A leading religious freedom advocacy organization based in India has reported over 200 incidents of anti-Christian violence so far this year.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), India, found that there has been an astonishing 218 incidents recorded since the start of the year, with most taking the form of mob violence. Shockingly, despite the high frequency of attacks, only 25 police reports were filed, indicating a clear distrust of the police and an eroding confidence in the justice process.
“The attacks are spread across the country and usually take the form of mob attacks, which can include interruptions to worship and prayer services, intimidation, verbal assault, and even death threats and violence,” Johanna Hohenberg, Communications Officer for ADF International, told Faithwire.
Hohenberg added that the violence was “quite systematic in its nature and rarely receives the police attention that it should”
“A mob will show up at a Christian gathering, shout abuse and harassment, and beat up those in attendance including women and children,” she explained. “Then, the pastors or priests are usually arrested by the police under false allegations of forced conversions while the perpetrators of the violence seem to enjoy impunity. These are not isolated incidents and there has been an increase recorded this year – the average has risen from 20 to 27 per month since last year.”
Another persecution watchdog with people on the ground in India added that these savage attacks are entirely predictable given the current political climate in the nation.
“While the recent ADF India report on increased anti-Christian violence is shocking, it also is no surprise,” International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, told Faithwire. “Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took control of India’s central government, attacks on religious minorities, including Christians, have been increasing.”
Since the BJP rose to power in 2014, Stark noted that “attacks on Christians in India have more than doubled.”
“The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) documented 147 incidents of anti-Christian violence in 2014, the year the BJP took control of the central government,” he added. “That number skyrocketed to 351 documented incidents in 2017 and then 325 documented incidents in 2018.”
The violence is fuelled by toxic political rhetoric
The increase in anti-Christian violence, Stark said, was the result of “a predictable cycle,” which he explained in detail.
“First, BJP politicians and Hindu nationalist leader use religiously divisive rhetoric and policies for political gain. In their speeches, these leaders and politicians single out Christians and Muslims as followers of “foreign faiths”, individuals who are “anti-national” and deserving of suspicion,” Stark told Faithwire.
This poisonous rhetoric “then incites anti-minority violence perpetrated by radical Hindu nationalist groups,” Stark added.
“Following these incidents of violence, local authorities do little to help the victimized minority communities, as documented by the ADF report. This cycle of incitement and impunity is essentially what is driving the increased anti-Christian violence in India.”
ADF’s international wing has bureaus across North America, Latin America, Europe and South Asia, as it seeks to engage in “legal advocacy before national and international institutions and courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, the European Parliament, and the United Nations,” according to an info sheet on its website.
“Until now, no Christian legal organization has had the capacity to effectively challenge opponents to faith and freedom in the international legal system,” the advocacy group noted. “ADF is making a difference.”
Among their legal victories, ADF managed to win the very first criminal convictions of perpetrators involved in the killing of Christians in the state of Odisha, India.
The most prominent threat faced by the Christian community comes from a group of nationalist Hindu radicals who want to see followers of Jesus eradicated from their country. “Because radical Hindu nationalists view followers of Jesus as alien to the nation, all Christians in India are suffering persecution,” notes persecution watchdog, Open Doors USA.
“Driven by a desire to cleanse their country from Islam and Christianity, nationalists do not shy away from using extensive violence to achieve their goals.”
Faithwire has reported extensively on incidents of religious-based violence in the South Asian nation. See some recent examples below:
- Indian Pastor Says Axe Attack Has Only Made Him Want to Do ‘More and More Ministry’
- Indian Pastor Dragged From Church, Mercilessly Beaten by Hindu Radicals
- Sickening: Christian Father of 5 Beheaded by Indian ‘Maoist Rebels’
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” Hohenberg concluded. “It is very worrying to see these acts of mob violence not only continue but also increase. Special laws should be put in place in order to protect Christians and other religious minorities from these attacks and false accusations.”