Pastor Appalabattula beaten by Hindus (Photo: Morning Star News)
Christians in India face increasing abuse and violent attacks, a trend that has risen under Prime Minister Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A paramilitary youth wing linked to BJP is accused of inciting religious conflicts and violence.
In some regions, Christians are told to pay an illegal tax or leave their community, denied access to village wells and stores, and their crops destroyed. Some cannot bury their dead unless they convert to Hinduism.
Over 300 Christians were detained without trial for their faith in 2019, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom. Churches, businesses, homes and schools were looted, burned and vandalized. Police filed cases in only 36 out of 328 violent attacks. None have been prosecuted. Police will oftentimes arrest the Christian victim and charge them with trying to convert Hindus, punishable by up to 7 years in prison.
Recent attacks include:
- Hindu extremists smashed the windshields and threatened about 70 Christians, including elderly and children, as they traveled home from a conference on praying for peace in India. About 100,000 Christians attended the National Congress of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches calling on Christians to pray as “Christians are experiencing a rising number of hate campaigns that involve church closures, prayer meeting disruptions, police complicity and targeted attacks with impunity by non-state actors.”
- A pastor miraculously escaped a mob of 100 Hindu radicals that surrounded a house that he had been invited to bless. Some of the radicals invaded the prayer service and attacked the Christians. Others outside demanded the pastor be handed over to them. Christian women surrounded the pastor and others prayed. A sudden power outage (a transformer nearby exploded) allowing the pastor to slip away, according to Persecution Relief.
- After morning prayers with a few people, Pastor Jai Singh and his 15-year old son were dragged out of their home and beaten by a mob of 200 people yelling anti-Christian slogans. “They hit me with their fists and then took me into the temple and beat me with sticks, before stretching my legs back as far as they would go,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. Both of his feet were broken and he suffers permanent nerve damage in his legs. The police arrested Pastor Singh and held him in jail for 3 days without his epilepsy medicine until Christians raised money for bail.
The attackers filed criminal charges of attempted conversion against Pastor Singh. “We are living in constant fear,” he said, and “many local believers renounced their faith. But for me it just made my faith stronger and I pray to God to forgive the people who attacked me.”
- A group of upper-caste Hindus beat Pastor Appalabattula with a wood pole, fracturing his hand, and punched him in his stomach when he tried to stop them from building a wall in front of his house church. A Hindu priest led the group to the home and threatened to kill the pastor’s wife with a wood log.
- In the four days before President Trump’s visit to India, ten attacks against Christians were reported. The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India reports:
On 20 February in Chhattisgarh, a Christian family was brutally beaten because of their faith. The Christians were under pressure from religious radicals to recant their faith and that became the reason for the attack on them. Podiya Tati, his wife and children and Mr. Tati’s mother were all beaten up by assailants that included Baman Tati, Lisa Tati, Raju Tati and others. The attackers also broke their house, broke the borewell, burnt their paddy and other eatables, and forcefully took away the chickens that the family owned. The Christians were admitted at the Kirandul Government hospital for treatment. The attackers have threatened to kill the Christians.
On 21 February in Uttar Pradesh, Christians were verbally abused and threatened. They were warned not to conduct worship services. Pastor Jagat Narayan sought help from an officer at the Khalilabad police station, but instead was warned to leave Christianity or be ostracized from the community.
On 21 February in Tamil Nadu, seven Christian pastors were taken into police custody. They were brutally assaulted and verbally abused by the officer-in-charge for propagating the Christian faith. They were later released.
On 22 February in Uttar Pradesh, police arrested Pastor Dinesh for the crime of holding a prayer service. He was later released.
On 22 February in Telangana, Pastor Austin Dinaker and some church members of the Church of South India’s Wesley Church, located in Sanjay Colony, were stalked and physically assaulted by religious radicals while they were returning home from a worship service.
On 23 February in Uttar Pradesh, religious radicals attacked Christians during a prayer service and caught hold of Pastor Ruben and Pastor Prabhakar who belong to the Assembly of Believers Church. They were taken to the Rama Devi police station.
On 23 February in Uttar Pradesh, ten Christians, including Pastor Shivshankar, were taken into police custody. Earlier police personnel barged into a private home where the Christians had gathered and were praying peacefully.
On 23 February in Rajasthan, police arrested Pastor Simon Zachariah, his wife and two sons. The pastor was conducting a Sunday prayer service with Christians when around 200 villagers surrounded the house and called the police.
On 23 February in Tamil Nadu, a mob comprised of religious radicals barged into a church service and disrupted it. They brutally beat Pastor Anbumohan and church members and took them to a nearby police station where the police kept the Christians in custody the entire day without providing the much-needed medical attention.
On 23 February in Uttar Pradesh, police raided Pastor Harinath’s house right after the pastor had concluded a worship service. Since the pastor was not at home police left after a verbal tirade of threats and abuses directed at his wife.
A senior U.S. official said President Trump would raise “the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration” during his trip to India.