Christians in India Living in a Climate of Fear Due to Rising Persecution

ICC Note:

Christians in India are reportedly living in a climate of fear due to the ever escalating persecution their community faces at the hands of radical Hindu nationalists. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship in India have skyrocketed over the past three and a half years, corresponding with the rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government. Encouraged by the BJP’s political successes, radical Hindu nationalists target religious minority communities for acts of violence. Unfortunately, local authorities and national BJP leaders to little to confront these hostilities, allowing Hindu radicals to operate with a sense of impunity. 

02/05/2018 India (Frontline) – In the first week of January, a mob of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members tried to storm St. Mary’s College in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, to conduct an aarati (Hindu ritual) in praise of “Bharat Mata”. The mob clashed with the police and said that it wanted to promote patriotism among students. The college director, Father Shaju Devassy, reportedly said that it was a symbolic attempt to impose Hindu dominance over minorities under the garb of promoting patriotism. It challenged the constitutional right of religious and ethnic minorities to own and manage institutions to help their communities, he added.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, a United States-based Christian non-profit organization, there were 21 violent attacks on Christians and hundreds of cases of harassment, threats and intimidation at the hands of Hindu groups from January to November in 2017 in Madhya Pradesh. Christians constitute fewer than 1 per cent of the State’s 72 million people.

According to Open Doors USA, a “non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians worldwide”, in 2017 India jumped to the 11th position in the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians; it was at the 15th position in the previous year “amid the continued rise of Hindu nationalism”.

The first six months of 2017 witnessed 410 incidents of persecution against Christians, compared with 441 incidents for the entire previous year. Some 40 incidents were reported a month on average, according to Open Doors USA. These included pastors being beaten, churches being burnt and Christians being harassed. “While the source of persecution for Christians in India depends on their location within the country, most of it comes from Hindu radical groups. Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, they experience increased persecution.”

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