10/09/2019 India (International Christian Concern) – In an interview with The National Catholic Reporter (NRC), Fr. Stanislaus Alla, a Jesuit priest and professor at the Vidyajyoti College of Theology in Delhi, reported that religious persecution in India is on the rise. He went on to explain how this rise in intolerance and violence is specifically effecting the Church in India.
“In the past few year, Christians in the country’s Hindi heartland have been facing a series of attacks from Hindu extremists,” Fr. Alla told the NCR. “More recently, outright violence has taken a backseat, and coordinated efforts are in place to shut down institutions.”
Last month, India’s Home Ministry announced new, stricter rules regulating the activities of foreign-funded NGOs. According to these new rules, all individuals working for NGOs must pledge, on a notarized paper, that they will not engage in religious conversions or promote sectarian discord.
Many Christian NGOs have expressed concern over the announcement of these new rules. The leaders of these organizations suspect the new rules are intended to target Christian organizations.
“State level anti-conversion laws have been enacted to regulate conversions to other religions,” Fr. Alla went on to explain in his interview with the NCR. “These laws are now used to harass Christians and divide and polarize people.”
Radical Hindu nationalists often used the specter of mass religious conversions to pass laws and regulations that limit religious freedom. Indian Christians are falsely accused of conspiracies where poor Hindus are fraudulently converted to Christianity.
However, according to India’s own population data, the conspiracy of mass conversions to Christianity does not hold up. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up only 2.3% of India’s overall population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still only make up 2.3% of the population.
In states where anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accused Christian leaders and evangelists of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook this harassment due to the false accusation of forced conversions.
While Fr. Alla did not solely blame the BJP-led for the increase in persecution, he did express concern regarding the government’s implicit support for radical groups perpetrating the violence. He went on to express further concern over the lack of justice given to the victims of anti-minority violence.
“The fear today is, in case of attacks against Christians, the accused will not be held accountable,” Fr. Alla told NCR. “They can walk away freely. Across the country, people [minorities] are wondering if the state will protect them.”
This impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of religiously motivated violence is one of the key reasons persecution is on the rise in India. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the number of violent attack on Christians has more than doubled during the BJP-led government’s time in power. In 2014, the year the BJP first took power, EFI documented 147 violent attacks on Christians in India. In 2018, the latest data available, EFI documented 325 violent attacks on Christians.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].