Christians under Threat in India

In February and March 2018, around 2000 Muslims in various states were massacred by mobs of militant Hindus. Many other Muslims lost their loved ones, homes or livelihoods, and huge numbers are still unable to return to their homes because of the hostility of their Hindu former neighbours. However, the plight of the Christian minority in India is also acute.

The widespread attacks on Christian churches by Hindu militants has increased in the past year. Since 2014, persecution has increased. The Hindu extremists barge into the middle of worship services and threaten and abuse the people present. If this does not scare the Christians away the extremists get the police along and shut down the church and the fellowship by force and chase the worshippers away.

On June 20, 2018, five Christian women (aged 20 to 35) were beaten and abducted from their Christian school while they performed a street play. A day after they were released (the attackers threatened to kill them if they went to the police), the women reported the assault to authorities. It was soon confirmed that all five women had been gang-raped.

The attack was also allegedly filmed on cell phones. In 2018, more than 12,000 Christians were attacked. But this number is only the tip of the iceberg, researchers say, as increasing numbers of persecution acts go unreported. Nevertheless, India’s World Watch List violence score for violence is extreme, rising from 14.4 in 2018 to 15.2 in 2019. More Christians were killed in India than last year, and the number of churches attacked increased substantially from 34 last year to 98 this year. .

A number of Christians and other observers have wondered aloud why the government is not focusing on more pressing issues, such as unemployment, health, illiteracy and access to clean water. They also wonder at the obsession with conversions: “In a democratic and secular country, if one finds peace in professing a particular faith, why should the government or others concerned feel threatened?”. In fact the percentage of Christians of the total population, far from increasing through conversions, has actually decreased over recent decades.

In 2017, a new national president was elected. President Ram Nath Kovind in an interview with Christianity Today said Indian was a country where “there was no room for Christians.”

In 2019, India ranked as the tenth most dangerous country in which to live as a Christian. India has been going up the list rather steadily for the past five years and can now be classified as a country with extreme persecution.  The 2019 Open Doors (that publishes an annual World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian) data revealed that of the 16,000 violations, religious leaders were often accused of conversion activities when they were taking part in simple religious activities like prayer meetings or even marriages, which mobs would disrupt and report to police as a conversion activity.

Attacks on Christians and their places of worship skyrocketed in the first five years of BJP rule. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) the number of violent attacks on Christians more than doubled.

This fact and the series of incidents that have already been reported in the first weeks of the BJP’s second term in power has many Indian Christians concerned. Will the next five years of BJP rule be the same as the first? Will attacks on India’s Christians continue to escalate? These are the questions many Indian Christians find themselves asking in the early days of the BJP’s second term in power.

As an Indian I am deeply concerned for my own family at the rise in the intimidation and harassment of Christians who are simply exercising their fundamental right to share their faith. Unfortunately the authorities do not hold the perpetrators of attacks like this to account, which makes us wonder where is the protection to ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief is given.

Any expression of minority faith in the public space is now at risk of resistance and violence from Hindu fundamentalists. Growing up I was taught that whether you are a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist, everyone has an equal right to share and practise their faith. It is our constitutional right and no one has the right to hit another for sharing his or her faith. But sadly that does not seem to be the situation anymore.

Finally all I ask of you all is to pray with me for Christian converts from Hinduism who are forcefully pressured to return to their national religion, for Christians in India for God’s provision and protection as they preach the gospel in places with anti-conversion laws and above all for the government of India, that they would open to religious liberty.