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India: Incidents of violence and persecution against Christians shoot up

Christianity has been a presence in India since the days of St. Thomas the Apostle. The Indian Orthodox Church, or Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church, severed communion with the Church of Constantinople in 451, over the definition of the natures of Christ at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in India, see here.

“Incidents of violence and persecution against Christians shoot up in India,” by Anto Akkara, CNA, March 27, 2024:

A watchdog group that monitors violence committed against Christians in India has released a study documenting 161 such crimes in the first 75 days of 2024.

These numbers may underestimate the number of crimes and acts of persecution committed against Christians in India, according to A.C. Michael, a Catholic and coordinator of the United Christian Forum (UCF), which released the report.

“These figures are based only on the complaints registered on our toll-free helpline number (1-800-208-4545) to report incidents of anti-Christian violence. The actual numbers will be certainly much more,” Michael told CNA on March 27.

“We feel frustrated that despite documenting and making public the shocking data regularly, there has been no response from the government nor any effort has been made to curb the steadily rising number of violent incidents,” he said.

Categorizing the 161 incidents, Michael listed 71 cases of detainment/arrest by the police, 18 incidents of social ostracization, 72 cases of physical violence, 15 cases of forced “reconversion,” one incident of a church being sealed, and another in which a church was torched, with mob violence being part of most of these incidents.

Violence and persecution against minority Christians, who account for only 2.3% of India’s 1.41 billion people (nearly 80% of whom are Hindu), have been on a steady rise since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after winning the 2014 national election. In May 2019, the BJP was reelected with an increased majority.

UCF had recorded only 147 incidents of violence against Christians in 2014, Michael said. The number of incidents went up to 177 in 2015, 208 in 2016, 240 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 279 in 2020, 505 in 2021, 599 in 2022, and 731 in 2023.

The UCF statement also highlighted the victimization of Christians in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh state in central India, which reported “incidents with dignity of burial rights denied to Christian families.”

“Chhattisgarh, a state notoriously known for social ostracization of Christians, is the No. 1 leading state in assaults against Christians with 47 incidents of reported violence,” the UCF pointed out.

“Christians are being denied access to water from the community borewells of the village. Sadly, even dead Christians are not spared, as many were denied burial as per Christian rituals. Local [Hindu fundamentalist] villagers have been threatening to cremate the bodies as a final act of reconversion,” UCF decried.

Such blatant attacks on the Christians, Michael said, are rooted in BJP leaders’ anti-Christian rhetoric. He noted that Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai accused “Christian missionaries of carrying out religious conversion under the guise of providing education and health care facilities while warning to stop the practice.”

But, Michael pointed out, Christians in Chhattisgarh account for just 2% of the state’s 25 million people….

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