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Christian persecution on the rise in India, says report

At least 122 Christians were detained or arrested on false allegations of religious conversion till March 15 this year
Christians perform a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in Mumbai on April 7, 2023.

Christians perform a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in Mumbai on April 7, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 21, 2024 12:05 PM GMT
Updated: March 21, 2024 12:18 PM GMT

A majority of Indian states are hostile to Christians, reveals a latest report by an ecumenical body on the rising persecution of Christians in the South Asian country which goes to polls next month.

“Christians faced threat to life for practicing their faith” in 19 out of 28 states, said the New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF) in the report released on March 21.

At least 122 Christians were either detained or arrested on false allegations of religious conversion till March 15 this year. During the same period, 161 incidents of violence against Christians were reported on its helpline numbers, the UCF said.

India will elect 543 lawmakers to the Parliament's lower house (Lok Sabah) during an extended three months of election campaign and voting process starting April 19.  The results will be declared on June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who won the previous elections in 2014 and 2019, is seeking a third consecutive term in office.

“When Modi came to power in 2014 there were 147 incidents of violence against Christians. They have reached 687 in 2023,” said a Church leader who did not want to be named.

A. C. Michael, national coordinator of the UCF, said: “It is a matter of serious concern for Christians in the country.”

Eleven states, most of them ruled by the BJP, have enacted a sweeping anti-conversion law. Christian leaders allege it is being misused by hardline Hindu groups, with backing of local police, to victimize the community members.

“The ruling dispensation’s ideology of majority community appeasement seems to have brought this situation where the minority communities are feeling unsafe,” Michael told UCA news on March 21.

Father Jacob G Palakkappilly, spokesperson of the regional Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), said the situation is indeed "alarming" for Christians in the country.

The priest urged the respective provincial governments to take action against the perpetrators of violence.

In the latest report, the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh has emerged as the worst province for Christians. The state recorded 47 incidents of violence against Christians until mid-March this year, and as UCF recorded, Christians there were “socially ostracized" and denied access to "water and even burial grounds."

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state in the north, recorded 36 incidents of violence against Christians and ranks second.

According to the report, Christians faced persecution for practicing their faith and there is clear evidence of state-sponsored harassment with “police filing false cases of religious conversion.”

Hindu groups in the state target pastors and priests for “praying at birthday parties and other social gatherings,” the report said.

The UCF said over 30 incidents of arrests under the draconian anti-conversion law have taken place in Uttar Pradesh.

The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh ranked third with 14 incidents of violence against Christians followed by northern Haryana and Rajasthan with 10 and nine incidents respectively.

All the five states are ruled by the BJP.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of India’s more than 1.4 billion people, about 80 percent of whom are Hindus.

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