India’s Christians Troubled by Surge in Religious Persecution
By ICC’s India Correspondent
11/05/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – India’s Christian community is deeply troubled by the rising tide of religious persecution targeting pastors and their churches. Over the past two months, International Christian Concern (ICC) documented at least 67 incidents of persecution, beginning in September. Of these 67 incidents, 49 took place in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most populous states in northern India.
While documenting these cases, ICC spoke with many people on the ground in Uttar Pradesh, including Pastor Sanjay Robinson, a Christian leader in Lucknow. Pastor Robinson stated, “Pastors and Christian workers are terrified and worried about their survival as the attacks continue to rise in Uttar Pradesh. The trend of increased attacks will get worse as the election for the Loksabha is fast approaching.”
ICC also spoke with Pastor Vijay Massih, a pastor who was brutally attacked by Hindu radicals alongside two of his colleagues. On September 8, a mob of 50 people barged into a private gathering of 25 Christians who were meeting for a spiritual retreat. Pastor Massih reported that the Hindu radicals began hurling verbal abuses at the Christians before attacking the three pastors leading the retreat.
In describing the situation following the attack, Pastor Massih stated, “Our lives are in danger… Everything went against us following the incident, including negative publicity by print and electronic media leveling false charges of forcible conversions. Even the police have taken the side of the attackers.”
“Recent developments in India must disturb not just Indian citizens, but the peace-loving people of the world at large.”
Similarly, 43-year-old Pastor Surajveer Peter was ordered by the local Station House Officer (SHO) to close down his house church that he has been pastoring for nearly 15 years in Khannupur village, located in the Muzafernagar District of Uttar Pradesh. Peter told ICC that the police locked the doors of the church in which they were worshiping. Shortly after, he was taken to the police station and told that he had to stop worshiping or else he would be put in jail.
“I was so afraid,” Pastor Peter told ICC. “When the police came to the place where the worship was going and chased the Christians worshipers, I thought to myself, I didn’t do any harm to anybody, but I was treated as a criminal by both Hindu radicals and also the police.”
“Recent developments in India must disturb not just Indian citizens, but the peace-loving people of the world at large,” Dr. John Dayal, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum, said regarding the recent rise in attacks. “The killing of Muslims in the garb of protecting cows, the threat to throw out Christians, closing their educational institutions and ending all conversions by changing the constitution of India are real threats.”
“Without the economic progress it promised, the Modi government is engineering a confrontation between the religious minorities and charged sections of the Hindu majority,” Dr. Dayal continued. “The targeted hate, the manner of denying sections of Muslims the protection of the law as citizens, stripping Dalits of the affirmative action and protection from discrimination, and the punitive persecution of small Christian communities and new followers of Christ are clear signals. The RSS is leading the national discourse.”
For pastors, like Peter and Massih, the circumstances are life-threatening. Yet, Christians are still willing to pay the price as they await with hope that the attacks against them will soon be brought to justice.
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