Christians in India face rising persecution and discrimination in the hands of hardline Hindu groups

New report points to growing persecution of Indian Christians
UCA News Network
 September 15, 2023

A sharp rise in persecution of Christians in India this year was reported by New Delhi-based ecumenical human rights group, United Christian Forum in its report last Thursday. It shows 525 cases of anti-Christian violence recorded since January. The figure was 505 in the entire last year.

In June, the highest 89 cases of violence against Christians were reported. The report comes at a time when India just finished as a host to G20 nations summit attended by US President Joe Biden in the national capital. Some 520 Christians have been arrested for allegedly violating stringent anti-conversion laws in various states.

The report also highlights 54 cases of social discrimination against Christians such as denying access to water sources. The Forum, however, could not record happenings in sectarian violence-hit Manipur as many places in the northeastern state are still inaccessible.

Nearly 200 people were killed, over 300 churches were destroyed and some 54,000 people were displaced amid clashes between predominantly Christian tribal people and Hindu-majority Meitei community.

New report points to growing persecution of Indian ChristiansCatholics from Delhi archdiocese pray during the annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)

Christian groups in neighboring Nepal have decried a spate of violence against their people in the past two weeks. At least seven churches were attacked and in the latest incident on Sept. 5 in Lumbini province, two churches were vandalized.

The targeting of Christians began after a video went viral on social media a fortnight earlier which claimed the members of an indigenous community ate beef in a village in eastern Nepal. The cow is considered a sacred animal in Hinduism.

Nepali Christians take part in a church service in Lapa village in Dhading, some 100 km northwest of Kathmandu, on Oct. 8, 2017. Despite strict laws that ban religious conversion, Christianity has spread rapidly over the last two decades in Nepal, where many see it as an escape from the deeply entrenched caste system. (Photo: AFP)

Hardline Hindus claimed the cow slaughter and beef eating have hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and incited violence. The attacks came amid debates and hate speeches over a law that criminalizes cow slaughter and beef consumption.

Slaughtering cows and consuming meat for religious and cultural practices is prevalent among some ethnic communities. Religious and ethnic minorities say the cow protection law is used to harass people in a country that has a long history of discrimination against minorities.

Nine people died and 50 others were hurt after their overcrowded bus heading to Pakistan’s most popular Marian shrine crashed in the latest case of road accidents involving Catholic pilgrims. The casualty occurred when the over speeding bus overturned last Sunday some 10 kilometers from Mariamabad shrine in Punjab province.

Lahore archdiocese held a requiem Mass for the victims on Monday at a school in Sialkot district. The Marian shrine attracts thousands of devotees from across the country for the Sept. 8-10 feast. Fatal accidents have occurred frequently on roads to Mariamabad, the name literally meaning the city of Mary.

The requiem Mass for victims of the bus accident in Pakistan being held on Sept. 11 at St. Mary’s Girls High School in Adah parish, Sialkot district. (Photo supplied)

In another incident on Sept. 10, a young man died in motorbike crash. Last year, a Christian died in another motorbike accident. In 2017, four Catholics died in a road accident while traveling to the shrine.

A Church official has complained of slow progress in repairing roads leading to Mariamabad.

Church officials in Sri Lanka have criticized a government move to appoint yet another committee to probe the Easter bombings. This came following startling revelations by UK-based broadcaster Channel 4 last week that claimed there was a political conspiracy behind the deadly attack in 2019.

Father Cyril Gamini, spokesperson of the Colombo Archdiocese told media that the Catholic Church was against a third government committee investigating the violence.

Justin Welby (center), Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith (right) pay homage to the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings during a visit to St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of capital Colombo, on Aug. 29, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

The Channel 4 documentary alleged that senior officials facilitated the simultaneous bombings of two Catholic churches and three luxury hotels to create a “sense of insecurity” to help the powerful Rajapaksa family come to power in the island nation.

The worst-ever terror attack by a local extremist outfit killed 269 people, including 45 foreign nationals from 13 countries, besides injuring more than 500. The Catholic Church has rejected a government probe and repeatedly called for an independent international investigation. About eight percent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are Christians.

Indonesian Catholics have joined advocacy groups to urge the government to end violence aimed at crushing the opposition to a controversial tourism project on a picturesque island.

A lay group, Catholic Youth issued a statement last Sunday to deplore police atrocities on more than a thousand protesters in Riau Islands province where dozens were injured and ten were arrested. The residents have been opposing the construction of Rempang Eco City.

Police confront demonstrators in Rempang, Riau Islands of Indonesia on Sept. 7 during a protest rally against a tourism project. (Photo supplied)

The government has granted permission to a company owned by business tycoon Tomy Winata to develop industrial zones, and trade and tourism services on the island close to Singapore.

Local people oppose the project saying it threatens to relocate 16 traditional villages that have existed since 1834. Rempang Eco City is part of a series of projects opened by Joko Widodo government for investors, including from abroad.