Shadow of Fear hangs over Christians in Gujarat as they celebrate Christmas Week

Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India., Dec. 26 - Gujarati Christians will be celebrating Christmas week this year under a shadow of fear, in spite of police protection, for being a cornered minority.

"Massive rallies and meetings are being held in Christian settlements of south Gujarat by rightwing outfits, who are harassing Christian minorities in every possible way. This has created a serious law and order situation," said Samson Christian, general secretary of the All-India Christian Council.

Dang district, for instance, is reliving the horrors of 1998 when churches had become the targets of a frenzied mob led by a rightwing group.

Five years later, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is allegedly holding a massive Virat Hindu Sammelan, or massive Hindu meet, in Christian settlements.

Tribals who are said to have converted to Christianity are allegedly being coerced to participate in the VHP rally while the police watch.

Giving an instance, Samson Christian, General-Secretary of All-India Christian Council (AICC) said, "On Sunday in Pareva village near Dahod in Panchmahals (100 km from here), loudspeakers were used without permission by anti-social elements who propagated hatred against Christians."

Local newspapers also reported a large VHP rally in a Christian settlement in Dolara village of Surat district, 350 km from here, where loudspeakers blared out hate messages against missionaries allegedly involved in conversions.

People were reportedly brought in trucks from neighbouring villages to a temple where VHP activists raised slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram' and warned tribals of dire consequences if they converted to Christianity.

In the meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court, in an interim oral order on Monday, has asked the state government to take all necessary steps to maintain law and order in those areas of South Gujarat where tension prevails on during the Christmas week.

Notices were also issued to the government along with the district collectors of Dangs, Dahod and Surat following a petition filed by the All-India Christian Council (AICC).