ACN concerned at reports of increased persecution of Christians in India

With elections only weeks away in the world’s most populous country, local human rights organisations are warning of a rise in intolerance and of attacks on religious freedom.

The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expresses its deep concern over reports that are emerging from India, pointing to an increase in the persecution of Christians.

According to the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCF), an Indian ecumenical organisation that tracks incidents of persecution against Christians of all denominations at the hands of private or public agents, at least 161 situations were reported only in the first two and a half months of 2024.

A girl holding a poster on violence in Manipur addressed to India's Prime Minister Narendra Mo
A girl holding a poster on violence in Manipur addressed to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The document sent to ACN by UCF notes that the country is only weeks away from the beginning of national elections – which will be running from 19 April to 1 June – a time when social tensions already tend to run high, and therefore appeals to the national authorities to ensure equal protection and rights to all citizens, regardless of their faith. “As UCF, we request our leadership to put an end to this violence by taking strict action against perpetrators of all such crimes, and we hope and pray for a peaceful and fair election”, reads the statement sent to the charity.

The text notes that there are 19 states in India, where “Christians are facing threat to their lives for practicing their faith”.  The number one leading state in assaults against Christians – with 47 incidents reported – is Chhattisgarh, “a state notoriously known for social ostracization of Christians”.  In this state there have even been cases of villagers denying their Christian neighbours the right to bury their dead according to Christian rites.

Among the issues raised by the UCF is the alarming number of arrests of Christians due to false allegations of illegal conversion, which total 122 just in the first 75 days of the year. Uttar Pradesh is one of the states where there have been more of these arrests.

Bleak Prospects for Religious Liberty

India is one of the countries of highest concern in ACN’s 2023 Religious Freedom Report, with “Authoritarian government” and “Ethno-religious nationalism” indicated as the main drivers of persecution.

Arson attack on Holy Redeemer Parish in Canchipur
Arson attack on Holy Redeemer Parish in Canchipur

“The Christian community in India continues to face targeted violence and hate crimes”, the report states, adding that “the spread of Hindutva philosophy espoused by the Hindutva group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is, to a large extent, a principal cause of this growing persecution against Christians. Hindutva, a right-wing form of Hindu nationalism, is intolerant of other religions or cultures. The BJP, which took power in 2014, subscribes to this ideological approach and its political success has facilitated religio-nationalist rhetoric and action.”

The report goes on to explain that “India is an example of ‘hybrid persecution’, where both pseudo-legal measures and bloody attacks are perpetrated against Indians with the ‘wrong’ religion”, concluding that “prospects for religious freedom, therefore, continue to appear negative.”

ACN calls on its friends and benefactors to pray that the election period in India should run as well and safely as possible, and especially that religious minorities, including Christians, may see their human and citizen’s rights fully respected and upheld.

 

By Filipe d’Avillez.

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