A group of around 30 Hindu radicals reportedly attacked a Christian pastor and 15 of his church members singing Christmas carols in the Indian city of Hyderabad over the weekend, accusing the Christians of trying to convert people. The attack left Pastor Bhim Nayak of Banjara Baptist Church and four other Christians severely injured.
International Christian Concern reported that the attack occurred on Saturday night, when Nayak and his church members were singing carols while visiting other Christian families in the Singareny Colony in Hyderabad. The radicals surrounded the Christians and their vehicle, before accusing them of trying to forcefully convert people to Christianity.
What followed was a severe beating that left Nayak unconscious and covered in blood, needing to be taken to the hospital and receive first aid. The local hospital has said that the pastor remains in critical condition, while four other Christians injured in the attack are receiving medical attention as well.
Christians, a small minority in India, have faced hostility and attacks from some of the more radical Hindu nationalists in India. Amid reports of churches being turned into temples, and entire mobs attacking Christians, ICC warned in September that some nationalist groups, like Sangh Parivar, are looking to wipe out followers of Christ from India, much like what terror group ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria.
John Dayal, a member of the Indian government's National Integration Council, said: "There has been a sharp rise in hate campaigns against Christians by political organizations. This threat of purging Christians from villages extends from Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to now Uttar Pradesh, and to the borders of the national capital of New Delhi."
The persecution watchdog group added in its latest news release that Saturday's attack was one of the first reported on Christians in Hyderabad this Christmas season, but there has been a wave of violence spreading through the country. Christian communities have also reportedly been targeted by forced reconversion attempts in northern India.
Sajan K George, the president of aid and advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), warned that "the holy season of Advent is always targeted by anti-social elements."
"They want to breed suspicion, discord and disharmony between religious communities," he added.
ICC has appealed to India's democratically elected government in a new petition to help end these attacks, which was started following a separate attack on Christians in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in November.
The petition reads: "Without any action by the Indian government, this spike in religious persecution is likely to only grow worse. Already many of ICC's contacts tell us Christian communities around India are living in constant fear of attack. Raise your voice today and call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take swift and decisive action to put an end to violence and abuse against India's Christian minority."