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ICC Note: Attacks on Christians in India’s Tamil Nadu state continue to rise in both number and severity. In just the first two months of 2018, Christians in Tamil Nadu have endured nine separate attacks on their community. This includes the mysterious death of a pastor from Kanchipuram District.

03/06/2018 India (World Watch Monitor) – After a year in which hate crimes against Indian Christians happened at a rate of almost one verified incident per day, the state which registered the most incidents in 2017 (over 50) – Tamil Nadu – continues to see outbreaks of violence.

In the first two months of 2018, the United Christian Forum has already counted nine incidents in the southern state, including the mysterious death of Pastor in Kanchipuram District.

Two weeks after that incident, on 4 February, a “house church” in the town of Suleeswaranpatti, in Pollachi Coimbatore District, where Christians had been gathering for 20 years, was attacked by Hindu Munnani activists. Hindu Munnani is a religious and cultural organization based in the state, formed to defend Hinduism and protect its religious monuments.

A group of ten extremists forced their way into a hall where Christians were holding a Sunday service.

“They shouted slogans demanding us to stop running the church,” Pastor Challamuthu Stephen told World Watch Monitor.

“They damaged the roof of the church and every object in their sight, and issued threats that if we continue gathering as a church, they will kill us,” Stephen said. “The Christians got frightened and scattered from there.”

He continued: “The extremists warned us, ‘This area is dominated by Hindus. How dare you run a church here! You can go to America or any foreign land and serve your Christ there!’

“Police arrived and asked the Hindu activists to leave, but once the police were gone, they came back again and continued shouting at us.”

About four years ago, Stephen was brutally attacked by activists, including, he claims, one of those who was also part of the most recent attack – a man identified only as Armugam, but who has yet to be charged for either incident.

“They tried to kill me,” Stephen said of that incident. “I was hospitalized but the police refused to register a case against Hindu Munnani activists.”

Immediately after the most recent attack, Stephen, with others from the church, went to the police station to file a case. But the police refused to file an official report – known in the Indian subcontinent as a First Information Report.

After Christians pestered the police, they eventually filed a case against four men – Puffs Shiva, Gopala Krishnan, Sabareeswaran and Karunakaran – but only on minor charges under Section 448 of India’s Penal Code, relating to “trespassing”, “reciting obscene songs in public places”, or “mischief causing damage”, with the potential punishment being a fine equivalent to less than one US dollar.

“The case doesn’t stand as serious in connection with the incident,” Stephen told World Watch Monitor.

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