A number of statues and crosses have been taken from a Christian burial ground in Karnataka state, India. According to the local faith community, government officials forcibly removed the items after coming under pressure from right-wing Hindu nationalist groups.
The official reason provided for the removals was that the Christians were beginning to encroach on government land, despite the fact they have occupied the 4.5 acres without issue for some 40 years. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), some of the tension arose because the Christian community was allegedly using the space for Way of the Cross and prayer gatherings during Lent. Those seeking to persecute the Jesus-following community accused them of using the services to try and convert people.
Among the removed items was a 12-feet-tall depiction of Christ.
Archbishop of the region, Peter Machado, said: “It is very sad, unfortunate and regrettable that the police, bowing to the pressure of a few outsiders, have forcefully removed the statue of Lord Jesus.
“It is a blow to the communal harmony of the people in our villages and also violation of the religious freedom guaranteed to us by the Indian Constitution.”
Machado noted that the land was "legally given to the Church by the government."
He added: "We have documents to prove the ownership. It is unfortunate that officials pulled down the statue and crosses without even allowing to hear us.
“The Christians of Bangalore consider the forceful removal of the statue of Lord Jesus at our legally allotted burial ground at Doddasagarahalli as unacceptable and are greatly shocked and we condemn this high –handed action of the local authorities.
“We request the authorities to take action against the perpetrators of such acts that have pained the community."
Open Doors ranks India as the 10th most-dangerous place in which to live as a follower of Jesus. "Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences," the charity notes on its India fact sheet.
It adds: "The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith - including Christianity - is viewed as non-Indian.
"Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities."
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office back in 2014, attacks against Christians have spiked dramatically. Modi - himself a Hindu nationalist - has been accused of stoking religious tensions.