By ICC’s India Correspondent
6/29/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in India in 2014, Christians have experienced an increasing amount of persecution. Over the past two years, it has almost become common for radical Hindus to attack pastors and destroy churches without fear of punishment from India’s law enforcement. Recently, however, Christians have become concerned about the latest target of radical Hindu organizations: children’s camps.
In India, Christians offer day camps known as Children Bible Clubs (CBC) during the summer. These clubs, which are similar to Vacation Bible Schools, are designed to help children learn moral stories from the Bible in a fun, interactive setting. Often, non-Christian children are attracted by activities offered by the camps. Although CBCs are intended for the children of local Christians, non-Christian children may attend the clubs if they obtain their parents’ permission.
Recently, radical Hindu groups have begun accusing pastors of forcibly converting the non-Christian children that attend the camps. Often, these groups are not satisfied with simply accusing the pastor; they also interrupt the meetings and attack the staff.
Pastor Anand Chauhan leads a house church in Premnagar in the Nangloi area of west Delhi. The church hosted a CBC in the first week of June. On June 4, the final day of the camp, a group of 30 irate people approached the camp, shouting anti-Christian slogans and using abusive language.
Fearing the angry mob, the children and many of the camp teachers and volunteers fled from the building. The mob quickly surrounded the remaining Christians, demanding that they explain why they were spreading a foreign faith. The mob then beat up two of the workers, a 23-year-old Christian named Satish and another nearby woman. The mob also verbally abused and manhandled one of the camp teachers.
The Hindu radicals then dragged Pastor Chauhan to the police station and demanded that the police arrest him for converting Hindu children to the Christian faith. Fortunately, the police were unable to find enough evidence to file a case against the pastor, so the police counselled both parties and dismissed them.
Angered by the police’s decision, the radicals returned to Pastor Chauhan’s house church and threatened the Christians, telling them they must convert to Hinduism. They then set up a Hindu idol in front of the church. The radicals now congregate to worship the idol in front of the house and regularly threaten the Christians, pressuring them to convert to Hinduism.
While speaking to International Christian Concern (ICC), Rapaul Yadav, a member of Pastor Chauhan’s church, stated, “Due to the incident on the 4th of June, we have had to close down our house church. For the past two weeks we have had to travel nearly 20 km to attend another church. The journey has been very difficult for some of the church members.”
According to Pastor Chauhan, the attacks on Christians have increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office. He stated, “Local right wing organizations draw strength from the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.” He also expressed his discontent over the attacks, stating. “We have a constitution. Every citizen should abide by the rule of law.”
A similar incident occurred on the same day in the state of Telangana. In that situation, a pastor was forced to leave his village as a consequence for allowing 10 non-Christian children to attend his church’s CBC camp. On June 4, the locally elected head of the village of Kamalpuram, under the influence of Hindu radicals, summoned Pastor Bhaskar and expelled him from the village. According to the government official, Pastor Bhaskar’s crime was preaching a foreign religion. Hindu radicals hired two trucks in order to pack up the pastor’s belongings and remove him from the village.
While speaking with ICC, Pastor Bhaskar said, “I have lived in Kamalpuram for the last 12 years, nurturing the believers. It is very difficult to leave the ministry and these faithful people behind, but I pray that God will reach those who have sent me from this place.”
The degree of viciousness displayed in these two recent attacks has left the Christian community feeling insecure about their future and the future of their children in India. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, often promised that he would protect the fundamental rights of all of India’s citizens, regardless of their religious identity. Unfortunately, in light of these recent attacks, many are wondering if Modi includes Christian minorities among those he vows to protect.