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ICC Note:

A recent string of violent attacks on rural churches and groups of Christians in northern India has shocked the Christians leadership of India. No official response has been made by the Church leadership as radical Hindu nationalist groups continue to commit religiously motivated attacks on both Christians and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. Attacks on religious minorities has dramatically increased with the election of Prime Minister Modi and his BJP. Many Christians fear that the situation will continue to deteriorate unless serious action is taken by the Church.  

9/5/2014 India (UCANews) – A recent spate of incidents against smaller church groups and believers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have caught Church leadership by surprise.

The incidents, which followed a ban on Christian activity in several villages in the central state of Chhattisgarh, stunned church leadership into silence, at least for the moment. There has been no media statement by any senior religious leader, no demonstrations and protests, no memo to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Instead, the response has come from civil society whose members, veterans of long years of challenge to hyper-nationalist political religious groups collectively called the Sangh Parivar, see the anti-Christian violence as part of a larger conspiracy to create polarization and consolidate recent electoral gains.

Christians have been targeted in what is called ghar wapsi, or homecoming, which is a polite word for coercive conversion of tribal people. The process against Dalits, the former untouchable castes who profess the Christian faith, is called shuddhikaran, or purification, an ironic phrase, which holds “non-Indic” or Semitic religions to be polluting.

The popular rage against Muslims, especially in rural areas and small towns, is built upon the myth of “love jihad”, an allegation that Islamic young men have been trained to seduce Hindu women, thus forcing a demographic change in India and reducing the Hindu population to a minority. Demographers, sociologists and gender activists have dismissed love jihad as political humbug. Yet many of the scores of incidents of violence against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh this year have been triggered by such rumors.

In the Greater Noida area in western Uttar Pradesh, a mob led by a local political leader thrashed 10 pastors and dragged them to the local police station on Saturday over allegations that they were “forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity”. The police also joined the group in beating the pastors. Days later, an inquiry by senior officers exonerated the pastors and said politicians had made a false allegation to incite the mob and rouse religious passions in the villages.

These incidents have deeply disturbed the community. Rural Christian pastors and persons who have been attacked are afraid to even file a complaint with the police as they feel totally isolated and surrounded.

The acts of violence also take away much from the reassurance that was sought by some leaders of the larger denominations, that Modi would control extremist Hindu elements and channel national energy into infrastructure development, social amenities and economic growth.

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