By ICC’s India Representative
10/09/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On September 17, 2017, suspected Hindu radicals attacked an Assembly of God church in India’s Karnataka state. After the attack, church attendance has plummeted as Christians in the area fear another attack. It is not surprising that attacks are increasing in Karnataka as state elections are scheduled to occur early next year. Hindu hardline groups want to silence Christians and ensure that they are unable to practice their faith.
On the evening of September 17, the attackers broke into the church through the roof and proceeded to burn church furniture and Christian literature. Pastor Naga Raja told International Christian Concern (ICC), “I have lost everything that was in the church. They burnt Bibles, Gospel literature, song books, and DVDs that were stocked in the church. They have even destroyed the church furniture and took away the PA system including speakers…and carpets.”
The attack shocked Pastor Raja and congregants alike. “I was shocked to see the desecration of the church with broken things and ashes all around, the church had [a] deserted look.” Unfortunately, because the attack occurred at night, Pastor Raja has limited evidence to provide to police, “Even though I knew it was the work of people who did not like Christians and our activities, we could not give an evidence to the police.”
A First Incident Report (FIR) was registered at a local police station in Karnataka, but at the time of writing, the culprits have still not been identified.
After the attack, church attendance dropped significantly. “On [a] normal Sunday, more than 100 Christians worshipped in my church,” said Pastor Naga Raja, “but on the 24th [of] September 2017, not even 20 were at the church for worship. This is because they are terrified of the attack on the church.”
Such attacks are not new in Karnataka. A similar attack occurred on January 26, 2017. Pastor Basanna was brutally attacked by Hindu radicals who also burned his church’s Bibles, furniture, and building. Radicals dragged Basanna to the Hindu temple in order to forcefully convert him back to Hinduism. ICC contacted the pastor after the most recent attack and he told us that “the anti-Christian activities are geared up since January 2017, since when I was attacked, half of my congregation stopped coming to church ever since the attack took place then.”
Not only have the culprits not been caught and church attendance dropped, but there is no way for the remaining congregation to rebuild the church, “The loss is beyond repairable in any near future, for the rural congregation such as this, who are economically poor and the damage is very huge.” A rough survey reveals approximately $1,500 worth of damage.
In spite of India’s constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, Christians continue to face threats and attacks. Christians often cannot exercise their freedom of religion, due to fear of being attacked. Let’s pray that India’s government will seek justice for persecuted religious minorities and begin protecting the rights of all, regardless of their religious affiliation.