Work for a literate and well-educated Chhattisgarh: Raman Singh
RAIPUR: “Together we have to develop a cent percent
literate and well-educated Chhattisgarh for the development of a healthy and
prosperous Chhattisgarh. Ensure that no child in our family or neighbourhood is
deprived of school admission,” said chief minister Dr Raman Singh.
In the district
level farmers and women’s convention held at Raigarh mini stadium on Sunday,
the chief minister blessed the children admitted in schools under the state
wide School Admission Festival. He said that education is necessary for the
personality development of every child.
Dr Singh, in order
to bring development in the district, dedicated and performed phumi poojan of
different construction works costing Rs 65 crore, including high-level bridge
on the Kela River costing Rs 6.90 crore and Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme
costing Rs 16.35 crore.
joint function of farmers, women convention and School Admission Festival, the
chief minister said that the state government has decided to observe this year
as Education Quality Year in all the government schools in the state. Teachers,
parents and common people have important participation in it. For the participation
of local villagers in the school education, School Development Committees would
be strengthened and with their cooperation Gram Sabhas would be conducted, he
different schemes launched for farmers and women, the chief minister asked them
to take benefits of these schemes. To link villages in the district to the
mainstream of development, roads were being constructed, he said.
In the programme,
the chief minister distributed free solar light to 702 literacy promoters and
kotwars, cheques to 1,000 women workers involved in building construction for
sewing machines and cycles, loan worth Rs 10.15 lakh to 41 Women Self Help
Groups for different professions and fishing nets and ice boxes to 305
fishermen. Under the grant schemes of agriculture department, the chief
minister distributed modern farm implements, minikits of seeds, diesel pumps
and power trillers to 270 farmers.
The chief minister
performed bhumi poojan and laid foundation stones for BSc Nursing College at
Raigarh district headquarters costing Rs 7.58 crore, 100-bed Mother and Child
Health Centre building costing Rs 15 crore and Women Health Worker (ANM)
Training Centre building costing Rs 2.86 crore.
ai�Te̅ans who practice the faith do
so in private for fear of persecution, attending one of a handful of
underground churches that are believed to be operating in the country.
Expatriates use chapels on embassy grounds, but those are effectively
inaccessible to Afghans.
Only a few Afghan
converts have surfaced in the past decade, and the government has typically
dealt with them swiftly and silently: They are asked to recant, and if they
refuse, they are expelled, usually to India, where an Afghan church flourishes
in New Delhi.
In a country of
crippling poverty, ethnic fault lines and decades of war, Islamic piety offers
many Afghans a rare thread of national solidarity. To reject Islam is seen as
tantamount to treason.
is the only thing that Afghans can claim,” said Daud Moradian, a professor at
the American University in Afghanistan. “They do not have a national identity,
they do not have an economic identity, and there is no middle or working class
That leaves Josef
almost nowhere to turn for protection. The police would be of no help. Converts
report being beaten and sexually abused while in custody. His family in
Afghanistan is also a dead end. His uncles are hunting for him now, too.
Josef said he lost
his faith well before he knew what would replace it. Most of his siblings immigrated
to Germany when he was a teenager, but he stayed behind to look after his
aging, ailing parents. He drove a taxi at night and studied medicine, earning a
degree from Kabul Medical University.
He hung on through
civil war, repressive Taliban rule and Western invasion, but a senseless
shooting he witnessed at close range in 2009 that left an 8-year-old boy dying
in his mother’s arms finally shattered his resolve to stay.
He borrowed money
from his family and worked double shifts until he could pay a smuggler to get
him to Europe. He left behind his mother, who died soon afterward, and his
pregnant wife, who moved to Pakistan to be with her family.
His memories of the
journey are flashes of elation and despair. The sights of Istanbul; the fence
at the Turkish-Greek border, with his fingers laced in the wire; a field of
sunflowers; three sickening days on rough seas in a boat to Italy, and a
last-minute swim to shore; a road trip to Germany using the passport of a
Pakistani who looked nothing like him; and the desolate Hamburg street where
his brothers picked him up.
In Hanover, close
to where his siblings lived, Josef found a Protestant church for Farsi
speakers, and began attending services, at first just to watch.
“When I threw away
my Islamic beliefs, I was living in a space of spiritual emptiness,” he said. “During
that time I was studying different religions — Buddhism, Hinduism and
Christianity. I was studying Islam as well.”
After 15 days in
Germany, he turned himself in and applied for asylum, and was held in a refugee
camp where the monotony was broken by visits from missionaries. “I think I was
impressed by the personality of Jesus himself,” he said. “The fact that he came
here to take all of our sins, that moved me. I admired his character and
personality long before I was baptized.”
When he was
released to live with his sister in Kassel, he returned to the church in
Hanover and converted, a decision his siblings accepted with open-mindedness.
The reprieve was
short-lived; German authorities re-arrested him and deported him to Italy
because he had not sought asylum in the European Union country where he was
first processed, as required. Without family or friends in Italy, he sought aid
from churches and charities that offered him food but no shelter.
depressed and in deteriorating health, Josef gave up and went to live with his
wife and her family in northern Pakistan.
Knowing the stakes
of his secret, he put digital copies of his asylum paperwork and mementos of
his conversion and baptism on a flash drive he carried in his pocket, finding
some comfort in having them with him.
But one day in
March, he left the flash drive at home. While he ran errands, one of his wife's
brothers borrowed the flash drive to save a file, and discovered what was on
When Josef came
home that evening, his in-laws grabbed him by the throat and beat him. “We tied
his hands and his legs and we wanted to kill him,” Ibrahim said. “It was my
father who intervened, and said that he wanted to talk to his family first.”
The father said
they would contact Josef’s uncles for guidance, and in the meantime Josef would
be locked in a room at the side of the house, bound hand and foot.
In the middle of
the night, Josef managed to escape, sneaking out of the house without a final
goodbye to his wife or son. He caught a night bus to the border with
Afghanistan. On the way, he phoned a childhood friend to ask for help, and then
called his sister in Germany, weeping into his cellphone.
Reached in Germany,
his sister, who declined to be named for fear of giving a clue to her brother’s
pursuers, said she has not heard from Josef since then. “I’ve been worrying
about his life and his whereabouts,” his sister said. “It will be one of the
biggest achievements of my life if I can help him get somewhere that he can
practice his new religion openly.”
To aid a convert is
nearly as despised here as to be one, but his friend helped him anyway, hiding
him in the basement of an empty house and bringing him food once a week.
“When times were
good, he was always generous with me,” said his friend, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity because of the danger. “Now he’s at risk, and needs my
help, and I have no choice but to give it.”
For Josef, who has
recently changed hiding places, the time passes slowly now, with little company
other than his Bible. He can hear the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer, a
reminder of danger’s proximity and the paradox he lives now.
“When I threw away
my convictions, it was hard to speak with people about it,” he said, a red
ember pulsing on the tip of his cigarette. “It was like an imaginary prison.”
He paused, the light from his propane lantern casting a long shadow on the
wall. “Now it is the other way around,” he said at last. “My body is in prison,
but my soul is free.”