Christian communities in India were attacked at least 25 times over Christmas because of their faith, with pastors dragged by hundreds of radicals, beaten and bloodied.
International Christian Concern documented 25 instances of persecution over the holidays, including one particularly violent incident in Lakhan Mau village, Uttar Pradesh state. There, 200 Hindu radicals armed with clubs and iron rods attacked 50 Christians, including pastors Ashok Massih and Rajeev Kumar.
Massih and Kumar were reportedly dragged by the mob to an open place and beaten. They were accused by the radicals of committing blasphemy.
“The image of the cross captured my mind as the blood was flowing from my nose and my mouth,” Kumar said. “It was horrible as [the] mob dragged me out into the open place.”
Another documented attack occurred on Dec. 23, this time at New Life Fellowship Church in Kowad village, Maharashtra state, when masked radicals attacked Christian worshipers.
The believers were attacked with knives, swords and beer bottles, leaving several of them needing medical attention.
New Life Fellowship Church Pastor Bhinset Chowan further revealed that after having rented a building for church services for the past 17 years, the landlord has now evicted the congregation due to pressure from radicals.
ICC reported that it recorded 23 other attacks over the Christmas season, making it a "discouraging and painful" one for Christian communities in the Hindu-majority nation.
There has been a sharp rise in the total number of attacks on Christians in India in the past couple of years. For the first time, India was listed among the top 10 worst persecutors of Christians on Open Doors USA's World Watch List, which was revealed this week.
"The world’s two most highly populated countries rise on the World Watch List. For the first time since the start of the World Watch List, India has entered the top 10," the watchdog group said, referring also to China, at No. 27.
"Each of these countries is home to more than a billion people, so these trends are distressing. Hindu nationalists in India continue to attack Christians with what seems like no consequences," it noted.
Radicals have often accused Christians of attempting to forcefully convert Hindus to their faith, which church leaders have continuously denied.
Pastor Selva Raj of Amathur village in India’s Tamil Nadu revealed that children have also been targeted in attacks, including one incident on Nov. 11 when a mob of 300 Hindu extremists destroyed a shed near a Sunday school class and warned pupils against attending.
“They took away the Bible storybooks and some song and activity books from the children and tore them into pieces,” Raj told Morning Star News.
"They scared the children away by telling them that they will be beaten up if they are seen in the church premises ever again."