India: Human rights groups document over 300 acts of Christian persecution in 2021

Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Human rights groups in India say they have documented over 300 incidents of Christian persecution in just the first nine months of 2021, warning that this year might be the worst in terms of the number of such incidents in the country’s history.

While Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%, radical Hindu nationalists have been carrying out attacks on Christians under the pretext of punishing the minority for using force or monetary rewards to convert Hindus to Christianity,

A.C. Michael, the National Coordinator of the United Christian Forum, said at a press conference in Delhi this week, “The brutal attacks have taken place across 21 states. Most of the incidents are taking place in northern states and 288 instances were of mob violence,” he added, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

The press conference was held jointly by the United Christian Forum, the United Against Hate, and the Association of Protection of Civil Rights, which released a fact-finding report titled “Christians Under Attack in India.”

“This is a scary situation, raising critical questions over the role and the position of the National Human Rights Commission and the Home [Interior] Ministry and their failures in stopping this violence,” Michael added. “Over 49 FIRs [police complaints] have been registered, too, but no substantial action has taken place.”

Earlier this month, a mob of 200 radical Hindu nationalists left a church damaged and at least three Christian women seriously injured in an attack in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The attackers accused the church of “illegally” converting people to Christianity.

The mob attacked the church on Oct. 3 in Roorkee city’s Solanipuram Colony and was comprised of members of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party and radical Hindu nationalist groups associated with the party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.

As the service was about to begin, the mob reportedly barged into the church, thrashed the congregants and vandalized church properties, injuring at least three Christian women who were taken to a hospital in Dehradun city.

Several Indian states have “anti-conversion” laws, which presume that Christians “force” or give financial benefits to Hindus to convert them to Christianity.

While some of these laws have been in place for decades in some states, no Christian has been convicted of “forcibly” converting anyone to Christianity. These laws, however, allow Hindu nationalist groups to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them under the pretext of the alleged forced conversion.

The law states that no one is allowed to use the “threat” of “divine displeasure,” meaning Christians cannot talk about Heaven or Hell, as that would be seen as “forcing” someone to convert. And if snacks or meals are served to Hindus after an evangelistic meeting, that could be seen as an “inducement.”

India ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the U.S. State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.

Open Doors USA warns that since the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased.

The group reports that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”

“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”

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