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Pandemic fails to end anti-Christian violence in India

Christian groups have managed to get 19 churches reopened and 28 pastors released either on bail or acquitted of charges

Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi

Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi

Updated: July 15, 2020 07:01 AM GMT
Pandemic fails to end anti-Christian violence in India

Catholics pray at the Christ the King festival, an annual feast in New Delhi, Nov. 20, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

A human rights group that monitors atrocities against Christians in the country has confirmed 121 incidents of violence in 15 states in the first half of the year.

New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF) said that even the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown do not appear to have brought much relief to Indian Christians.  

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. It is worrying to see these horrendous acts of mobocracy still continuing even after a slew of directions to the government from the Supreme Court,” Michael Williams, president of UCF, said in his press note on July 13.

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“The police and local administration who are responsible for law and order must take quick action against anyone involved in mob violence,” the Christian leader said.

UCF is an inter-denominational Christian organization that fights for the rights of the Christian minority, mainly through protest. 

Its half-yearly report noted “121 incidents witnessed loss of two lives. 95 attacks were of mob violence registered in the country. Several of the churches which were attacked were either illegally occupied or sealed shut.”  

UCF and its networking partners – Alliance Defending Freedom India, Religious Liberty Commission of EFI and Christian Legal Association – have managed to get 19 churches reopened and 28 pastors released either on bail or acquitted of false charges.

It has also obtained positive outcomes in 45 cases of false conversion charges in various courts, the report said.

UFC said the incidents reveal the grim reality that the freedom to practice one’s faith is being curtailed in 15 of India’s 28 states and added that no political party is taking a strong position against such acts of violence.  

It said that the trend of not filing first information reports (FIRs) against the perpetrators of violence continues to grow unchecked. Only 20 out of the 121 incidents have FIRs registered against them.

The modus operandi followed in all these incidents is similar – a mob, accompanied by the local police, arrives at a prayer service, shouts slogans, beats up the men, women and children. Then the pastors are arrested or detained by the police under the false allegation of conversion.

The central state of Chhattisgarh topped the list with 32 incidents. Most of the cases involve social ostracism wherein the Christian families are threatened to renounce their faith in Christ. Those who resist are denied basic public facilities including drinking water.

UCF and its partner’s data shows the dangerous trend of violence against Christians has been steadily increasing. The number of incidents recorded in 2014 were below 150, nearly 200 in 2015, over 200 in 2016, more than 250 in 2017, reaching 300 in 2018.  2019 witnessed 328 incidents. 

There were 66 women and 16 children who sustained injuries in the 121 reported incidents. Tribals accounted for 106 of the total injured.

States that witnessed atrocities against Christian are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.

“It is really sad that in our country for political gains and greed for power humans are attacking humans. It is even more sad to see people at large are unable to see the sinister designs of these politicians and supporting them with their votes. I only wish that people wake up before it’s too late,” A.C. Michael, convener of the UCF, told UCA News.

“This is no longer about faith. It is about the constitutional right to live respectfully and lead a peaceful life and let others live too. UCF whose main objective is to fight for human rights will continue for strive for it,” Michael added.

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