Tag Archives: Orissa

India Supreme Court exonerates eleven Hindus who murdered three Christians

Map of India
Map of India

First, let’s hear about an anti-Christian crime that occurred in Orissa, the most anti-Christian area in India.


The Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) wanted the death penalty for Singh, who was linked to extreme right-wing Hindu group Bajrang Dal. The GCIC has opposed the request for a death sentence. The wife of the slain pastor, Gladys Staines, had already forgiven Dara and his accomplices involved in the brutal murder of her husband and children. (20/01/2009 Widow of Graham Staines: “Do not give up hope, pray for India”).

Twelve years ago, Graham Staines was burnt alive with his children aged eight and ten years in the small village of Manoharpur, in the tribal area of Orissa. Graham Staines had worked for thirty years with leprosy patients in Orissa, and was sleeping with his children in a car, on his journey home on a cold December night. A group of attackers poured petrol on the car, and burned them alive.

The Staines tried to escape, but the assailants, fifty in all, prevented them. A witness said the attackers shouted slogans in praise of Dara Singh, the Hindu movement and the god Hanuman.

In 2003 a court in Khurda judged all 13 accused guilty. Life in prison for everyone else, a death sentence for Dara Singh. In 2005, the Orissa High Court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment, judged Hembran guilty and exonerated the others.

Shalini sent me this story about how the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision.


Dara Singh killed Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons by setting fire to the vehicle in which they were sleeping, but the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that it was not a “rarest of rare” category crime to warrant death penalty for him.

In a judgment drawing curtains on court proceedings in the sensational incident of January 1999, a bench of Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan upheld the Orissa High Court judgment imposing life sentence on Singh alias Rabindra Kumar Pal and Mahendra Hembram. The trial court had awarded death penalty to Singh.

The bench said the Orissa HC was justified in awarding life term to Singh and Hembran as the crime was committed in the passion to teach Staines a lesson for his alleged attempts to convert tribals.

“Though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity,” it said.

“All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the high court and modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur,” the bench said.

Justice Sathasivam, writing the judgment for the bench, also dismissed the CBI`s appeal challenging the HC`s decision to acquit 11 other accused. “We have highlighted the weakness and infirmities of the prosecution case insofar as acquitted accused, who are poor tribals,” he said. The CBI had taken over the probe from Orissa Police on May 3, 1999.

“In the absence of definite assertion from the prosecution side about their specific role and involvement, it is not safe to convict them. We entirely agree with the reasoning and conclusion of the high court,” it said.

While condemning killings in the name of religion, the bench also expressed its disapproval of conversion. “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,” said the bench.

This story is interesting because it shows how the pluralist view that “all religions are valid” can actually lead to violence. The pluralist view is itself a point of view that takes itself to be true. Pluralists think that religions like Christianity, which claim to be true, are actually FALSE. In short, pluralism DOES disagree with Christianity. If disagreement with other religions is bad, then pluralists are just as guilty of being bad as Christians.

Is what they say about Christians being “exclusive” true? Does being “exclusive” make Christians dangerous? Well, the reason why the practice of Christianity DOES NOT result in violence is because part of the “truth” that Christians believe is that they should love their enemies and pray for the people who persecute them. That’s why the victim’s wife forgave the murderers for their crimes.

I actually have Hindus and Muslims in my family. They treat religion as a cultural or national identity – not really something to investigate to see if it is true or false. Hindus are not usually Hindus because they did some big investigation and found Hinduism to be true. (Hinduism requires an eternally oscillating cosmology, which contradicts physics and the Big Bang theory). It’s more like that they do it for personal reasons or community reasons – it’s like part of their national/cultural identity.

Why do some Hindus oppose evangelism?

A while back I posted this debate featuring a Hindu who disagreed with Christian evangelism and wanted to make it illegal. He complained about Christians using “force” (being kind and giving gifts) to convince people to become Christians. In the next breath he was pushing the government to use force his anti-Christian views onto Christians. He did not want them to evangelize, so he wanted to pass that view into law and force his neighbors to accept HIS views by force. He thought his view of Christianity and evangelism was TRUE, and he thought the traditional, Biblical Christian view was false. He actually insisted that his interpretation of the Bible was correct and all the Christian theologians were misinterpreting the Bible. He expected Christians to act like Hindus! And he thought that Christianity WAS Hinduism – or that it should be redefined to be understood to be Hinduism. Then he complained about Christians who thought that their views were TRUE and that his were FALSE.

The difference between Christians and Hindus is that committed Christians think they are right and use ideas and words to persuade, while militant Hindus think they are right and are willing to use force to make people agree with them. I think the difference is that a Christian can appeal to facts like the Big Bang theory, and the Hindu cannot really do that, as this Hindu commenter to another post showed.

I really recommend that you listen to that debate, and there is a play-by-play summary that I wrote in case the bandwidth is too high. And read my exchange with the Hindu commenter, too.

Here is the major persecution story in Orissa that I blogged about before. And here’s another small story from Orissa that I found.

Responding to religious pluralism

Recently, I had posted a debate from the Unbelievable radio show, which is broadcast in the UK. The topic of the debate was whether India should pass an anti-conversion law to prevent Christians from trying to convert people to Christianity. Basically, many Hindus in India want Christians to adopt the Hindu notions of polytheism and religious pluralism. They want Christians to accept that Jesus is one incarnation of the divine among many, and they want to outlaw the Christian practice of using speech to convince people to become Christians.

You can listen to the debate here in my original post.

But I wanted to highlight another debate that occurred in the comments of this blog, between me and a Hindu reader, who challenged me for being intolerant because I said that Hinduism was false. (Just briefly, understand that half my family is Muslim, and the other half is 90% Hindu – I am a visible minority, and my parents are first generation immigrants who started out with nothing).

His initial comment is here.

Guys, all religions teach the same things. Its how each religion is interpreted that makes it different. If you follow any religion persistently, it will lead you to a peaceful and happy life.

[…]If one feels happy following Christian rituals, he may follow Christianity; if he feels happy following Hindu rituals, he is good to a Hindu. It all depends on what makes sense to the person. Enforcing or luring someone to another religion is wrong…It should be a personal choice. And no one should oppose a conversion made by personal choice.

[…]To say that someone’s God or method of worship is false or not real is absolute rubbish according to me.

[…]If one says that other’s God or religion is false, he/she is not tolerating the other’s beliefs. And its immoral. Such things lead to religious conflicts.

[…]I believe in Jesus and so in my religion which is Hinduism.

[…]Why convert when a human being’s main aim is to be happy? Every religion has scriptures that tell how to become happy and attain heaven/liberation.

[…]Everyone loves his/her religion. They would not want to hear anything bad about it.

And I replied:

Our view as Christians is that the purpose of religion is not to live a happy life and to be “good”. Our view is that we want to believe what is true and to know God as God really is. We believe that God is a person, with a real personality – likes and dislikes.

What you’re proposing is a Hindu approach to religion, except with Christian symbols and rituals. But Christians don’t care about symbols and rituals much. We are more interested in history, science and propositional logic. We treat religion like… any other area of knowledge. First we discover the truth, then we act on it.

Additionally, you have a Hindu approach to conversion, and you are trying to force that on Christians. You can keep your Hindu approach to yourself, and tolerate the fact that we have a different approach to conversion.

[…]You’re not in a position to know what Christianity teaches, or what Jesus believes, since you haven’t looked into these things at all. You know Hinduism. And you are projecting Hinduism onto other religions. But Hinduism is totally different than Christianity. They conflict in many areas, like cosmology and history. We believe that the universe had a beginning, you think it’s eternal. And science can arbitrate that claim. We are willing to change our beliefs to be in line with what we can test in the external world, using the laws of logic, and the study of science and history.

[…]You write “To say that someone’s God or method of worship is false or not real is absolute rubbish according to me.”, yet you think that Christianity is false, and not real. But I am actually not offended by that at all. You are welcome to think I am wrong. I don’t mind, this is the way that the game plays. Only one of us can be right, and if you were right, I would have to switch over to your view and that would be fine with me.

[…]You write “Everyone loves his/her religion. They would not want to hear anything bad about it.” No that’s your view. You identify Hindusim with India and patriotism and your people and culture. I don’t identify Christianity with anything except truth. I like it because it’s true. And that the only reason I like it.

[…]When I say that Hinduism is false, I am not “talking bad about your religion” any more than I am talking bad about the view that 2 + 2 = 5, when I say that 2 + 2 = 4. It’s not talking bad about an idea to say it is false.

And then he replied:

Do you believe that people who worship idols are devilish or all religions except Christianity are false? If yes then explain me with proper scientific reasoning and provide me a proof in the recent decades that logically explains the above two statements. You need to prove me that what you believe is experimented by scientists and proven by technology.

[…]I believe in all Gods no matter what religion because God is One. For me and this generation of educated Indians, we believe in tolerance and respect for all religions. We believe in co-operating with each other and not pointing flaws in others beliefs until its proven scientifically and attested by scientific authority. And we believe that people’s belief be respected!

Then I replied:

The current best theory of the origin of the universe is called the big bang theory. It states that all the matter, energy, as well as time and space and time, came into being from nothing. It is backed by experimental data from red-shift measurements, cosmic microwave background radiation measurements, and light element abundance measurements, etc. The theory states that the universe began 14.7 billion years ago. Additionally, the universe will not recollapse because measurements of mass density from Maxima and Boomerang show that the universe will expand forever.

The big 3 monotheistic religions agree with the universe coming into being from nothing. Unfortunately, other religions think that the universe is eternal, such as Mormonism and Hinduism. On that basis, I reject Hinduism, which requires that the universe be eternal.

“I believe in all Gods no matter what religion because God is One.” That view (pantheism/polytheism) is called Hinduism. You are a Hindu. Christianity (monotheism) is mutually exclusive with Hinduism, because the teachings are in conflict, (as with the example of cosmology). As a Hindu, you therefore think that Christianity is false. On your definition, you don’t “tolerate” Christianity – you think it’s false. You don’t “respect” Christianity, because you want to force your view (Hinduism) and your view of conversion (don’t tell other people their religion is false) on Christians.

[…]Note: I am ok with you saying that I am wrong and that Christianity is false.

And then we sort of wound things down from there.

Anyway, the point of this exchange is most people in most religions think that the point of religion is to be happy, to have a sense of community and to get along with everyone by never talking about whether religious claims about the external world are true or false. But that view of the purpose of religion is not the Christian view. On the Christian view, the goal is to seek the truth. And part of Christian practice is to defend Christianity in public, and trying to convince other people that Christianity is true.

So, I think that Christians need to be a bit tougher, and recognize when someone who is not a Christian is trying to get them to accept that the purpose of religion is not to seek the truth. That’s their view. That’s not our view. It doesn’t make any sense for someone to say that I am evil for thinking they are wrong, when they are thinking that I am wrong. I think a better way forward is to allow other people to disagree with you, but to keep the disagreement focused on arguments and evidence.

And just because you disagree with someone else, it doesn’t mean you have to be mean to them. In my office, I am friends with Hindus, Muslims, atheists and Jews. We try to outdo one another in good deeds to make our religions look good! And when we debate which religion is true, we use arguments and evidence to attack and defend. What I’ve found is that you get a much stronger friendship when you are comfortable being yourself. I keep telling my co-workers – it’s OK to disagree.

Related posts


Apologetics advocacy

Debate on Hinduism and religious pluralism

A very interesting debate that shows how intolerant pluralistic religions like Hinduism can be – so intolerant that they are willing to ban free speech that is supportive of Christianity. In the pluralist East, you can ban the public practice of Christianity, but in the exclusivist West, we have free speech and freedom of religion for Hindus. Is it possible that the view that “all religions are equally true” is far less tolerant than the view that “only one religion is true?”. What if the one religion that thinks it is true also believes that it is a moral good to tolerate free speech and open debate about which religion is true?

Here is the MP3 file. (64 minutes)


Unbelievable? 24 Oct 2009 – Christian conversion of Hindus – 24 October 2009

In light of Premier’s Faith Without Fear campaign, this discussion between Anil Bhanot and Sunil Raheja addresses the tensions that exist when Christians seek to evangelise Hindus in India.

What is acceptable? Is the response of some Hindus justified? Is it wrong for Christians to state that Jesus is the “only” way to God?

To sign the petition for Justice for Christians in Orissa State, India go to www.faithwithoutfear.org

Below you can find my play-by-play summary of this debate.

What does the Bible say about evangelism?

The relevant passage from the Bible in which Jesus commands Christians to share their beliefs with non-Christians is found in Matthew 28:16-20. This is the part that the Hindu scholars disagree with.

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What does the Bible say about salvation being exclusive of other other religions?

A few verses from the that teach the exclusivity of salvation.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:30-31 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Luke 12:8-9 I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

So Christians are required to preach to non-Christians, and they are required to preach what Jesus said about himself – that trust in Jesus’ claim to be God stepping into history is the only way to be rightly related to God, the Creator of the universe.

Are Hindus tolerant of the public practice of authentic Christianity in countries where Hinduism dominates?

Summary of the debate

My snarky comments are in italics.

– explains Hinduism: impersonal unknowable Brahma, incarnations
– all religions are paths to the impersonal divine (pantheism with polytheistic elements)

– former Hindu, convert because of lack of meaning and purpose, describes conversion
– changed from works-based salvation to salvation by grace
– there is a capacity for grace in Hinduism, not just works based
– Christian campus groups do a better job of explaining their religion than Hindus

– well for me, I did it on my own dealing directly with God, no assistance from Christians

– I object to Christians going out to convert others to your religion

– i don’t like the turn or burn style of evangelism
– but asking people the big questions, that’s good evangelism

– we Hindus don’t evangelize
– we think of Jesus as another deity (an incarnation of Brahma)
– i oppose Christians for saying in public that I am wrong and they are right
– Christians are wrong, and I (a Hindu) am right!

– but persuasion and conversion is everywhere in the marketplace

– Christians are mean and they go out plundering countries and killing other people
– converting people to Christianity is the stealing of souls from other countries
– Christianity is an evil religion and Christians are evil people
– I know better what Jesus would do than Christians do, Jesus would not proselytize

– I am against the use of coercion in evangelism

– sharing your faith in Jesus as your favorite incarnation among many incarnations is fine (polytheism – the Hindu view)
– but missionaries say that only Christ is the true God and they have no right to say things that are incompatible with Hinduism
– Christians have no right to say that Christ is the true God, that is incompatible with Hinduism
– you need to keep your exclusive views to yourself, but I will force Hinduism on you in public
– you should be prevented by law from expressing your exclusive Christian view in public
– Hindus like me are very very tolerant of other views, so you should agree with Hinduism, not Christianity

– Christianity teaches that Jesus is a son of God, not God himself
– Christians are wrong about the doctrine of the Trinity
– efforts to convert should not involve any good works like giving food or medical treatment

– Mother Teresa met peoples needs for food and medical care, but she did it as a public Christian
– but this would break your rule about conversion using good works and charity
– so is Mother Teresa a bad person for doing good works as a public Christian?

– Hindus believe that there are many ways to achieve union with God
– they are all equal, you can follow the path you like to be united with God
– we Hindus are very very inclusive, every other path is a right path to God

– the right to freedom of religion does not allow you to say that Christianity is correct
– Jesus did not say that you go and condemn people of other religions

– but I convert people by my love and self-sacrifice, not through coercion

– it’s ok to be a Christian if you keep it to yourself and don’t tell anyone else that their religion is wrong

– are you trying to force your view of religion on me? in public?

– to say that my religion is false is to breach my human right to exist
– it’s coercive to offer people food and then try to evangelize them

– how do you define secularism?

– living as though this life were all there is, that religious meanings don’t matter in public life

– Hindus have no problem with that view, it’s in the Vedas

– India is becoming secular as it grows into part of the global economy
– secularism has the goal of being happy in this life without any accountability to God

– in opposition to secularism, all faiths should unite on the Hindu concept of the impersonal divine

– the solution to secularism is found by a personal encounter with God

– I became a Hindu as a result of performing Hindu rituals as I grew up in a Hindu background

– a person’s decision to become a Christian is a result of their own inquiry and free decision

– the purpose of Hinduism is to make people happy and to achieve achieve world peace
– Hindus believe that God is indescribable and unknowable (pantheism)
– everyone has to choose the Incarnation they like to make themselves happy (polytheism)
– Christianity is one incarnation of the Hindu doctrine of impersonal divine (pantheism)
– so all religions are valid because everyone chooses the incarnation they like, we have billions and billions to choose from
– that’s how we will get world peace, by having everyone agree with my view of religion (pantheism and polytheism)
– isn’t it terrible that Christians can tell Hindus that they will go to Hell without Christ
– Jesus said himself that it’s wrong to judge others, although I’m judging you right now!

– well we should certainly try to be gentle and respectful

– you can’t say that I am wrong about my religious views, freedom of speech doesn’t cover that speech
– everything that is in the Bible is in the Hindu Scriptures, and the Hindu Scriptures has even more
– anything in the Bible that contradicts Hinduism was invented much later by deluded people
– the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is the only true path to God, if you throw out the non-Hindu parts

– i was once a Jain but now I’m a Christian, and Christianity makes my life meaningful

– a person can be a Christian, so long as they accept that Christianity is actually Hinduism

– actually, Christians believe that people are sinful and that Jesus’ death atones for that sin

– oh Hindus don’t believe that!
– in the Bible, the jews are trying to stone Jesus, and Jesus says that they are all Gods (this is not in the Bible unless he means what Satan says)
– that’s consistent with Hinduism

– am I allowed to say that I disagree with your beliefs?
– the discovery that washing hands reduces deaths during child birth was ridiculed, but it’s true
– my understanding of Christ is different from what Hindus believe about Christ
– these questions are matters of life and death
– if my research is correct, then this world is in a terrible state without Christ
– because I love other people, I need to do what I can to share Christ with others
– I need to be able to discuss and disagree about it in public

– well, you can’t say that my religion is false – that’s going too far, but I can say your religion is false

– i’m not saying that I am better than you, just that my view is true, based on the evidence

– no you don’t have the truth, that is just your personal preference FOR YOU
– i have a personal preference, and my personal preference is true FOR ME
– you can’t say that you have the truth to me, and laws should prevent you from saying that

– Jesus said nothing contrary to Hinduism
– it’s only much much later that people added Christian doctrines to the Bible
– everything Jesus taught is consistent with Hinduism, even if the Bible doesn’t say that