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Christians Unable to Worship Without Threat of Attack by Radical Hindu Nationalists
09/10/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has continued to document a concerning surge in Christian persecution in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. In just the past 10 days, ICC has documented at least 10 separate incidents of persecution. The spike in anti-Christian violence has many local Christians concerned for their basic safety in Uttar Pradesh.
The spike in persecution began in late June after two Muslim men were arrested in Lucknow, accused of forcefully converting 1,000 Hindus to Islam. Using the incident as an opportunity for political gain, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians publicly lauded the arrests and warned against fraudulent conversions of Hindus to non-Hindu faiths, inciting many radical Hindu nationalists into action.
Since then, ICC has documented at least 30 incidents of persecution against the Christian community of Uttar Pradesh. At least 71 pastors and other Christians have been taken into police custody on accusations made by radical Hindu nationalists under the Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion law.
“There is a sense in our neighborhood that we Christians do not belong here,” Sanju Devi told ICC. Devi leads a Christian congregation in Kushurupur, located in the Raibarely district. She and her congregation have been constantly harassed by local Bajrang Dal activists since late-June.
On September 8, Bajrang Dal activists surrounded her congregation as they gathered for a prayer meeting at Devi’s house. The activists were joined by members of the local media and police soon arrived on the scene.
“Media people accused me of doing the conversions,” Devi said. “They also said that I don’t belong here because I propagate a foreign religion. This happened as the Bajrang Dal activists hurled abuses to intimidate me and my congregation.”
In a similar incident, Pastor Raju Manji and his congregation were attacked by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists on September 7. The Christians were brutally beaten by the extremists before they were taken into police custody. At the police station, several Christians were booked under Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law and sent to jail.
“Believers cannot gather for prayers anymore in some regions like Azamgarh, Jaunpur, and Varanasi,” a Christian leader, who wished to remain anonymous, told ICC. “If they gather, Christians face physical violence, intimidation, and arrest. It is such a sad situation. In most cases, police offer no help as they are working hand in glove with the perpetrators.”
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned by the continued surge in persecution being reported from Uttar Pradesh. In the last 10 days alone, at least 10 incidents of anti-Christian violence have taken place. Like what we have seen in other states, Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion laws provide legal cover for radical Hindu nationalists seeking to persecute Christians. If the government of Uttar Pradesh allows this to continue, radical Hindu nationalists will know they have absolute impunity to harass Christians and close down their places of worship.”
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