Dozens of Christians were stoned and slashed over Christmas at the hands of radical Hindus in India who objected to their worship.
The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India shared with Morning Star News that there were at least 18 incidents reported over the Christmas season.
In one of the attacks, on Dec. 23 in Kowad village, Kolhapur District in Maharashtra state, 20 or so masked men beat seven Christians so severely they were transported to a hospital where they are in intensive care. The Hindu radicals, who were wielding swords, knives, iron rods, glass bottles, stones and other sharp objects, attacked churchgoers during a service at New Life Fellowship Church.
They chanted “Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji,” declaring victory for the Hindu goddess Bhawani and warrior king Shivaji.
“They barged into the worship hall and began to throw big stones and empty beer bottles at the worshipers,” said Milton Norenj, coordinator of the New Life Fellowship Jadhinglaj.
Pastor Bhimsen Ganpati Chavan said that some 40 people were attending the service when the attack began.
“As soon as they entered, they began to shoot empty beer bottles and stones at the congregation,” Chavan explained. “As they stepped forward, they attacked us with swords, iron rods and knives mercilessly, men and women alike.”
Swati Chavan, the pastor’s wife, was one of the injured.
“I was hit by an iron rod on my hand and received a head injury,” she said. “They hit my back repeatedly with their fists, which caused swelling. I had to undergo a head scan to rule out clotting.”
The 18 cases the RLC reported on over Christmas were all characterized by police being pressured by Hindu extremists to harass believers with legal problems.
Nehemiah Christie of the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India’s Tamil Nadu, explained that "they want to create communal disharmony for their own political advantage."
Christie said that the disruption of Christmas processions, services, carols and programs is specifically set up to create disharmony and polarize people.
In another case, a mob of 30 men from the youth wing of Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad stopped four buses carrying 200 school children to a Christmas program in Haridwar, Uttarakhand state.
The children were Hindus and were being taken to watch a Christmas program. Their teacher, Sandeep Kashyap, was arrested under the accusation that he was planning on forcefully converting them to Christianity, something which he denied.
Attacks on Christians intensified throughout rural areas in India in 2018, often stemming from accusations by Hindu community leaders that churches and pastors are carrying out forced conversions.
Children have also been targeted. Pastor Selva Raj of Amathur village in India’s Tamil Nadu revealed that a mob of 300 Hindu radicals disrupted a Sunday school class in November in an attempt to stop the children from attending.
“They took away the Bible storybooks and some song and activity books from the children and tore them into pieces,” Raj revealed.
“They scared the children away by telling them that they will be beaten up if they are seen in the church premises ever again.”
Shibu Thomas, head of Persecution Relief from Kerala state, told Morning Star News in its latest report that religious freedom is being denied to minorities in the Hindu-majority country.
“The secular fabric of India and Indian democracy is being shredded every day,” Thomas said. “It might take several years to eliminate the hatred that has been injected in the society based on religion, polarizing communities.”