International Christian Concern has warned that Sangh Parivar, an umbrella Hindu nationalist group, is inflicting suffering and looking to cleanse the minority Christian population in India, much like terror group ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria.
The watchdog group said in a press release that the nationalist group and its associate organizations have been directing hate speech toward Christians and leading attacks on pastors and churches in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Believers are reportedly worried that radical Hindu nationalism and persecution of minorities will escalate.
John Dayal, a member of the Indian government's National Integration Council, said: "There has been a sharp rise in hate campaigns against Christians by political organizations. This threat of purging Christians from villages extends from Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to now Uttar Pradesh, and to the borders of the national capital of New Delhi."
There have been reports of churches being turned into Hindu temples, and entire mobs attacking Christian houses — ICC shared of one incident in July where a church in Sahakarinagar village was rampaged by a group of 25 Hindu radicals, led by Hemanth Singh, a leader in the local Bajrangdal group. Rev. R. C. Paul, who was leading a Bible study at the church at the time, was beaten along with several other members.
"We were shaken and are very scared of the situation in the area. We are concerned of our safety, even going alone outside looks very dangerous at the moment," Paul said.
ICC noted in its press release that news headlines will continue to focus on Christian persecution at the hands of terror group ISIS in Iraq, but argued that the international community "must take notice of the issues of Christian persecution globally."
"Like Christians facing ISIS in Iraq, millions of Christians across India are facing persecution at the hands of radical Hindu nationalist groups," the watchdog group added.
"Without drastic change, this difficult situation will likely only get worse, as radical Hindu nationalist groups popping up across India have been given almost complete impunity under the new Hindu nationalist government led by BJP and Narendra Modi."
Following May's election of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, several Indian church leaders had said that they were not concerned that extremist groups would rise up against minorities.
"Minorities, such as Christians and Muslims, are an integral part of the nation and of the social fabric of Indian society. Minorities are protected by the Constitution, I believe that the new government cannot and will not want to go against the Constitution. As Christians we are confident," His Exc. Mgr. Stanley Roman, bishop of Quilon, in the state of Kerala, had said at the time.
His Exc. Mgr. Albert D'Souza, archbishop of Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and general secretary of the Indian Bishops' Conference, added that sometimes "small groups of fanatics can give us concern," but argued that the Church "will continue in its mission to pray for the new government and contribute to the common good of the nation, supporting democracy, respect for pluralism, the rights of all and a secular concept in the political agenda."
New Delhi Archbishop Anil J. Couto has now also raised concern, however, at the rising attacks on Christians and churches in India in recent months.
"It is very disturbing, and we request local authorities to take adequate measures to book the miscreants threatening to weaken the social fabric of this great nation," Couto said.
"The Sangh Parivar plan [is] to carry out shuddhikaran — attempts to re-convert Christians to Hinduism," the Archbishop continued."This move by fundamentalist groups is a grave assault on the fundamental rights of individuals and people and groups."
Other persecution watchdog ministries, like Open Doors, have also noted a rise in Hindu extremism targeting Christians. The group ranks India as number 28 on its list of countries where Christians face the most persecution.