The United Christian Forum (UCF), a watchdog organisation dedicated to documenting instances of persecution against Christians in India, highlighted a disturbing surge in violence against the community. A C Michael, the National Coordinator of UCF, who released the statement, expressed concern over the unsettling average of three incidents per day in the last week of 2023.
This spike follows an already alarming trend, with an average of two incidents daily leading up to Christmas, resulting in a staggering total of 720 incidents throughout the year. The UCF's helpline (1-800-208-4545) received distressing reports of 23 incidents during the final seven days of last year. Uttar Pradesh led with ten reported cases, followed by three each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab. Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan also reported one incident each.
On 2023 Christmas day, as Church leaders attended festivities at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence, five pastors—identified only by their first names, Rakesh, Arun, Ram, Ramkishore and Ashok—faced arrest for conducting a worship service. Simultaneously, three individuals were arrested in Uttar Pradesh under the Freedom of Religion Act (FORA). Chhattisgarh witnessed a denial of burial rights, a pastor in Karnataka was physically assaulted, and a family in the same region faced excommunication, ration denial and threats from villagers. Punjab reported an incident where a lady pastor was stopped from conducting a church service, facing threats and abuse. In Andhra Pradesh, a mob attacked and physically assaulted a church service in the Visakhapatnam district. Even in the national capital, Delhi, a pastor was forcefully prevented from hosting a Christmas prayer meeting.
In response to these alarming developments, the UCF has issued a statement urging immediate attention and action to safeguard the religious freedom and safety of the Christian community in India.