India: Hindu nationalists injure Christians in ‘pre-planned’ attack on church construction site

A religious cross is captured through some ornamental railings in the Fort Kochi area in the state of Kerala in South India.
A religious cross is captured through some ornamental railings in the Fort Kochi area in the state of Kerala in South India. | Getty Images

Christians in India’s Jharkhand state were hospitalized after suffering injuries following an attack by radical Hindi nationalists who accused them of constructing an unauthorized church and converting people to Christianity. 

Persecution watching International Christian Concern reports that on Feb. 11, a mob of 30 Hindu nationalists, led by a man named Shankar, raided the construction site of a new church building and attacked the Christians. 

Many Christians were quickly injured in the attack, including Pastor Ramnath Ram, Pravesh Ram, Sunil Ram, Shiv Shankar Kumar, Shambhu Kumar, Ayan Kumar, Anita Devi, and Ruby Devi.

“The mob was shouting that the Christians were converting people to Christianity,” an eyewitness told International Christian Concern. “They said they would not let the Christians continue to live in this place.”

Pastor Ramnath Ram, Pravesh Ram, and Jai Murty Kunwar were all hospitalized due to the severity of their injuries, while local police filed FIR No. 20/21 against the 12 Christians who were attacked by the mob. Three Christians, including Sunil Kumar, Sambu Kumar, and Aryan, were arrested immediately and sent to jail.

“This seems to be a pre-planned incident,” a local Christian, who requested anonymity, told ICC. “The radical nationalists somehow wanted the church to be shut down in this village. That is why they targeted the pastor and the construction of the church building.”

Jharkhand is one of the nine states in India to have enacted an anti-conversion law, which has legitimized discrimination against religious minorities and enabled Hindu nationalism. Under these laws, Hindu nationalist groups are able to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them with legal immunity.

Similar anti-conversion laws have also been enacted in the states of Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

Most recently, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh approved an anti-conversion law that experts warned would “incite more religiously motivated violence” as attacks on Christians and other religious minorities continue to escalate.

A recent report from Human Rights Watch warned that prejudices embedded in the government of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have increasingly “infiltrated independent institutions,” such as the police and the courts, “empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities with impunity.”

Todd Nettleton, host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio, told The Christian Post that persecution is “increasing” in India due to the strict anti-conversion laws and the influence of Modi and the BJP.

“These anti-conversion laws are designed to protect Hinduism and to keep people from leaving Hinduism and following a different faith,” he said. “India is a country that is run now by a Hindu nationalist government. They believe that India is a country Indians should be 100% Hindu. If you are not Hindu, you really don't belong in India, and you should either convert to Hinduism or you should find someplace else to live.”

Nettleton, who has traveled to more than 20 restricted countries and interviewed hundreds of believers who’ve faced persecution for their Christian witness, told CP that prayer is the “first thing” persecuted Christians ask for. 

“The convicting thing is, their prayer is not that they won’t suffer any more or that their countries will be free and the church will be allowed to operate,” he said. “Rather, they’re asking us to pray that they will remain faithful to Christ in spite of the persecution and hardship.”

Nettleton added that persecution is increasing “because the church is growing,” adding: “As we look to the future, I think we will see more persecution, but we will also see the church grow because Christ promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.”

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