Attacks on India’s Christians have increased in recent weeks since the ruling government in one southern state proposed an anti-conversion law, according to a new report.
The southern state of Karnataka in India has seen 32 attacks on Christians this year, including five during a one-month stretch after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party proposed passage of an anti-conversion law, The Indian Express reported. Supporters of such laws say they prohibit forced conversions from one religion to another, but critics – including the major human rights groups – say such laws are abused.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), for example, said anti-conversion laws are often “the basis for false accusations, harassment, and violence against non-Hindus.” One-third of India’s 28 states have such laws.
“Karnataka seems to have lost its humanity despite being known for progressive politics and being the IT hub of the country,” Reverend Peter Machado, president of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council, told The Indian Express.
Christians in the capital of Bangalore “have been asked by the police to restrain from holding prayer meetings during the upcoming legislature session,” Machado said.
A new report ranks Karnataka third in the nation in attacks against Christians behind the states of Uttar Pradesh (66) and Chhattisgarh (47). The report was compiled by the United Christian Forum, Association for Protection of Civil Rights and United Against Hate.
International Christian Concern said anti-conversion laws often lead to violence against Christians.
“While Karnataka has still not enacted the promised anti-conversion law, many radical Hindu nationalists on the ground are acting as if the law already exists,” ICC said this week. “The increase in attacks across Karnataka has many Christians concerned about what will happen if the anti-conversion law is enacted.
“... Radical nationalists,” ICC said, “falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault.”
USCIRF, in its latest report on India, said mobs in 2020 “attacked Christians, destroyed churches, and disrupted religious worship services” – fueled by anti-conversion laws.
“In many cases, authorities did not prevent these abuses and ignored or chose not to investigate pleas to hold perpetrators accountable,” USCIRF said. “This contributed to increased mob attacks and a fear of reprisal against those coming forward.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.