Christians in India's Madhya Pradesh appeal for federal protection

Attacks and false accusations by Hindus are on the increase, they say
Christians in India's Madhya Pradesh appeal for federal protection

Anita Benjamin, left, with Pastor Roderick Gilbert, right, meet with Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday requesting his help in ending what they called "continuous anti-Christian attacks" in Madhya Pradesh state (Photo courtesy of Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh)

Christians in Madhya Pradesh have appealed to the federal government to provide them protection following a spate of attacks on the Christian community by suspected Hindu hardliners.

A three-member delegation met federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday requesting his help in ending what they called "continuous anti-Christian attacks" in the state ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Christian leaders met Singh after a church and a home for disabled children run by Augustinian nuns were attacked last week.

More than 20 attacks and incidents of police filing fake conversion cases against Christians have been recorded in the state this year, according to Silvestor Gangle, state general secretary of Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh (national Christian forum).

He said the state has witnessed attacks on Christians ever since the BJP came to power in the state more than a decade ago. The BJP winning federal elections a year ago has further emboldened extremists, he told ucanews.com.

During Sunday’s meeting, the delegation told Singh about an attack on Christians praying in a Church while police looked on.

The alleged attack took place on May 12 at a Presbyterian Church in Indore.

Forum spokesperson Anita Benjamin said Singh listened to what they had to say and immediately telephoned Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and told him to take action against those involved in the attack.

Eyewitnesses said police stood at the gate while fanatics stormed into the church and beat up Christians, accusing them of conversion activities.

“They kept hitting us, alleging that we were involved in religious conversion and fake healings”, said V Joseph, a Protestant pastor.

Religious conversion is a punishable offence in the state, if done without permission of government officials.

He and two others were later charged with conversion offences, Joseph said.

“Police, even after knowing our innocence registered a case against us," he said.   

Elsewhere, bricks were thrown last week at a home for physically handicapped children run by Augustinian sisters, in Khandwa district.

Fortunately, there were no children there at the time of the attack, said Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore.

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“Fundamentalists seem to have a feeling that they can do anything and get away with it," he said.

“It is not the [national] government but local leaders and the foot soldiers of fundamentalist organizations that are creating trouble for us," he added. 

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