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Indian Persecution Victims Gather: Tears and Testimonies

You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address Contact Jeremy Sewall, Policy Analyst, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441, [email protected]

(April 4, 2007) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned of a gathering of persecution victims in India to address the issue of Christian persecution from an India-wide perspective. Victims of Christian persecution from across India shared their horrific stories and highlighted their continued denial of justice.

The testimonies were part of a three-day program which ran from March 20 – 22. Of the 100 victims who submitted their statements, about 40 were Christian. The rest were mainly were from Gujarat state, which witnessed a wide-scale killing of members of the Muslim minority community in 2002.

Based on the statements of the victims and presentations by human rights activists, it was noted that “demonization of minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and their consequent marginalization and physical attacks have been noticed all over the country, particularly in the states where the BJP is in power, like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.”

Testimonies from Christians Who Suffered Attacks

“I was gang-raped by my fellow tribal villagers, including the brother and father of the local legislator in January 2004, and I named everyone in my police complaint, but no one has been arrested,” lamented Taramani, a school teacher from Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district.

Another victim, Shobha Onkar, could not help crying as she narrated how she was attacked by a mob in the aftermath of the January 11 incident. “About 300 people surrounded our house in the presence of the local police inspector and started breaking in. I thought I should open the door before they vandalized my house, but when they entered into the house, one of them hit me with a stick on my head. I started bleeding profusely,” she said.

Lessons for the Church

Jeremy Sewall, ICC’s regional manager for India said, “It is encouraging to see that Christians from all around India have mustered the boldness to tell their stories in this public forum. What is alarming is that this was the first time the issue of Christian persecution has been addressed on a country-wide scale. It is high time for India to deal publicly and honestly with the persecution of minority religions, ensuring justice and fairness for all its citizens.”

Dr. John Dayal, a Christian leader and one of the panel members, said it was obvious that “Hindutva pressure” was working. According to Dayal, churches in Madhya Pradesh are no longer able to operate in the mornings and the evenings, when all the villagers are in their homes. Now they can only do ministry during the day, when everyone has gone out to the fields to work. Such a situation is obviously counter-productive because those who need to hear the gospel are not even there. In other areas, church activity is now confined to tribals alone, who constitute just a third of the population – even in the so-called tribal belt of central India .

No Help from the State

In many cases, the tribunal noted that, “the victims have failed to get any help from the State. The role of the police is particularly dubious, as in most cases, the victims were not even able to file an FIR (first information report). It is often noticed that the victims are turned into perpetrators of crime. As a result, there is a sense of helplessness that the minorities feel.”

The group also deplored the role of the media, mainly local newspapers in vernacular languages, in inciting anti-minority violence.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.