International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that at least 23 religiously-motivated attacks took place during the 2017 Christmas season, including attacks on carolers and open threats against Christian celebrations. The attacks have led to several Christians' hospitalization and imprisonment. The persecution created such fear among the Christian community that many Christians did not celebrate Christmas this year.
On December 19, an attack occurred in Rajasthan by a radical Hindu group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, against a Christian gathering in response to alleged forced conversions. According to Pastor Bansilal Mena, one of the organizers of the event, more than 300 Christians gathered at a community hall to celebrate Christmas, after receiving permission to hold the event. In the middle of the celebration, 20 Hindu radicals barged into the hall along with police personnel and began attacking the Christians, even though the Christians had received permission to hold the event. In addition, Hindu radicals went on stage, pulled wires, and destroyed Christian literature.
In another attack, 30 Catholic carolers attempting to spread joy through singing were attacked and their car was torched outside of a police station in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, told the press in a December 20 press release, "Indian Christians' trust in the government has become shaky in the wake of increased attacks on Christians and members of the clergy."
Dr. John Dayal, member of India's National Integration Council, told ICC, "As at the First Christmas, [there] has been joy, but under the shadow of fear. In some small towns and villages in central India, it [Christmas] was not celebrated in the open for fear of marauding hordes of the Sangha Parivar or a Police group which fancies itself the custodian of Hindu culture."
Pastor Prabhu Kumar confessed, "I have been a pastor for more than 15 years at Philadelphia Church, but never in my memory have we experienced the kind of hatred that we are experiencing now."
Dr. Dayal predicted a dismal 2018 for religious minorities, noting, "India is a secular country, but people including civil servants tend to forget it, impunity is rampant. With general elections a bare 18 months ago, I fear an escalation of community tension as the BJP once again consolidates its core constituency. It will be forced to bank on an arch [of] Hindu voter[s] as it has failed on the promise of jobs, development and social uplift."
William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager, said, "The holiday persecution experienced by Christians demonstrates the blatant disregard that the radical Hindu community has for its own constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. Hindu hardliners have become bolder in recent months, demonstrating this by trying to shut down an entire holiday for a country of Christians. This has been one of the most violent Christmas seasons in recent history for India's Christians."
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Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Thomas Brown
Publication date: January 3, 2018