A church in India’s Chhattisgarh state was attacked over the weekend by a gang of Hindu radicals. According to reports, 60 Christians who had gathered at the church for Sunday worship were victimized, including Christian women who were forcibly stripped by the attackers. This attack comes days after India denied entry visas to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and an open letter from the U.S. Congress was sent to India’s Prime Minister expressing grave concerns over rising religious intolerance. Will India ever recognized its problem with religious intolerance and take steps to correct it?
3/10/2016 India (Christian Post) – A group of Hindu radicals in India’s Chhattisgarh state reportedly attacked and beat 60 Christians worshiping at a Pentecostal church on Sunday, only a week after the Indian government denied visas to a U.S. Commission investigating religious freedom abuses in the country.
International Christian Concern reported that a mob of 25 Hindu radicals targeted a Pentecostal church in Kachana colony, where they stormed the house of worship on motorbikes, and began beating the 60 or so Christians that had gathered for Sunday worship.
Witnesses said that the radicals also beat and stripped Christian women, and destroyed various church property, including Bibles.
Although seven of the alleged attackers were arrested by police, local activists claimed that an ‘atmosphere of impunity’ allows such incidents of violence against Christians to occur throughout the country.
The radicals have attempted to justify the attack by claiming it was against forced conversions to Christianity, an accusation often aimed at the comparatively small but rising Christian population in the country.
John Dayal, spokesman for the United Christian Forum, told ICC: “The vandalizing of the church [in Chhattisgarh] comes as the entire nation of India is debating the role of [radical Hindu nationalism] and the government in exacerbating an environment of hate and intolerance against civil society, the intelligentsia, and, above all, religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians.”
News of the latest church attack comes only a week after the Indian government failed to issue visas in time to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has long planned a discussion on religious freedom conditions in the country.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of these visas. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit,” said Robert P. George, chairman of USCIRF.
“USCIRF has been able to travel to many countries, including those that are among the worst offenders of religious freedom, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, and Burma. One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than have these nations, and would welcome the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF,” he added.