Indian police survey damage following a fire inside Saint Sebastian's Church in the northeast of the Indian capital Delhi on December 2, 2014 (AFP Photo/Sajjad Hussain)
At least five Christians, including an 11-year-old child, were killed and around 7,000 people experienced persecution during 2014, according to a new report that tracks persecution against Christians in India.
The Christian Persecution Report, released this week by the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), states that about 300 clergymen and Christian leaders were targeted in incidents of violence around the country last year.
The report’s authors are critical of what they see as a swing toward conservatism and fundamentalism in India, a Hindu-majority country that is nevertheless wildly diverse.
“Some right-wing forces have become active since the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) took over the reins of the country,” Joseph Dias, CSF’s general secretary, told ucanews.com.
The report claims that roughly 273,000 minorities had been re-converted to Hinduism in one part of northern India’s massive Uttar Pradesh state.
In October, Hindu fundamentalists attacked twelve Christian villagers in central India’s Chhattisgarh state. Earlier in the year, 50 villages in the same district passed resolutions outlawing non-Hindu religious ceremonies.
These alarming problems have led the report’s authors to label Chhattisgarh as India’s worst place to live as a Christian.
“Such incidents prove that the right-wing forces in the country want to make India a Hindutva hub, and there is a hate campaign going on against the minorities in the country,” CSF chairman Michael Saldanha told ucanews.com.
Saldanha said the government must ensure that Christians in India are safe from attacks and persecution. Instead, the report says, persecution often goes unrecorded because victims are too afraid to complain.
Samuel Jaykumar of the National Council of Churches in India said the government’s lethargy in investigating persecution claims will see the problem persist.
“Incidents of persecution coming to light every now and then from across the country are very disturbing but we have to face the reality that this trend is going to continue due to the government’s inaction against the attackers,” he told ucanews.com.
“Christians in the country have a sense of fear since the BJP government took over. We are not panicked but worried.”
The CSF report appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take strong action against fundamentalism and to stop acts of persecution against the Christian community.
However, Modi is seen by many religious minorities as a Hindu nationalist who has stayed silent on the issue since coming to office last year.
For example, church leaders have pointed a finger at Hindu fundamentalists for a string of recent attacks on churches in Delhi, including last month’s torching of Saint Sebastian's Church, which caused significant damage.
But Modi has not spoken out about the issue, despite appeals from Christian groups.
However, Hindu groups at the time said it was unfair to blame them for specific attacks, calling them “small and isolated incidents”.
“We do not endorse any act of vandalism and it will not be fair to put blame on organizations or individuals if some individuals have been found involved in some incidents,” Ravinder Kapur, a BJP leader, told ucanews.com.