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Persecution against Christians in India is growing

Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 18:43 (IST)

Acts of violence and intimidation against Christians in India rose last year, a new report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reveals.

Christians were targeted in 366 incidents last year, up from 325 the year before. In the first two months of 2020 alone, the EFI recorded more than 40 attacks against Christians.

Most of these were in the form of physical violence, threats, harassment and disruption of church services by religious radicals or the police.

"Disruption of prayer meetings and Sunday worship is now a trend across many states," EFI said.

"Many Christians have been falsely accused and detained on charges of forced conversion."

The findings echo a recent report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which warned of mob violence being carried out against Christians under the pretext of "accusations of forced or induced religious conversion".

Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, which has designated India a country of concern, is calling upon the Indian government to take action to protect the Christian minority in the country.

He said that anti-conversion laws in particular were being "used to stir up religious hatred" and should be repealed.

"In the face of growing Hindu nationalism, Christians are increasingly becoming targets for violence and attacks on their churches," he said.

Christians account for only 2 per cent of the population in India.

According to Release International, attacks on India's Christian minority have more than doubled since the ruling nationalist BJP came to power in 2014.

The re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year only increased fears of a rise in violence towards Christians.

"Indian Christians fear this further shift towards nationalism could lead to even more attacks," said Robinson.

"For years now, nationalist extremists have been fostering intolerance towards Christians, which is increasingly spilling over into violence.

"At worst, that attitude holds that to be Indian is to be Hindu – and that minorities, including Christians, will no longer be tolerated."

Kumar Swamy, head of the All-India Christian Council, has asked Christians to pray for believers in India.

"Please pray for India," he said.

"Our prayer is that in spite of the persecution, the Church of Jesus Christ in India will stand strong on the word and continue to witness. That we will not fear and not be intimidated, but will continue to be courageous and to stand firm. This is our calling as Indian Christians.

"We are thankful to God for the partnership of Release International. It is precious. We do not take it for granted, because they are coming to stand with us, not just in prayer, but with practical help."