Christians laud India’s SC decision on missionary’s death, slams side remarks
Christian leaders lauded recently the life sentences imposed by India’s Supreme Court on the murderers of an Australian pastor and his two young sons, but were shocked at the side remarks in the court’s ruling.
Even as the court imposed life sentences on Dara Singh and his accomplice Mahendra Hembram for the deaths of Pastor Graham Staines and his sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, eight, (who were burned while they slept in their car in 1999), the ruling seemed to justify the murderers’ intentions, the Hindustan Times said.
The court ruled, “Though Staines and his minor sons were burned while they were sleeping inside a station wagon, the intention was to teach a lesson to Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity,” the Hindustan Times reported.
The ruling also seemed to embrace false claims that the Christians forced Hindus to convert when it stated, “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force,’ provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.”
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops’ Conference of India told Asia News, “The fact is the Commission found that there was no significant increase in the number of Christians, and importantly, Graham Staines was doing a service for the leprosy patients.”
Staines was working with lepers in Orissa state, a volatile area in eastern India with a recent history of a slew of anti-Christian violence (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/11/indian-christians-in-orissa-still-face-persecution-two-years-after-violence-14587).
Singh, the murderer, led a mob that burned the vehicle where the Staines were sleeping, which was parked outside a church in Manoharpur, a small tribal village, according to Worthy News.
Gracias said the SC remarks carry dangerous precedents for future judgments, especially for pending cases in Kandhamal, Orissa. Gracias added, “It is a human right for every human person to freely accept a religious practice and beliefs,” Asia News reported.
Abraham Mathai of the All India Christian Council told Hindustan Times that the court’s comments could encourage similar violent crimes against Christians, and asked that the statements be expunged from the record. He deplored the ruling for failing to say the murders were done in cold blood, the Hindustan Times said.
Civil Society said, “The Supreme Court ruling may in fact send the wrong signals to courts trying cases of religious violence in Kandhamal, [Orissa],” Asia News reported, even as it said the remarks were “uncalled for and unconstitutional.”
Staine’s widow, Gladys, said after the ruling that she has forgiven the killers. “Because of forgiveness I hold no bitterness towards the persons who killed my family,” Worthy News reported.
India has a population of over one billion, 80 percent of whom are Hindu, with Christians comprising over two percent, Worthy News said.