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ICC Note:

2017 was a tough year for Christians in India. In just the first six months of the year, Christians had already endured over 410 attacks on their community. Throughout the month of December, Christians celebrating Christmas were targeted and attacked by Hindu radical groups seeking to intimidate and isolate Christians from India’s broader society. With religious intolerance continuing to rise and with the BJP-led government doing little to curb it, what will 2018 look like for India’s Christians?

12/28/2017 India (National Herald) – The month of December brings not only the major festival of Christmas, but also the season of festivity as we bid farewell to the year gone by and look forward to the upcoming year. The trend seems to be changing; the attacks on those planning festivities related to Christmas, those participating in the cultural practices of this festival are under attack and the atmosphere of intimidation is all around the issue of celebrating Christmas.

In Maharashtra, the Chief Minister’s wife and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA were trolled for promoting an event themed around Christmas. The carol singers in Aligarh were detained on charges of forced conversions, while Hindutva groups, the affiliates of the RSS combine, said that Christmas celebrations in schools are a strict no no!

Not to be left behind, in Rajasthan, members of the VHP barged into a Christmas function, as they disrupted it amid allegations of forced conversions. In Satna (MP), a Hindutva group attacked the carol singers and burned the priest’s car. These are a few from the list of attacks on the Christmas celebrations all over the country. In all these attacks, the offenders are related to groups which are Hindutva right-wing in nature.

While anti-Christian activities, many of them violent; have been an emerging pattern over the last many years, 2017 marked a new low. Open Doors, the global charity which monitors the treatment of Christians worldwide to produce an annual World Watch List of the 50 most difficult countries for them to live, points out that in 2016, India was at its highest ever rank on the list – at number 15.

It looks set to rise higher in 2018 if present trends continue. Also, the incidents occurring against Christians in the first half of 2017 are equal to the incidents in whole of 2016.

Anti-Christian violence has picked up in last two decades in particular. One of the most initial acts in this direction was hacking Rani Maria to death in Indore (MP) in 1995. The most horrific of this, of course, has been burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains along with his two innocent sons by Bajrang Dal’s Dara Singh in 1999, and the Kandhamal violence of August 2008. One recalls that even earlier, the observation was that anti-Christian violence picks up during the month of December. This trend was perceptible in the violence in Dangs, Phulbani, Jhabua and Phulbani so far. Come December and the atmosphere is rife with scattered attacks against Christians.

The main spread of this violence has been in the Adivasi belt right from Dangs in the West (Gujarat) and Kandhamal in the East (Odisha). In between, it passes through the tribal areas of MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. At the same time, the urban organizations have been relatively spared.

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For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].