Being a Christian today in India means being harassed every day: if you pray in the family you are beaten, if you pray in a domestic church you are beaten, in the streets you are beaten.” – Shibu Thomas, Founder of Persecution Relief Network
The situation of Religious Freedom in India has worsened within the past two years according to Aid to the Church in Need’s latest report on Religious Freedom in the World.
In January 2019 alone there were 29 incidents of violence against Indian Christians in 13 Indian states. Among the injured, there are 26 women and 25 children.
“The data do not differ much from the trend of 2018, which saw an average of 20 incidents a month, almost a case of violence a day,” said Tehmina Arora, human rights lawyer, activist, and consultant of the NGO “Alliance Defending Freedom” (ADF India).
Arora cites a recent episode: “A prayer meeting in a house in Kotra Tehsil, in the district of Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan was interrupted by Hindu extremists who threw stones and shouted slogans against Christians, with false accusation of conversion. The police took no action or filed an official complaint against the guilty.”
According to the lawyer, “if the political forces do not stop encouraging people to take justice on their own, the culture of mass violence and impunity will become the norm.” The tendency not to file complaints against the perpetrators of violence “demonstrates the tacit complicity between the perpetrators of violence and the police who obviously enjoy the patronage of local political leaders or officials.”
The state of Uttar Pradesh continues to hold the record for the highest number of incidents of violence against Christians. Out of 29 episodes reported in January 2019, nine come from Uttar Pradesh. The modus operandi followed in all nine cases is the same: a crowd accompanied by the police arrives at the place where a prayer meeting is held, and start shouting slogans and beating up the faithful, including women and children. Then the Pastors are arrested or detained by the police with false conversion charges.
“Some forces that plan these acts, instigate hatred towards a particular community to create polarization,” said A.C. Michael, Director of ADF India. “Even in the state of Chhattisgarh, the faithful of a village were expelled from their community only because they were followers of the Christian faith.
“Article 25 of the Constitution [which protects the freedom of belief and the spread of the faith, ed.] Is not applicable for Christians in India. We want to be protected. Now the Christians of the villages live in fear”, says, Shibu Thomas, Founder of Persecution Relief Network.