Persecution of Christians spreading; Hindu radicals enjoying immunity, humanitarian groups say

Published 18 March 2016  |  
Edwin Fernandes
Christians came out in large number in New Delhi protesting against a series of church attacks in the city in the past two months, on Thursday, February 5, 2015.

Attacks against Christians in the country are increasing alarmingly this year, with about 30 incidents of religiously motivated violence reported in just two months, according to humanitarian groups.

The International Christian Concern (ICC) said at least 26 documented incidents spread across the subcontinent have been culled since Jan. 1. Hindu nationalists are leading the campaign of persecution and attacks on Christians, Fox News reported.

Such persecution cases used to be limited to a particular region or issue. However, the violence has now become more widespread with Hindu radicals enjoying immunity for their actions, ICC said.

"They are wolves in sheep's clothing," Jeff King, president of the ICC told Fox News. "There has been an increase in attacks because these nationalists feel emboldened with [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi in power."

"The government, which came into power with the election of Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has strong Hindu nationalist ties. As a result, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily,'' David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA also told Fox News.

Curry said since 2014 there has been a significant rise in attacks on Christians and Christian communities by radical Hindu forces.

ICC lamented that Indian police usually take no action against the aggressors. One case was when a mob of over 30 radicals "attacked, beat, and dragged" a Catholic priest and three church officials from their car in the village of Ettimadai in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu last Jan. 29.

The men tried to escape from the mob but failed. Police did not intervene, resulting in the hospitalisation of the four men, said the report.

Two weeks earlier, a local pastor and members of his congregation in the Nizamabad district of Telangana state were "savagely beaten" by a mob of 40 Hindu radicals after they allegedly tried to convert Hindus to Christianity.

The attack, which occurred during a Christian prayer gathering, resulted in the hospitalisation of six persons, including a four-year-old girl whose leg was broken, according to locals.

"It was a very scary scene," Pastor Nitin Kumar said. "They tore my cassock and I received blows, punches, [and] kicks from all directions as I was their prime target. [Our] Bibles were snatched from us and were tore and trampled. [Other] believers ran to all directions as they were chased by the mob."

Last Sunday, a Pentecostal church in the Chhattisgarh state was also attacked during prayer services by a mob believed to have been a part of the militant Hindu Bajrang Dal organisation.

Despite the growing atrocities, the administration of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP has yet to publicly condemn the attacks, the humanitarian groups said.

They criticised the Indian government for its refusal to speak out against the atrocities, adding that its silence has encourage radical Hindus to step up their attacks against Christians.

To stop the wave of extreme nationalism, the ICC has brought its campaign to Washington following the rash of outbreaks. Eight U.S. senators and 26 members of Congress have sent a bipartisan letter to Modi requesting that he strongly and publicly condemn the acts of persecution.

But country leader has yet to respond, according to news reports.

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