International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported that Christians in India are marking the second anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule with fear and apprehension.
Since assuming power in May 2014, Modi and his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have led an administration that has given way to increased attacks on religious minorities by radical Hindu nationalists and to the overall deterioration of religious freedom in India.
According to Catholic Secular Forum’s report in 2015, “[There was] a 20% rise in Christian persecution in 2015 with 365 major attacks, victimizing over 8,000 people from the Christian community.” The report went on to say that 2015 was the worst year for religious freedom in India’s independent history.
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This trend of increased attacks on Christians and other religious minorities has continued into 2016. ICC has documented 102 separate attacks on Christians and their places of worship, affecting over 2,400 individuals. Chattisgarh state tops the list with the Christian community there having been attacked on 16 occasions. These attacks on Christians range from the vandalism of churches, to the beating of church leaders and parishioners, to entire Christian communities being socially boycotted by the Hindu neighbors.
“It is the hate speech and incitement to violence by ranking members of government and the RSS that continues to mark Modi’s second year of his five year term,” Dr. John Dayal, Spokesman of the United Christian Forum, told ICC. “This violence, sharp and shocking as it is, seems to fade into the background [in India].”
The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) included India in its Tier 2 of religious freedom violators, expressing concern over the number of religious freedom violations reported in 2015. In March 2016, USCIRF was denied entrance visas by the Indian government when attempting to send a team to assess the reports of these religious freedom violations.
“Almost on a daily basis, we are facing difficulties, “A pastor of an independent church in India told ICC.
“New problems and accusations are being leveled against Christians by Hindu fundamentalists. [Christians] fear these challenges are the Ache din (good days) our prime minister promised at his election. Looking to the future, it appears that the worst is still ahead of us.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “Another difficult year has passed for Christians in India. According to the Catholic Secular Forum, this past year was in fact the worst year for Christians in India’s independent history. Prime Minister Modi and his government have done little to protect the religious freedom rights of religious minorities in India, including Christians. Hate speeches against religious minorities have gone unchecked. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have gone unpunished. Outright cases of persecution and discrimination have gone unopposed.”
“This lack of action has created an atmosphere of impunity for radical Hindu nationalists seeking to violently turn India into a nation exclusively for Hindus. It is time for India and its leaders to take action and reverse this trend. India cannot continue to ignore the deterioration of religious freedom within its borders. The government must take steps to protect the religious freedom rights of all its citizens, including minorities, and punish those who violate those rights. If this is not done, religious freedom in India will continue to deteriorate and 2016 may overtake 2015 as the worst year for religious freedom in India’s independent history.”
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