A series of attacks has left Christians in India feeling nervous going into the Christmas holiday. Hindu radicals have targeted Christians participating in Christmas programs across the country. Recently, in India’s Madhya Pradesh state, over 30 Christians were attacked and arrested for singing Christmas carols. The Hindu radicals accused the Christians of attempting to forcefully convert Hindus to Christianity. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have dramatically increased in recent years. The impunity enjoyed by Hindu radicals is much to blame for this increase in attacks. Will Christmas continue to be a difficult time for Christians in India?
12/22/2017 India (The Indian Express) – As the countdown to Christmas is underway, the last few days have seen some stray attacks against the festival from fringe right wing outfits in three north Indian states. The incidents have unnerved the minority community, prompting Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision making body of the Catholic Church in the country, to comment that the community was “losing confidence in the government”.
Here is a look at recent incidents of attacks on Christians and Christmas:
Carols and conversion allegations near Satna, Madhya Pradesh: More than 30 priests and seminarians singing carols at a village near Satna in Madhya Pradesh were detained by the MP police on December 14, 2017, after activists from Bajrang Dal lodged a complaint against them for forcible conversion. The accused belonging to the St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna had been conducting a carol singing program, which, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, has been a routine practice during Christmas season for the past three decades. Six of the accused were booked under Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act. Further, eight priests who went to the civil lines police station to inquire about the detained priests, were also held and their car set afire outside the police station. The CBCI has alleged that the police did not play a fair role in the case.
The complaint against the detainees came from a 21-year-old Dharmendra Dohar, a resident of Bhumkahar village, who alleged that he had been offered a sum of Rs 5000 for converting to Christianity. Madhya Pradesh has strict anti-conversion laws and is one of five Indian states where missionaries need permission to try and convert individuals.
Christmas program disrupted in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan: Members of fringe groups Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad reportedly disrupted a Christmas event on the night of December 20 at a community center in Pratapgarh district and manhandled a few organizers and attendees. They were accompanied by the police who claimed to have received a tip off about forced conversions at the event. “The program was organized without permission, and the police had got information that religious conversions were being conducted,” said SP Shivraj Meena, “A team of officials went there and found the conversion allegations were false”.
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