Hindu activists take part in a demonstration against a large planned statue of Jesus Christ in Ramanagar in India's southern Karnataka state on January 13, 2020. A new report has placed India among ten countries where Christians face the worst violence.
An international persecution watchdog has placed India among the ten countries where Christians face the worst violence because of their faith.
Open Doors, the Washington-based organization, on Jan. 15 published ‘The 2020 World Watch List’.
Its “World Watch List Top 10” placed North Korea as the worst country in terms of Christian persecution.
India comes in tenth place. Iran was ninth, and others in the order of increasing persecution severity are Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Afghanistan, which came second.
“Violence against Christians has surged globally, with data showing more than 9,000 attacks on churches in 2019,” according to the report by Open Doors, which claims to be the world’s largest outreach agency for persecuted Christians.
Religious freedom worsened in India, particularly after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014 and several northern states around the same time, Christian leaders say.
Radical Hindu groups that work to make India a Hindu nation, emboldened by BJP’s political mandate, have stepped up violence against religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims, they say.
“What is happening in India is part of rising religious nationalism around the world,” said Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi, former secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
“In India too, fundamental elements find favor with the government, they get emboldened to attack us,” the bishop told UCA News Jan. 17.
India witnessed 527 incidents of attacks against Christians in 2019, said Persecution Relief, an ecumenical body that records persecution against Christians in the country.“We have only recorded complaints directly reported to us,” says Shibu Thomas, Persecution Relief's founder.
Thomas said his organization also recorded more than 500 incidents of violence on Muslims, reported in the media.
Violence against Christians such as beatings, disrupting prayer gatherings, attacks on pastors, and fake police complaints and intimidation have been increasing over the years.
Such incidents have increased 60 percent in the past three years, Thomas told UCA News. His group recorded only 330 incidents in 2016, he said.
“Hindu fanatic groups are mushrooming in the country with tacit support from Hindu nationalist groups,” Thomas said.
Bishop Mascarenhas said Christians in India are known for their “peace-loving nature” and their services in education and health care across the country.
“But certain motivated groups target Christians for being messengers of equality, justice, and peace,” he said.
The Hindu groups that work towards turning India into an upper caste Hindu hegemony “do not see any space or value” for socially poor Dalit and indigenous people.
“They consider these people as servants, not as equals. This is the opposite of Christian teaching and efforts, and become a point of conflict,” Bishop Mascarenhas explained
“As well as this, parliamentarians and other people in positions of power openly make provocative statements” portraying Christian and Muslims as those who are against Hindu culture and ethos, he said.