Series of Attacks Leaves India’s Christians Concerned About the BJP’s Re-election
By ICC’s India Correspondent
06/13/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – A series of persecution incidents have raised concerns for many Indian Christians following the re-election of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since the BJP claimed a landslide victory in India’s national election, International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented at least seven attacks against Christians in just two weeks.
“I expected things to be difficult,” Pastor Roop Sen, a pastor from Lalgunj, Uttar Pradesh, told ICC. “But I never thought it would be so soon. Policemen picked me up from my home and took me to the police station on May 30. I asked them about the reason for my arrest. They told me that someone, likely a Hindu radical, had submitted a complaint that I was involved in forced conversions.”
This is not the first time that Pastor Sen has been targeted by Hindu radicals. Three years ago, in 2016, he was brutally beaten by Hindu radicals.
However, Pastor Sen feels that Christians are now more vulnerable under BJP rule. “Anybody can file a complaint against me or any other Christians and an arrest will immediately follow without proper evidence to back the accusation,” Pastor Sen explained.
Pastor Sen leads a congregation of 150 Christians and has served as a pastor in Lalgunj for more than 10 years. After the arrest on May 30, Pastor Sen was able to secure bail because the charges against him were yet to be finalized. However, he is worried about what charges will be finalized and what the consequences of those charges will be.
“Anybody can file a complaint against me or any other Christians and an arrest will immediately follow without proper evidence to back the accusation.”
“One of my church members named Saggudas was denied access to the village water well,” Pastor Mohan Kumar from Yeshu Bachata Hai Church in Janakipur, Bihar told ICC in the days following the BJP’s victory. “We fetched water for Saggudas and his family from neighboring villages for 10 days. When the village leaders realized the Christians had found a way to get water, they brutally beat up Saggudas and his family, leaving them with bruises and internal injuries.”
“I have been ministering in Janakipur since 2017 and I can attest to the fact that local Christians have endured endless challenges,” Pastor Kumar explained. “However, the intensity has grown recently. I am not sure if it is directly connected to the election results, but things are getting worse.”
In another incident, three pastors in the Azamgarh Distirct of Uttar Pradesh were arrested on May 30 while leading Christian meetings where more than 2,000 Christians had gathered for prayer. Local police justified the arrests by saying that the organizers had not sought the proper permissions to hold the meeting.
Pastor Philip, an evangelist from Delhi and one of the three arrested, said that the police deliberately used vague sections of the law in order to disrupt the prayer service. “This has happened routinely and now that the BJP has come back to power, I suspect that things might get even worse,” Pastor Philip told ICC.
Attacks on Christians and their places of worship skyrocketed in the first five years of BJP rule. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) the number of violent attacks on Christians more than doubled.
This fact and the series of incidents that have already been reported in the first weeks of the BJP’s second term in power has many Indian Christians concerned. Will the next five years of BJP rule be the same as the first? Will attacks on India’s Christians continue to escalate? These are the questions many Indian Christians find themselves asking in the early days of the BJP’s second term in power.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
By ICC’s Pakistan Correspondent
04/26/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – One month ago, medical staff and security guards at the Services Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan beat and killed a Christian man named Suneel Saleem. Due to widespread discrimination against Christians in Pakistan, a simple request for medical attention escalated into a brawl that left Suneel’s widow alone to take care of their four children.
Unfortunately, despite the passage of a month’s time, the chances of Suneel’s family receiving any form of justice for their loss continue to dwindle.
This tragedy began on March 26 when Suneel’s pregnant sister, Kiran, was brought to the Services Hospital after experiencing labor pains. “My sister Mehwish accompanied me to the doctor’s station,” Kiran explained to International Christian Concern (ICC). “Dr. Saira was drinking tea while the other medical staff were busy on their cellphones. They did not pay attention to me.”
“I waited for a while and then approached the doctor, pleading for her help,” Kiran continued. “The doctor became furious and shouted at me. She hit me with a paper file which carried my medical documents. The doctor ordered a junior nurse to ‘teach me a lesson’ by giving me a special dose of something that would increase my pain.”
“My sister protested against the unethical and unprofessional behavior of the doctor,” Kiran said. “She requested that the doctor be kind to me, but the doctor lost her mind when she noticed that Mehwish was wearing a cross around her neck.”
Dr. Saira continued to abuse Kiran, calling her names and slapping her across the face. At one point, Kiran said, “The doctor said, ‘You are a Christian bitch. How dare you tell me my responsibility!’” Dr. Saira then ordered security to throw Kiran and Mehwish out of the hospital.
When Kiran’s brother Suneel arrived at the gate to the hospital, the security guards stopped him. When he asked about Kiran’s conditions, the security guards neither updated him, nor allowed him to talk to Dr. Saira. Instead, a senior doctor ordered the security guards to “teach him a lesson.”
The hospital staff brutally beat Suneel and dragged him to a room that had no CCTV-cameras. In this room, the hospital staff killed him and shouted, “We have laid down one, who wants to be the next?” when they exited.
“My sister protested against the unethical and unprofessional behavior of the doctor... She requested that the doctor be kind to me, but the doctor lost her mind when she noticed that Mehwish was wearing a cross around her neck.”
For Suneel’s family, this was only the beginning of their suffering. Since the murder of their relative, they have been harassed and bullied by individuals connected with the Services Hospital.
“I am experiencing pervasive discrimination in the process of getting justice for my son,” Saleem Masih, Suneel’s father, told ICC. “The hospital administration was not willing to issue Suneel’s death certificate with his cause of death. However, after the intervention of the Department of Motorway Police, where Suneel was an employee, it was issued mentioning the death as ‘killed.’”
“Due to threats, our children are not going to school and are not going out to play,” Masih continued.
Recently, a stranger appeared at Masih’s house acting as an investigating police officer. He filmed the family’s house and the family members. However, it was later revealed that this individual was a spy for the hospital administration. He was handed over to the local police, but the police reportedly released him without further inquiry
Over a week ago, the police asked Aneel Masih, Suneel’s brother, to help them identify the area of the hospital where the incident took place. Aneel went with the police to identify the location, but the medical superintendent of the hospital later submitted a criminal complaint against Aneel, alleging that he was intruding into the hospital and threatening the hospital staff.
“Suneel and his sister were mistreated by the medical staff,” Father Qaisar Feroz said shortly after leading Suneel’s memorial service. “We are sad and strongly condemn the discriminatory attitude, injustice, and violence that was carried out by the hospital staff on this young Christian man.”
“We have little hope that the grieved family would find justice,” Illyas Bhatti, a local community leader told ICC. “They will be engaged in lengthy procedural actions and meanwhile will be pressurized and threatened by influential persons to withdraw the case. Vulnerability increases when the victim is from a minority community.”
“Space for religious minorities is shrinking rapidly in Pakistan,” Javed David, Chairman of Hope for Light Ministries, explained to ICC. “Ironically, personnel in government departments are encouraging this trend in one or the other way. The government and law enforcement agencies must take firm steps to counter this trend, but we often find a lack of political will in this regard.”
For interviews with William Stark, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: email@example.com