Christian leaders in India have requested the government to increase security at churches during the Christmas weekend due to recent violent attacks and the overall tense religious atmosphere in the country.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, and other church leaders met India's interior minister, Rajnath Singh, earlier this week to request for greater security for the Christian community.
"The minister assured us that immediate action would be taken to bring the culprits to justice and ensure the safety of the community," Cleemis told Arab News.
Cleemis also said the Christian community is "losing confidence in the government," according to The Indian Express.
Earlier this month, police in the central state of Madhya Pradesh arrested 30 seminary students and two priests as they were singing Christmas carols in a village. Some Hindu nationalists alleged they were trying to convert Hindus. The Christians were roughed up by the Hindu nationalists, who also burned down a car belonging to the priests while police allegedly looked on. Eight priests who later went to inquire about the detained priests and seminarians were also taken into custody, and their vehicle was torched.
A member of the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist group associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party, had accused members of the seminary of distributing the Bible, photos of Jesus Christ and singing carols.
"You arrest people on the basis of a rumor, you ignore arson and assault, and you let the culprits go scot free. This worries us," Cleemis said. "We need the government to act immediately to ensure all possible ways of giving confidence to minorities in India."
On Wednesday, Hindu nationalists disrupted a Christmas event at a community center in Pratapgarh district in the state of Rajasthan and roughed up a few organizers and attendees, the Express reported. The attackers were accompanied by police who claimed to have received a tip off about "forced conversions" at the event.
Last Sunday, a Hindu nationalist group issued a circular in Aligarh in the state of Uttar Pradesh threatening the management of all schools against celebrating Christmas, saying, if they did so, it would be "at their own risk."
In another recent act of violence, on Nov. 16, a group of about 70 Hindu nationalists attacked two pastors before they were about to begin a three-day Gospel meeting in Chhattisgarh state. And they were later forced to apologize because their conference and the words of Jesus offended some rightwing Hindus.
Christian persecution has steeply risen in India since the Hindu rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014.
The first quarter of 2017 saw 248 incidents of persecution, and by the end of June, the number grew to 410, compared to a total of 441 incidents reported in all of 2016, a recent report by Open Doors revealed.
"When the Christians are beaten by the extremists, they receive injuries mostly on their heads or their vital body parts," a local partner of Open Doors was quoted as saying in the report. "The assaulters do not care if the person dies in the attack. They know that they will not be punished because the government (and hence the judiciary) will take their side. In most of the cases the assaulters go unpunished."