Over 1,400 incidents of persecution against Christians in India have been reported since Prime Minister Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) India. Reports of rapes, communal violence, forced conversion charges and other abuses committed against Christians in the Hindu-majority country are becoming commonplace and are largely fuelled by rhetoric of BJP and other officials,” International Christian Concern (ICC) director Matias Perttula said “They clearly show the decline of religious freedom and an increase in the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.”
Sean Nelson, legal counsel for rights group ADF International, told of a troubling increase of Christian persecution since the beginning of the Modi regime. “During the period 2014 to 2018, India witnessed a sharp increase of violence targeting religious minorities,” he said. “Faith-based human rights organizations recorded over 1,000 incidents in 5 years against the Christian minority community. That doesn’t include other minority communities also facing persecution.” Nelson said that 16 out of the 29 states in India “regularly witness attacks on Christians.” “In 2018, faith-based organizations reported 292 incidents of violence against the Christian community in India,” Nelson said.
In Hindutva ideology Christians are considered western patsies and Muslims belong in countries like Pakistan. Indians can only be Hindu, according to their ideology.” Nelson said every month of 2019 saw more incidents of persecution against Christians in India than in 2018. “With a third of the year of data yet to be compiled, there have already been 219 attacks up until August,” Nelson added. “For 2018, there were 156 attacks during the same time.” Reported incidents are verified either through direct contact with someone close to the victims, a trusted independent news source in the region or confirmation from authorities or legal documentation.
There have been 1,457 incidents reported of persecution since 2014. Nelson explained that incidents of persecution are defined as either an assault on church pastors or members, damage or desecration to places of worship, disruption of prayer services or gatherings, forced or coerced conversions to Hinduism and refusal to grant permission for religious minorities to establish places of worship. Seven states in India have anti-conversion laws that criminalize conversion through allurement or other fraudulent means. However, the conversion laws are often abused by Hindu nationalist groups that oppose the existence of Christian missionaries or ministries in their communities.
“In 2018, 100 churches were closed” Nelson said. “Christians are attacked by mobs and accused of converting others by force.” Although Hindu mob violence against Christians has increased in recent years, perpetrators often experience a level of impunity from local authorities. Sunita Viswanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights, condemned the rise of Hindu extremism in India. “We are alarmed by the chilling repression of open debate and political expression happening in Indian civil society today,” she said during the briefing. Viswanath went on “This suppression and violence are taking place in the name of a Hinduism we do not recognize and cannot accept.”
Viswanath went on “we are sounding the alarm bells loud and clear. It is time that Hindus across the world woke up to the fact that their faith has been hijacked by those who have rejected its inclusive and egalitarian heart. Perttula also shared results of a survey ICC conducted last year. Over 1,000 Christians in 10 different Indian states were asked to select a number between one and five to indicate how concerned they are for their safety. An answer of “one” signalled least concern and answer of “five” signalled most concern. A total of 68.8% of respondents answered that their concern is at a level five, meaning that they are most concerned about their safety in India.
Meanwhile, 13.55% responded by answering that their concern is at a level four. “When combined, that is 82.14%, all of whom are concerned Christians in India,” Perttula said. Over 85% of respondents to the 2018 ICC survey said they felt less protected under the Modi government. Open Doors ranks India as the 10th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. “A lot of these violations happen because governments think that nobody really cares and that they are only interested in the economic development or national security issue. The truth is, religious freedom supports all those things,” Nelson said.
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