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India’s gov’t claims there is no rising persecution of Christians documented attacks

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Around 200 attacks on Christians were reported within the first five months of this year in India, but the country’s government claimed before the Supreme Court that persecution of Christians was based on “half-baked and self-serving facts and self-serving articles and reports…based upon mere conjecture.”

“There appears to be some hidden oblique agenda in filing such deceptive petitions, creating unrest throughout the country and perhaps for getting assistance from outside the country to meddle with internal affairs of our nation,” India’s federal interior ministry said in its response to a petition filed by Christian groups demanding an investigation into rising attacks on Christians and requesting police protection for places of worship, the Hindustan Times reported.

Submitting the federal government’s response, India’s Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, told Justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna that it was only a “preliminary note.”

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who said there were about 500 attacks on Christians across the country in 2021 alone, is preparing a response to the claim of the government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The government claimed, “In some cases, incidents of purely criminal nature and arising out of personal issues, have been categorized as violence targeting Christians.”

The petition was filed by the Archbishop of Bengaluru, Peter Machado; the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

“The very fact that Mehta denied factual evidence raises serious concerns as to whether or not he is qualified for his position as Solicitor General,” the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said in a statement. “Instead, his discriminatory practices tell of a broader belief held throughout the Indian government — one where justice is based on the simple reality of a person’s religious identity.”

While Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%, several states in the country have enacted anti-conversion laws, which presume that Christians “force” or give money to Hindus to persuade them to convert to Christianity.

Radical Hindu nationalist groups frequently use the laws to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them under the pretext of an alleged forced conversion.

“India’s anti-conversion laws are not a means to protect religious freedom, but rather a mechanism for the government to oppress and punish religious minorities,” ICC President Jeff King said earlier.

“Our Indian brothers and sisters are facing increased levels of persecution since the adoption of these laws in 11 states,” King added. “India claims to be the world’s largest democracy, yet shamelessly violates human rights. We pray for the continued resilience of the Indian Church and for the injustice to come to an end.”

For India’s Christians, 2021 was the “most violent year” in the country’s history, according to a report by the United Christian Forum, which recorded at least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution last year.

The UCF attributed the high incidence of Christian persecution to “impunity,” due to which “such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions.”

Police registered formal complaints in only 34 of the 486 cases, according to the UCF.

“Often communal sloganeering is witnessed outside police stations, where the police stand as mute spectators,” the UCF report states.

“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 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.”

The UCF said in early June it had recorded at least 207 incidents of violence against the Christian minority, according to The News Minute.

“The international community must address the rise of fascist elements in India to ensure that the world’s largest democracy indeed stays a democracy,” ICC’s Director of Advocacy Matias Perttula, said. “The Indian government can deny the rise of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities all day long, but the facts remain the facts — persecution is on the rise and only becoming more violent.”

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