. State Department. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, were scheduled to meet will meet Obama in Washington May 6-7 to discuss strategies to defeat al Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
EGYPT CONFISCATES CHRISTIAN FARMERS' SWINE -- Pig farmers in Egypt protested May 3 as government health workers confiscated the farmers' herds for slaughter -- despite the fact Egypt has had no confirmed cases of the H1N1 "swine flu" virus. Most pig farmers in Egypt are Christians who do not follow Muslim customs against eating pork.
Egypt's government ordered all pigs in the country to be killed without regard to whether they are infected, saying it is a precaution against the flu, CNN reported. Local media reported hundreds of protestors clashed with police over the decision.
A government official promised pig farmers would be compensated for their herds and said the meat of healthy animals would be frozen and returned to its owners after the ban was lifted.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.