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Attacks on Christians in India

27 March 2015

AP

Solidarity: and Indian woman prays at a vigil outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi last week, in condemnation of the gang-rape of an elderly nun at a Christian missionary school in Nadia, in West Bengal state 

Solidarity: and Indian woman prays at a vigil outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi last week, in condemnation of the gang-rape...

AN ATTACK on a church in Jabalpur last Friday is the latest aggressive act stoking fear among India's Christians. Police have arrested six adherents of a right-wing Hindu group in connection with the attack, the Times of India reported. Church leaders claimed that intruders smashed flowerpots and broke furniture, having alleged that conversions were taking place inside the church.

The incident is the latest in a spate of attacks on churches and Christians (News, 16 January), prompting Bishops to call on the government to fulfil its promises to protect the country's religious minorities. Demonstrations have been held to protest against the rape of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal, this month.

A recent report - 300 days: Documenting hate and communal violence under the Modi regime - compiled by the secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, John Dayal - claims that at least 43 Christians have died in 600 cases of violence, since the government was elected last year; and that there has been "a relentless foregrounding of communal identities, a ceaseless attempt to create a divide between 'us' and 'them'." The RC Bishop of Poona, the Rt Revd Thomas Dabre, said on Sunday: "Fundamentalist elements feel that they can do anything against minorities, especially Christians, under. . . Prime Minister Modi."

On Friday, Vatican Radio reported on a meeting of Indian Christian MPs to devise a strategy to counter the attacks and "showcase the community's immense contribution to the nation".

In a speech to Christian leaders last month, Prime Minister Modi promised "complete freedom of faith" and that the Government would "not allow any religious group . . . to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly". On Monday, the RC Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, said that "effective action on ground level is still awaited . . . Condemnation by itself doesn't solve the problem, we must work towards a change of mindset."

The home minister, Rajnath Singh, said that "the government cannot do everything. . . the cooperation of society is required." He later tweeted: "Can social service not be performed in India without resorting to conversion?" thought by some to be a reference to Christian missionaries.

The Indian Government has denied the US Commission on International Religious Freedom permission to visit.

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