THIS is with reference to the report ‘Indian police probe Mother Teresa charity for forced conversion’ (Dec 14). There have been reports for long about anti-Muslim hate speech and inhuman treatment of Muslims in India. But Muslims alone are not the target of subjugation in India; all religious minorities, including Christians, in India are being targeted by Hindutva activists in a country which, ironically, claims to be secular.
Christians in India brace for persecution as Christmas approaches. However, there are serious concerns over hate against Christians’ places of worship in India. In recent months, there has been a surge of violence against Christians who make only 2.3 per cent of India’s population. India has been ranked the 10th worst country globally by the Open Doors USA 2021 World Watch List when it comes to Christian persecution.
Many human rights groups in India have documented over 300 incidents of Christian persecution in the first nine months of the current year, warning that the Christmas this year might be the worst. The US Commission on Religious Freedom has requested the State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern”.
The persecution against Christians and other religious minorities have increased since 2014 when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power, and Narendra Modi became the prime minister.
According to human rights organisations, extremist groups, like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal, promote Hindu supremacy. The Hindutva umbrella covers many extremist organisations that ideologically believe that all Christians should be driven out of India unless they agreed to recant their faith.
The right-wing Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians are becoming increasingly frequent and are emboldened by a lack of prosecution. The police and district attorneys refuse to provide security at the Churches and do not take proper actions. It is no wonder that the radicals feel they can attack Christians with seemingly little to no consequences.
Modi has legitimised these groups without any prosecution. He should be prosecuted for not prosecuting and restricting religious freedom.
These groups are discriminating against Christians in terms of education and employment opportunities. There is a violent ‘homecoming’ (Ghar Wapsi) campaign with billboards popping up across the country, forcing people to convert to Hinduism.
How will Christians in India celebrate coming Christmas in these circumstances? The persecution of an entire community casts a dark shadow across Christmas festivities and celebrations this year. Christians, as they prepare to celebrate the Christmas holidays, struggle with a growing sense of fear. Christians are cancelling their celebrations as they fear violent attacks on the churches.
In India, Christmas is a time of increased persecution. There are crackdowns on churches with high-tech surveillance of arrests, and disappearances of church leaders and its congregation members.
There is a fear that attending the church services during Christmas could lead to violence and arrest by vigilantes with false accusations followed by lengthy imprisonments. This Christmas season would be a good time for many of our Christian friends to be grateful for blessings like the freedom to practise one’s religion without fear or violence.
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021