‘Dramatic upsurge’ in violence against Christians in India, carried out by Hindu militants

09 February 2018

PA

Communicants at the altar rail in a church in Allahabad, Uttah Pradesh, in India

Communicants at the altar rail in a church in Allahabad, Uttah Pradesh, in India

CHRISTIANS in India are suffering a “dramatic upsurge” in attacks, a new report produced for Irish politicians warns.

The report, Official India: On the side of the militants, was published last week by the Irish charity Church in Chains for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence. It is subtitled “An analysis of the persecution of Christians in India with the tacit approval of police and government officials”, and covers the second half of 2017.

It is based on analysis of reports in the public domain produced by Indian and international sources. The 57 “serious incidents of persecution” listed are a “representative sample”, the authors say, and are “almost certainly a gross understatement”. In the first half of 2016, the Evangelical Fellowship of India and All-India Christian Council recorded 410 incidents of persecution; almost the same number as in the whole of 2016. In 2014, it was 147.

The report refers to a “dramatic upsurge” in attacks on Christians in India by “Hindu militants” in the past two years, amid the rise of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). It traces this rise to the election, in 2014, of the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. “Typically, intruders break up church services, beat the worshippers and call the police to arrest the Christians on false charges of ‘forcible conversion’,” the report says. “The police rarely arrest the attackers.”

Pages of logged incidents include the assassination of Pastor Sultan Masih, shot dead by attackers on motorbikes, in Punjab state, in July; and a march in Madhya Pradesh state, in which Hindu nationalists waved burning torches and denounced missionaries. At the time, the RC Bishop of Sagar, the Rt Revd Anthony Chirayath, spoke of being “under tremendous pressure”, and asked the Governor to intervene to protect Christians.

The report calls on Mr Modi to “speak clearly and consistently in support of full religious freedom for all in India”, and on state governors to condemn religiously motivated violence and instruct police to bring perpetra­tors to justice.

To date, Mr Modi is the only individual who has been banned from entry to the United States under the International Religious Freedom Act, when, in March 2005, as Chief Minister of Gujarat State, he was held to be complicit in 2002 riots that resulted in the deaths of up to 2000 Muslims. Since he came to power, India has risen in Open Doors’ World Watch List from 28 to 11 (News, 26 January).

A report for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that “long­standing problems of police and judicial bias and inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity in which religious minorities feel increasingly insecure and have no recourse when religiously motivated crimes occur.”

Read the report at www.churchinchains.ie

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