Ongoing Attacks on India Christians Continue to Draw Concern

Attacks on Christians in India from those linked to extremist groups have continued over the Christmas period, according to the director of a UK-based human rights charity group.

“We are deeply concerned about these unprovoked incidents of violence and call on the authorities to do more to curb the violence of extremist Hindu groups against Christians," stated Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

In the most recent incident, an Indian priest was attacked at the altar of his church on Christmas Eve as he was preparing to conduct a service.

According to CSW, the Reverend Father Saji Abraham of the St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Banswara, Rajasthan was going to the sacristy to put aside the holy bread for use during the worship, when he noticed three men were following him.

When Abraham asked them to remain outside, the men attacked him with metal rods. Under the force of the blows, the priest fell down, suffering heavy bleeding from his head injuries. When he regained consciousness, he rang church members for help on his mobile phone and was taken to hospital where he was last reported to be in a critical condition.

In another reported incident, which occurred on the same day, a Christian driver in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, was attacked when he asked for a salary advance to celebrate Christmas. According to CSW, the driver had gasoline poured over him and was set on fire. He suffered about 26 percent burns and was admitted to hospital. The All India Christian Council (AICC) took up his case with the local police, but was told the accused had fled.

"On behalf of the All India Christian Council, I want to express my deep concern and sorrow for this type of persecution against Christians and other minorities that continues across the nation of India,” said Dr. Joseph D'Souza, President of the All India Christian Council. “Despite a new and secular government elected in 2004, we maintain our outcry against the activities of extreme Hindutva followers who insist on inciting violence. The All India Christian Council stands by those who have been attacked and will do everything within our power to bring justice in these situations."

Over the last few weeks there have also been a number of other incidents in India where Christians have been threatened or attacked. In Gujarat, anti-Christian pamphlets and books accused Christians of forcibly converting Hindus from poor backgrounds in the south of the state. On Dec. 18, the police arrested a man allegedly working for an organization linked to the militant Hindu Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) after he was found distributing such leaflets.

In Rajasthan, a group reportedly belonging to the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked two Christian pastors on Dec. 10, accusing them of converting others. The police protected the men from the attackers.

Also in Rajasthan, a Christian orphanage in Baran reported in early December that it might have to relocate because of anti-Christian threats. Despite police protection, tensions in the region have forced the orphanage to relocate the children.