ASIA/INDIA - Violence against churches and Christians increase: United Christian Forum appeals to authorities

Monday, 13 June 2022 human rights   violence   religious minorities   religious freedom  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - The United Christian Forum (UCF), which brings together various Christian denominations in India, is appealing to the country's politicians to intervene quickly to combat the increase in violence against the Christian community in India.
According to the UCF, there has been an average of more than one incident per day so far in 2022. In January 40 incidents were documented, in February there were 35, in March 33, in April 40 and in May almost twice as many with 57 episodes in 31 days, i.e. almost two accidents per day on average. A total of 48 incidents were recorded in Uttar Pradesh, 44 in Chhattisgarh, 23 in Jharkhand and 14 in Madhya Pradesh. Due to the new anti-conversion ordinance in Karnataka, six cases have been reported by the state.
"Persecution is most acute in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka," notes UCF, citing data collected by its National Helpline, a toll-free violence monitoring number. "Although 2022 is not even half halfway through, there have already been 207 incidents of violence. In May of this year alone, we recorded 57 cases. In 2021, the UCF documented 505 cases, with 16 acts of violence over the Christmas period, including the desecration and vandalism of statues of Christ at a historic church in Haryana state," said A.C. Michael, UCF coordinator. "That number," notes Michael , "contradicts statements by federal and state officials that there is no persecution and that these are only a few isolated incidents by fringe groups". In addition to physical assaults, incidents include violence against women, vandalism, forced closures of churches, disruption of Sunday prayers and social ostracism, which is particularly felt in small towns and villages.
Michael presents to Fides two cases from Chhattisgarh and one from Uttar Pradesh as examples of violence against Christians. On May 2, in the district of Bastar, a 65-year-old Christian woman and her son were threatened with a social boycott by the "Panchayat" (the village council) if they continued to profess the Christian faith. The two did not agree to abjure. They were beaten and seriously injured. The woman was hospitalized.
On May 31, in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, a Protestant pastor was leading a liturgy when a crowd entered the hall, dragged him out and beat him saying that he was converting people. The police, instead of taking action against the assailants, arrested the pastor, indicting him under section 295a of the Indian Penal Code (deliberate and malicious acts, aimed at offending religious sentiments). The Pastor remained in prison until his release on bail on June 3. "Muslims and Christians in India are in the crosshairs of militant Hindu nationalists across the country. The police are complicit," lamented John Dayal, a lay Catholic, journalist and human rights activist, to Fides. The UCF toll-free number is an emergency telephone line launched in January 2015 with the aim of defending basic freedom and promoting the values of justice, freedom, equality and fraternity in India. The helpline helps people in need, particularly those who are not aware of the law and the system, by guiding them on how to contact public authorities and by providing legal advice. According to the records of the UCF, in 2014 there were 127 acts of anti-Christian violence, 142 in 2015, 226 in 2016, 248 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 279 in 2020, 505 episodes of violence in 2021. (SD/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 13/6/2022)