• Blog – 2018 1st Quarter


     

    Weekly Commentary   March 25-31, 2018

    As Christians who follow the Western calendar conclude Easter this year, Christians who follow the Eastern calendar now begin Great and Holy Week, which will conclude with the celebration of the death of Jesus Christ on Great and Holy Friday and His Resurrection on Pascha.

    Our report this week (click here to read) lists eight Christians who died in imitation of Jesus, although more are unnamed:

    • A priest, a school director, and the director’s wife were murdered by a militia composed of animists and syncretic Christians in the Central African Republic
    • A police officer in France was killed after he exchanged places with a hostage held by an Islamic State sympathizer
    • An elderly woman in India was beaten to death while in prayer by a Hindu temple sculptor
    • Two Christian farmers in Myanmar were apparently executed by the military
    • In perhaps the greatest atrocity of the week, a Christian in Pakistan died in a hospital after he and two relatives were attacked by doctors wielding surgical tools – the doctors had been insulted that the lowly Christians had insisted on prompt medical care for a distressed relative

    Perhaps most striking in the juxtaposition of these stories is that no two are due to the same cause or ideology. Christianity is hated from many sources and directions; perhaps we should recall the same was true of Jesus himself as he was shuttled from the Sanhedrin to Pilate to Herod and back.

    Our report this week has many other stories. In China the government has begun to persecute Christians in ways not seen since the 1960’s Cultural Revolution: one priest has been sent to work on a farm, and other leaders have been abducted or given lengthy sentences. Churches were attacked in Egypt, India and Pakistan. Sweden has now joined the list of countries that are considering the closure of Christian schools.

    All of the people listed on the 17 pages of this week’s report require your prayers, but perhaps none more than Gobera Bashir. He is a 27 year old convert from Islam in Uganda. Three weeks ago his relatives doused him with hot cooking oil as he left church. He was hospitalized with burns on 40% of his body, then released apparently because he could not afford further treatment. His wounds have festered. Please pray for his full recovery.


     

    Weekly Commentary   March 18-24, 2018

    We wish all of our readers who celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ according to the Western calendar (April 1 this year) that they will find great blessings and holiness in their commemorations. One such commemoration might be to read and meditate on the entirety of Psalm 22, since Jesus had called out its title while nailed to the cross, perhaps as a last instruction to we his children. It can be seen as a meditation for us in these times, but especially when focus is put on the last verses that follow all the horror:

    And my soul shall live for him, my children serve him.
    They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
    declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn:
    “These things the Lord has done.”

    This week’s report (please click here to read) tells of the release on bail of a bishop in the Philippines and the acquittal of a Christian woman in Kazakhstan, and of added church security for Easter in Indonesia and Pakistan. Opposed to this are the murders of Christians in Egypt (another Christian soldier who died by ‘suicide’ with multiple gunshots) and several in Nigeria. Stories from seven other countries include: the shutting of churches in China, the demolition of a church façade in India, and plans to legally suppress Christian schools or discrimination against Christian students in Bolivia and the United States.

    Please read our report and meditate on all of our fellow Christians around the world who have continued to tell of “These things the Lord has done” to today’s generations, and who even now ready themselves to declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn.


     

    Weekly Commentary   March 11-17, 2018

    Very disquieting news from India this week (please click here to read the complete report).

    First, dozens of Hindu radicals returned to a Christian hospital and seized part of the hospital’s property, beating and manhandling nurses and nuns in the process. Worse, they blocked access to the emergency room and disconnected the building’s electricity and water supply! Anyone with any kind of moral imagination would realize that these actions would put the lives of patients at risk. Indeed, the hospital administration noted that there were twelve patients in the intensive care unit; certainly some of these patients were Hindus. The police did nothing. The level of disregard for vulnerable lives in this story is really astounding. Jihadists in recent years have been known to attack hospitals, but there is a degree of cold calculation in this story that goes beyond the secretive planting of a car bomb by a handful of individuals.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pushpa Mission Hospital, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh state, India – courtesy UCAN

    Second, it became known that the Indian government has created a commission that has been charged with re-writing Indian history with the aim of demonstrating that Hinduism is the religion of the original inhabitants of the country. In effect, the government of India is now concocting a lie. Hinduism arose from a lengthy and complex interchange between the original people of India and the Indo-Europeans who arrived during the Vedic invasion almost four millennia ago, and so it cannot be the ‘original’ faith of India. Christian leaders are alleging that this commission is another step in the process to de-legitimatize Christians and especially Muslims and to reduce their citizenship to a lesser status.

    The goal of this government commission is reminiscent of the ‘Aryan studies’ that were adopted by German colleges in the 1930’s.

    The action against the hospital and especially the police connivance is reminiscent of the mob violence seen in Germany in the 1930’s.

    This should be no surprise to anyone. It has been noted many times on these pages that the Sangh Parivar organizations that today are tightening their grip on Indian society are all derived from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary organization that was directly and deliberately modelled on European fascism and especially on the German Nazis.

    There are other parallels.

    RSS and other Sangh Parivar leaders have openly questioned the continued use of Western democratic institutions in India.

    School children are now taught about Akhand Bharat, the Undivided India which cannot be realized without the annexation of most of India’s neighbors. Here is an obvious parallel with the 1930’s German concept of Lebensraum.

    So where do the parallels with 1930’s Germany fail?

    The obvious difference is that the Sangh organizations all lack a Fuhrer Principle. They have no requirement that all power ultimately be invested in a single individual. There is no equivalent to an Adolf Hitler on the horizon who could take cultural imperatives and convert them into murderous policies that must be realized within his or her lifetime. This is the primary explanation for the survival of Western democratic institutions in India, up to now. We should all thank God that this is so.

    Yet, we should not allow the lack of a Fuhrer Principle to blind us to the real dangers inherent in these events. Even if the future were to look just like the present, we still have the same story seen throughout the world in the past two millennia: the power of a culture with elements hostile to the Christian Faith, the power of the state against the conscience of the individual, whether Christian or virtuous non-Christian, and the corruption of truth necessary for the misuse of such powers.

    And there is no guarantee that the future will look like the present

    Against such forces what do we Christians have? We have truth, faith, hope, prayer, even love. None of these things are a shield from harm, as yesterday’s and today’s martyrs can testify. We should not expect them to be shields, even though Jesus told us we should pray for deliverance. They are rather the root and fruit of His Gospel, the Good News that is to be shared with the entire world for its sake as it approaches its ultimate destiny.


     

    Weekly Commentary   March 4-10, 2018

    Good news this week (please click here to read): an imprisoned Christian and cancer sufferer in Kazakhstan finally has received surgery for his illness. Christians were released from jail or prison in Canada and China. A Canadian couple who were attacked and defamed by a foster care agency – because they would not state that the Easter Bunny is real! –  received vindication in court. A Central Africa Republic bishop of Spanish nationality has recovered enough from the post-traumatic stress he incurred during the recent fighting to return to his flock.

    But fighting has continued in the Central African Republic, and in other lands. A priest was killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Unnamed Christians were reported as killed in Nigeria and Syria. Christians continued to be imprisoned in Eritrea.  Christians were attacked and beaten, or their properties seized or desecrated, in India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pakistan Gospel Assemblies Church, Village 77/4R, Yousufwala, Sahiwal district, Punjab province – courtesy World Watch Monitor

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sharon Retreat Center, Karaj, Iran – courtesy Article 18

    Christians around the world are now observing Lent, the penitential time before the Pascal celebration of the Resurrection. Please read over this week’s report and pray that our small sacrifices at this holy time will help prevent the larger sacrifices that are paid by these followers of Christ.


     

    Weekly Commentary   February 25 – March 3, 2018

    This week’s report will be hard to bear.

    Let us begin with Pakistan. Last week we reported on the arrest of a young man for blasphemy, the threats made against his community, and his decision to end the threats by surrendering to police. The police turned him over to the Federal Investigative Agency’s cybercrime unit, which quickly detained the Christian members of his social media groups (the Muslim members were not touched). One cousin, a 24 year old janitor named Sajid Masih, was brought into his presence after the FIA failed to find blasphemous content on his phone, and beaten. The interrogators then tried to force the two men to perform a sex act. Sajid realized that his virtue and his clean criminal record were both at risk, and so he jumped from the nearby open window, which was on the fourth floor. The doctors at the hospital told the family he was not expected to survive. Christians all over the country were quickly notified: they prayed throughout the night, and he survived. The next day he gave a video recording of the atrocious events at the Lahore FIA office, and the police charged him with the crime of attempted suicide.

    Let us move to China.  Dr. Li Baiguang, a well-known human rights attorney who defended many Christian pastors in court until his law license was suspended by the government, died in the hospital under very suspicious circumstances. He was 49 years old, had no known medical problems, and had sought medical care for a simple stomachache.  Most of his fellow Christians believe he was murdered by the government, and believe that his death will not be the last in this way.

    Let us move on to Nigeria. Three year old Joshua was deliberately drowned in 2014 when his mother initially refused the invitation to Islam; we learned of this atrocity thanks to the recent military rescue of his mother and brothers. Other stories describe more recent deaths in that country.

    Let us remember the other Christians who were killed in Germany and India.

    There are many more stories on the fourteen pages of this week’s report (please click here to read). A few demonstrate triumphs over hate, but most demonstrate the endurance of faith, whatever might come.

    Let us pray together for all Christians affected by these events.  God bless.


     

    Weekly Commentary   February 18-24, 2018

    This past week was the beginning of Great Lent according to the Eastern calendar. On the last Sunday prior to the beginning of Great Lent, parishioners had gathered in the church of St. George in the city of Kizlyar in the Russian republic of Dagestan for an evening penitential rite.  As the worshippers began to leave a lone supporter of the Islamic State opened fire on them with a hunting rifle, killing four instantly and a fifth who later died in the hospital, and wounding two more. Others were able to re-enter the church and the shooter fled after the church bells were rung; outside the gate he was killed by arriving police at the cost of two more wounded. The dead were women from all stations of life, ranging from an alms beggar to a cardiologist. Their archbishop decreed that they would be buried on their church grounds as martyrs. The funeral photography can be seen by clicking here.


     

     

     

     

     

    St. George Church, Kizlyar, Dagestan, Russia – courtesy OrthoChristian

    In our report this week (click here to read in full) named Christians were also killed in Kenya, and unnamed Christians were killed in Bolivia, Mexico, and Nigeria. The Mexican story involved the murder by criminal elements of a sister of one of the nuns who operated a parochial school and of parents of the students – the school is now closed.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Morelos de Chilapa school, Chilpancingo, Guerrero state, Mexico – courtesy twitter

    A Christian was acquitted of blasphemy charges in Pakistan, but another was falsely implicated in blasphemy and surrendered to police rather than see vigilante violence perpetrated against his neighbors.

    A church was bulldozed in Tanzania.

    We would like to end with three accounts from our report of church leaders trying to do their duty to their fellow Christians. Please pray for their strength, their intentions, and their work:

    • In India, the South African leader of the World Baptist Federation, the Rev. Paul Msiza, was denied entry to the country to visit the Christians of the state of Meghalaya. Meghalaya is 75% Christian, and the denial is apparent retribution for his activities on his previous visit there. In other words, the government agents who had spied on him made note that he did his job as an evangelist and ensured that the government would prevent a repetition. The “world’s largest democracy” appears more and more to be becoming another authoritarian power.
    • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya issued a letter along with his fellow bishops on the “death and desolation” that continues to plague their nation and people.
    • Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda from Iraq spoke at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He said words that should be long remembered for their truth and poignancy and witness: “Having faced for 1,400 years the slow-motion genocide that began long before the ongoing ISIL genocide today, the time for excusing this inhuman behavior and its causes is long since past…The harsh truth to this question is that without an end to this persecution and violence there is no future for religious pluralism in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter…So few of us are left, some estimate 200,000 Christians or less. While it is true that our numbers are small, the apostles were much smaller…We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them in the name of Christ. We say this to our Muslim neighbors, learn this from us. Let us help you heal. Your wounds are as deep as ours…We pray for your healing”.

     


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      Weekly Commentary   February 11-17, 2018

      We have nine pages of persecution this week (click here to read). A murder in a prayer meeting in Texas in the United States, and a multiple sword slashing in a church in Indonesia are prominent, as are multiple sexual assaults in Pakistan. Eight other countries saw some form of legal prosecution of Christians simply for being Christian.

      Another story from Turkey details the government’s attempts to sabotage the election of the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

      Armenian-Patriarchate-in-Istanbul - world Watch Monitor

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Armenian Patriarchate, Istanbul, Turkey – courtesy World Watch Monitor

      Western stories mostly involve threatened deportations and the continuing oppression resulting from the sexual revolution. The accounts in particular from Canada and New York in the United States show that Western governments are increasingly willing to use their power to coerce their citizens into supporting abortion and transgenderism.

      Please pray for the Light of the Gospel to dispel this present darkness.


       

      Weekly Commentary   February 4-10, 2018

      Deir ez-Zor is a city of ghosts, as are many on this planet. During the Armenian Genocide a century ago it was a principle site of murder: perhaps a million Armenian Christians were marched there and forced into open air camps where they were denied food and water. In our time the Syrian army defended the city during a 30 month siege by the Islamic State, which was lifted only three months ago.

      In this week’s report (click here to read in full) we have a story from Deir ez-Zor.  The Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Ignatius Ephrem II, travelled there to preside over a Divine Liturgy in a ruined church. He spoke words of hope about the future and the restoration of the church and city, words which simply expressed hope in a normal life.

      Virgin Mary Church, Deir ez-Zor, Syria

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Virgin Mary Church, Deir ez-Zor, Syria – courtesy syriapatriarchate.org

      A story with similar positives came from Kiev in Ukraine. Once again ultranationalists attacked a monastery in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. Two arsonists set fire to the front doors of a chapel on the property and were later arrested. The abbot of the monastery then acted: he bailed the alleged arsonists out of jail! He said “We decided to act in a Christian way, with mercy”. One can only hope, and pray, that such acts of mercy will begin to soften the hearts in that land which have been so hardened by history.

      Tithes Monastery of the Mother of God, Kiev, Ukraine - images unian net

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Tithes Monastery of the Mother of God, Kiev, Ukraine – courtesy images.unian.net

      If only the remaining stories on our report were so demonstrative of hope. Please read our report and hope and pray that we turn more to mercy and forgiveness.


       

      Weekly Commentary   January 28 – February 3, 2018

      Overall, this week’s report is largely a compendium of acts of resiliency and resistance by Christians. Yes, it lists some atrocities and defeats in those nations that can be characterized as “worst offenders” (click here to read), but the majority of stories list responses to persecution that show that Christians continue to fight for righteousness.

      Consider:

      • The Chinese pastor who republished a treatise on the new harsh regulations of churches: “As far as faith is concerned, these new regulations are evil; as far as the constitution is concerned, they are illegal; as far as politics are concerned, they are foolish. As the pastor of a house church, I intend to peacefully reject this regulation’s legitimacy and implementation”. He is obviously risking his own freedom with these comments.
      • The Eritrean Christian who stayed faithful at the cost of a third of his life spent in prison (much of it in a shipping container) and perhaps his sanity.
      • The Indian Christians who stood in front of the bulldozers and Hindu extremists who sought to seize their hospital property.
      • The Nigerian youths who with bows and arrows attempted to protect their fathers’ own fields from assault rifle toting Muslims, and who were arrested for their efforts.
      • The Pakistani Christians who have been licensed to arm themselves against terrorists and who will receive training from their provincial government.
      • The Christian refugees who have bailed children out of immigration detention in Thailand.
      • The Christians in Australia, Austria, Sweden, the United States, and Venezuela who continue to fight the enactment of unjust laws or the execution of unjust policies.

      Finally, consider the Christians of Niger who have rebuilt the church buildings that were destroyed in the rioting of January 2015.  It might be good to recall what we at Today’s Martyrs reported at the time:

      By the following Friday the only remaining church building in Niger was the Catholic cathedral in the capital, and that only stood thanks to the army. The institutional church is almost gone, but the spiritual church survives. Unnamed missionaries wrote “Last night the church members met for prayer as the pastor, who lost everything, encouraged them by flashlight to not only stand strong, but to move forward and to know that this attack will grow the church. The room was dark on the outside but illuminated by the fire in the hearts of His people, even as stones were being thrown on the roof”.

      Now the churches are back, a renewal that demonstrates to the people of one of the poorest and most illiterate countries on earth (and to us all) that the Christian Gospel cannot be suppressed.

      Please pray that Christians everywhere will gain courage from such acts of faith, that we will all support each other in the spirit.

      EERN-Boukoki 2 Church, Niamey, Niger - Samaritan’s Purse

       

       

       

       

       

       

      EERN-Boukoki 2 Church, Niamey, Niger – courtesy Samaritan’s Purse


       

      Weekly Commentary   January 21-27, 2018

      This week’s report has some good news. Police in the United Kingdom closed the case they had attempted to build against two Christian street preachers. The Egyptian government has finally agreed to allow existing unlicensed church buildings to be licensed, although the reporter noted that problems with Islamic radicals remained. Christians of all denominations in Pakistan have been uniting to financially support the victims of the December 17, 2017 Quetta church bombing. All stories to the good! Please click here to read our report in full.

      In an almost unbelievable degree of coincidence, most of the stories on this week’s report describe various attempts by governments to murder, imprison, repress, or deport their citizens or Christian refugees. Austria, Bolivia, Cameroon, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Pakistan, and the Philippines all had events of this nature. Austria’s government has even decided that it can overrule church ministers as to the sacred nature of their baptisms. While the stories from India are all concerned with mob or paramilitary violence, there was one false arrest there.

      Besides India, mob or criminal violence against Christians was also reported from the Central African Republic, Kenya, Malawi, and Pakistan. Rounding out this report are accounts of the continuing partly religious war in Syria and the continuing mistreatment of Christian refugees in Thailand.

      Please read this week’s report. Please pray for those involved in these events, and for the end of the evils that drive them.

      proto-Cathedral of Our Lady of Consolata

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Proto-Cathedral of Our Lady of Consolata, Marsabit, Kenya – courtesy CISA


       

      Weekly Commentary   January 14-20, 2018

      A short report this week (click here to read) due to a need to do other Christian acts of the Matthew 25:36 variety.

      A Christian in Egypt was shot dead, and another was abducted in Pakistan and drugged and raped. Eighteen month old Pakistan church bombing victim Aleeza Ashraf has continued to have surgeries in an attempt to save her life. Teymur Sultan ogly Akhmedov has continued to languish in a Kazakh prison where he has been denied the cancer treatment he needs.

      We do have a Christian versus Christian story. In Ukraine the Orthodox Church has divided into three denominations.  About a quarter of the Orthodox belong to the autonomous church that is in union with the Moscow Patriarchate, while about 40% belong to one of two breakaway churches that have tried to embody Ukrainian nationalism in opposition to Russian influence (these two churches are not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox communion).  The remaining 35% of the Orthodox either refuse to acknowledge their affiliation or have none.

      An historic monastery in Kiev was attacked by nationalists opposed to the Moscow Patriarchate on the day after Christmas.  The abbot came out, attempted to engage in pleasant conversation with the nationalists, and invited them to come in to pray. While this went on seminarians sang Christmas songs. The nationalists refused but were obviously surprised by the offer. Most of us as Christians hate conflict such as this, and we tend to look down on those who perpetrate it, but careful scrutiny demonstrates that the nationalists were clearly restrained by the common Christian beliefs and heritage they shared with the abbot and seminarians. Perhaps next time they will be restrained to direct their politics to other avenues.

      It should also be noted that the two breakaway churches have begun fitful rapprochements with the Moscow Patriarchate, mainly because they have failed to gain support from the Patriarch of Constantinople.  Let us pray that true Christian unity will continue to develop in the years to come.

      Kiev Caves Monastery

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Kiev Caves Monastery, Ukraine – courtesy Wikipedia


       

      Weekly Commentary   January 7-13, 2018

      This has been a hard week, as seen in our report (please click here to read). Christians were killed in Egypt and Nigeria, and almost killed in Syria and Uganda.  Christians were arrested in India and sentenced in China. Churches were bombed in Chile by gender ideology radicals (who also threatened Pope Francis with death on his upcoming visit) and demolished in China with controlled demolitions.

      Golden Lanpstand Church, Shanxi, China

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Golden Lampstand Church, Shanxi, China – courtesy a parishioner

       

      Santa Isabel de Hungria, Santiago, Chile – courtesy GettyImages

      Santa Isabel de Hungria, Santiago, Chile – courtesy GettyImages

      The worst stories, as is often the case, came from Pakistan:

      • An 18 month old victim of the December 17, 2017 church bombing in Quetta has developed gangrene due to the substandard health care that is usually allotted Christians. She has lost one foot to the infection and has been at risk of losing her life.
      • A 26 year old woman was ordered by three Muslim clerics to convert to Islam and marry her employer’s brother. After she refused she was abducted, raped, threatened with death, forced to convert, and then released. She went into hiding but was discovered, and then fled to Sri Lanka, where she narrowly escaped deportation back to Pakistan after an assessment of her mental state.
      • A number of Christian leaders joined in the condemnation of the abduction, rape, and murder of a 7 year old girl while she was on her way to Islamic studies at her mosque. These Christians, in carefully worded statements, placed the origins for this latest example of the epidemic of child abuse – no, child sacrifice – directly at the feet of the common ways of Islam that are practiced in the country. Some called for reforms of the madrassas, the Islamic schools, in specific terms that if implemented would leave them hardly able to claim to be Islamic. Read their comments in this week’s report and see how they speak to you concerning redemption of a world that is sick to its core.

      God’s love is also at that core.  What else could possibly so motivate those who want to save it?


       

      Weekly Commentary   December 31, 2017 – January 6, 2018

      We hope that our readers who follow the Eastern calendar celebrated a blessed Nativity!

      This week’s report (please click here to read in full) is only seven pages.  An underground bishop was released in China, two Christians were released in Laos, and Christmas was celebrated publicly in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) after 50 years.  But, stories from nine countries attest to continued or increased discrimination or persecution, including one death in Egypt. Two stories are of particular note:

      First, the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I [aka Dimitrios Arhondonis], has become the object of a Turkish government investigation into his alleged involvement in the 2016 attempted coup.  The government is convinced that he has links of some kind with the American CIA, and is leaking this information through the few remaining media outlets that it has not shut down. At the same time, the government is reducing the size of the Patriarch’s protective security detail. It appears as if that government is encouraging a possible thuggish act of some kind against the 77 year old Patriarch.

      The second was an attack by 900 Hindu students belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad {ABVP – All Indian Student Council, a group affiliated with the RSS paramilitary organization) against a Catholic college, St Mary’s Post Graduate College in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh state.  These student radicals attempted to invade the campus to conduct a religious ceremony consecrating the campus to the deity representing the nation of India, and demanded that the Catholic faculty and staff pray to that deity. The police prevented them from doing so, but they said that they will return in a few weeks.

      Most of the students at this college are Hindu, and presumably most graduate as Hindus. The college web site lists a large range of courses in non-religious subjects. The college has been in existence for over 30 years. There appears to be no other motive for this attack than pure supremacism. Nothing like this has happened to a Christian-operated school of higher learning of this size before now in India. The faculty and staff have been reported as having been quite traumatized by these events and are fearful of what the coming weeks will bring.

      Please pray for all of these situations on our report.  The New Year of our Lord 2018 is certain to bring both joy and sorrow – pray at least that hearts will not be further hardened against His people.

      St Mary's Post Graduate College, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh state, India

       

       

       

       

       

      St Mary’s Post Graduate College, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh state, India