India’s Persecuted Christians Look Ahead to a New Decade
By ICC’s India Correspondent
02/07/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “Year after year, the situation is going from bad to worse,” Pastor Suryam recently told International Christian Concern (ICC). Pastor Suryam, from India’s Telangana state, is just one of several individuals ICC interviewed to understand the realities facing Indian Christians at the start of the new decade.
“We have stopped all the outdoor activities associated with our church for the past two years,” Pastor Suryam continued. “The present situation is like we are compressed and out of breath, even when it comes to conducting prayers in our church members’ homes.”
For Pastor Suryam, like many other pastors across India, the threat of attack by radical Hindu nationalists has significantly increased in recent years. While speaking with ICC, Pastor Suryam described his most recent run-in with the extremists.
“On December 17, a mob of 15 young men arrived on motorbikes at a Christian home where around 20 Christians had gathered for prayers,” Pastor Suryam told ICC. “The radicals threatened me and said that I may not be alive after December 25.”
“Last year, they demolished our church which was under construction,” Pastor Suryam continued. “Still no action has been taken by the authorities.”
“It has become very challenging to keep our church members from recanting their faith due to threats or fear-mongering by the Hindu radicals,” Pastor Suryam explained. “The year 2020 may be even more challenging as there has been a perpetual rise in the violent campaigns of the right-wing organizations over the years.”
While the viewpoint expressed by Pastor Suryam is shared by many Indian Christians, there are others who think differently. Pastor Tukaram, from India’s Karnataka state, is an example of this different mindset.
“The year 2020 is going to be very challenging and difficult for Christians,” Pastor Tukaram explained. “However, the work of God will also increase. We are called to be faithful in spite of persecution. This is God’s design for us.”
In November 2019, Pastor Tukaram was brutally attacked by a mob of more than 100 radicals. This attacked resulted in Pastor Tukaram’s hospitalization and the closing of his house church in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka.
In response, Pastor Tukaram registered a First Information Report (FIR) with the local police against his attackers. According to Pastor Tukaram, this action has greatly improved his situation and the situation of local Christians.
“Registering the FIR against the attackers gave much relief, not only for me, but to the Christians of Bagalkot,” Pastor Tukaram told ICC. “Because of the legal case and the FIR, the activities of the Hindu radicals has been reduced. This has given me some hope in the justice system, even though most of the time we are disappointed by the police.”
Despite the positive viewpoint shared by Pastor Tukaram, most individuals ICC spoke with had a bleaker outlook.
“Looking into 2020, things will be much more difficult for Christians in Uttar Pradesh,” a Christian leader who spoke on condition of anonymity told ICC. “Uttar Pradesh again topped the list of incidents of the persecution against Christians in 2019. There are all kinds of surveys and research being carried out by right-wing groups who want to systematically erase Christians. We need prayer.”
According to a report recently released by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) India, at least 328 incidents of targeted violence against Christians were recorded in 2019. This number represents another increase in violence when compared to previous years. However, the 328 incidents recorded in ADF’s report only represent a portion of the violence that is actually facing India’s Christian community. Most incidents go unreported due to fear of reprisal or lack of confidence in India’s justice system.
As the global Church moves into this new decade, it will be important to remember our persecuted brothers and sisters around the word. It will be especially important to keep those in India in prayer.