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New report points to growing persecution of Indian Christians

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

Published: September 15, 2023 11:45 AM GMT

Updated: September 15, 2023 11:45 AM GMT

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. 

Catholics from Delhi archdiocese pray during the annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2019

Catholics from Delhi archdiocese pray during the annual rally on Palm Sunday on April 9, 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)

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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.

South Korean church mourned the victims of a devastating earthquake in Morocco and promised to send aid to assist in relief and rehabilitation.

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Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taek of Seoul has sent a letter to the Diocese of Rabat in Morocco to express “deep sorrow and condolences.” The prelate said the Korean Church will provide practical assistance to the affected communities.

People carry the remains of a victim of the deadly 6.8-magnitude earthquake near Amizmiz in central Morocco on Sept. 10. (Photo: AFP)

The archbishop asked Seoul archdiocese-based Catholic charity groups, Babo Nanum and One Body One Spirit Movement to raise funds and send them to Morocco through Caritas Internationalis. The 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the High Atlas Mountain range, about 72 kilometers southwest of Morocco’s historic city of Marrakesh on Sept. 8.

The reported death toll is nearly 3,000. Aid agencies estimates death toll could be much higher, with at least 10,000 people feared to be missing. World leaders including Pope Francis have sent their condolences and assured assistance to Morocco.

Catholic groups have rushed aid to the victims of one of the worst fires in Vietnam. At least 56 people died and 37 injured after fire engulfed an apartment block in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on the midnight of Tuesday.

Police and rescuers said the fire started in the parking floor of the multi-storey building packed with motorbikes. At least three children were among the dead. Police arrested the owner of the building who is accused of violating fire prevention regulation and building nine stories when he was allowed to build only six.

People watch a fire at an apartment building in Hanoi on Sept. 13. (Photo by AFP)

Catholics from the Phung Khoang Church in the neighborhood lent a helping hand to rescuers and firefighters to put out the blaze and carry victims to hospitals. They also offered the survivors money, food, drinking water, clothes, and cooking utensils.

Hanoi archdiocese is planning to raise funds for the victims and will celebrate Masses to pray for the victims. Vietnam has experienced several deadly fires in recent years, blamed on lax fire safety standards.

A Catholic bishop in conflict-torn Myanmar has reaffirmed the church’s commitment to offer shelter, food and education to hundreds of displaced children and appealed for more aid to support them. 

Bishop Maurice Nyunt Wai of Mawlamyine in southern Myanmar said his diocese will continue to offer daily humanitarian assistance to more than 700 children now sheltering in St. Mary of the Assumption parish. Other 14 parishes of the diocese are also supporting hundreds of children. Many families were caught in the line of fire between the army and the resistance forces.

Myanmar refugee children, who fled a surge in violence as the military cracked down on rebel groups in February 2022, cook at a camp near the Myanmar-Thailand border in Kayin state. (Photo: AFP)

The conflict has forced hundreds of families to flee to the forests where they survive amid enormous difficulties. More than 6,000 civilians have been reportedly killed, over 2,600 injured and at least 2.8 million have been displaced since the military coup of February 2021.

Churches and church-run institutions have been attacked and destroyed by the military which accuses them of supporting the People’s Defense Forces and rebel groups.

The Vatican has approved the Philippine bishops’ request to allow them to ordain qualified Catholics, including married men, as permanent deacons aiming to check the widening priest-Catholic ratio in the country.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines announced on Tuesday that the Vatican letter of 17th Aug came in response to a July 25 letter from the bishops’ conference that sought permission.

A church volunteer gives Communion to Catholics during a Mass inside a church in Manila on Sept. 2, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

According to the latest census in 2020, the Philippines had more than 85 million Catholics, forming about 92 percent of the total population of over 108 million. A study by Don Bosco Theological Seminary in the capital Manila found that one priest currently serves at least 9,500 Catholics, far less than the ratio of one priest for 3,373 Catholics across the world.

A permanent deacon is unlike a transitional deacon who is preparing to be ordained to priesthood. A single or a married man can be ordained a permanent deacon after undergoing the formation. 

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