India: Persecution of Christians reaches alarming levels

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Christian persecution group Open Doors has ranked India as 17th most hostile country towards Christians. This has been the highest rank India has ever been on this list of top 50 most worst persecution countries. Under the government of Narendra Modi, Christians in India are facing an increased wave of intolerance and persecution.

Persecution of Christians in India

In this regard, Reverend Dr. Richard Howell of the Evangelical Fellowship of India says, “Political Hinduism has arrived and majoritarian persecution has begun… Every week there are three to four incidents of mobs attacking Christians.”

Also Read: Christians among most targeted people around the world, watchdog groups say

Reports have it that church planters are being targeted and are being imprisoned or in some cases forced to flee their homes and are attacked because of their Christian faith and church activities. In some cases the extremist have not even spared the family members of the church planters. Details have emerged that even the new converts have been subject to acid attacks, violence and rejection from their communities.

According to Open Doors, in some states such as Maharashtra and Jharkhand where there is no anti-conversion law in effect, Christians are still facing restrictions and are being monitored. “What we’re experiencing is an unprecedented, highly co-ordinated, deliberate and systematic attack intended to drive us out.”

General Counsel for Compassion International, Stephen Oakley said: “The government wrongly believes that we’re using humanitarian efforts to convert Indians to Christianity. This is religious discrimination, pure and simple.”

The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom also points put towards the growing intolerance as it reported: “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions. These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police bias and judicial inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity, where religious minority communities feel increasingly insecure, with no recourse when religiously-motivated crimes occur.

In the last year, “higher caste” individuals and local political leaders also prevented Hindus considered part of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Dalits) from entering religious temples. Additionally, the national government or state governments applied several laws to restrict religious conversion, cow slaughter, and foreign funding of NGOs. Moreover, an Indian constitutional provision deeming Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains to be Hindus contradicts international standards of freedom of religion or belief. Based on these concerns, USCIRF again places India on Tier 2, where it has been since 2009. However, USCIRF notes that India is on a negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom.

USCIRF will continue to monitor the situation closely during the year ahead to determine if India should be recommended to the U.S. State Department for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

“Christian communities, across many denominations, reported numerous, and increased, incidents
of harassment and attacks in the last year, which they attribute to Hindu nationalist groups with the
BJP’s tacit support. In early 2016, an advocacy group reported that there were at least 365 major attacks on Christians and their institutions during 2015, compared to 120 in 2014; these incidents affected more
than 8,000 Christians. For example, in November 2015, Hindu nationalists severely beat 40 Christians worshiping in a private home in Telangana state, killing one woman’s unborn child. In February 2016, a mob of 35 people beat Father Jose Kannumkuzhy of the Ramanathapauram Syro-Malabar diocese and three lay church officials in Tamil Nadu state. Reportedly, local police seldom provide protection, refuse to accept complaints, rarely investigate, and sometimes encourage Christians to move or hide their religion,” USCRIF further reported.

“In 2015, local governments appeared to capitulate to demands for or compel accusations of “forced
conversation” made by the RSS to curtail the activities of Christian groups, leading to government-sanctioned restrictions. For example, in February 2016, the Dahar village council in Madhya Pradesh state issued a 5,000 rupees fine (US$75) to the local Christian community for “breaching peace and harmony,” after local RSS members claimed that they were trying to convert Hindus. In May 2015, authorities in Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh, banned on “law and order” grounds a Pentecostal meeting that occurs annually. The community reported that they sought and were issued the appropriate permits, which were revoked later due to what the community believes was RSS pressure. According to human rights Christian communities, across many denominations, reported numerous, and increased, incidents of harassment and attacks in the last year, which they attribute to Hindu nationalist
groups with the BJP’s tacit support.”