20 January 2016, The Tablet

'Hindu fringe elements' responsible for historic spike in persecution of Indian Christians

Worst time in 68-year history of India to be a Christian, report shows

Last year was the worst year for Indian Christians since India gained independence from Britain in 1947, a report released by the Catholic Secular Forum has found.

Statistics compiled by the non-governmental organisation, which has been documenting cases relating to religious persecution for decades, found that last year there was roughly one attack per day on Christians, their institutions or leaders.

Among the victims was an elderly nun allegedly gang-raped in Chhattisgarh state and several Protestant pastors who were killed in religiously motivated attacks, says the report.

Other incidents included houses of Christian families being set alight, priests and clergy being violently attacked and a centre for disabled children run by Augustinian nuns vandalised.

In total, seven Christians were killed and at least 8,000 attacked or severely harassed by extremists in different parts of the country. The report claims that the actual number of attacks in 2015 was much higher, but victims were too afraid to come forward.

Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum told The Tablet: “The report clearly establishes that there is a huge spike in persecution during 2015, making it the worst ever for a Christian to live in India since Independence and calling for urgent action by all stakeholders. There is a concerted and merciless campaign to eliminate the less than 2.4 per cent Christian minority and take over its properties and institutions, which is frightening.”

The comments by the Catholic Secular Forum have been made in the same week that Christian charity Open Doors released their annual report on violence against Christians, which showed that last year was the most perilous in modern history.

India, which ranked 21st in the list of worst places to live for Christians in 2014, had moved to number 17 and was described in the report as one of eight countries of special concern.

Explaining the rise in cases of persecution, Mr Dias said: “Just as you have fundamentalists of various faiths elsewhere in the world targeting Christians, in India, we have fringe elements, claiming to be Hindus and who see the BJP and allies coming to power as a signal to target minorities.”

This was corroborated by the Open Doors report that said: “Christian and Muslim leaders are convinced that the election of the BJP has encouraged increased violence against minority religions, with less response from the authorities.”

Madhya Pradesh in the north was the state with the most recorded attacks, although Delhi was in the top ten, with five Catholic churches vandalised and assaults on priests and community members.



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