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World News

India: Christians attacked during advent service

by Heather Preston

A group of Christians have been assaulted in India as they gathered to celebrate advent on Tuesday.

The service which was taking place in a home church in Tamil Nadu was disrupted when five men violently attacked members of the congregation and threatened to burn them alive.

Apostolic Fellowship Tabernacle's leader, Pastor Joshua told religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide the altercation started when a 17 year old dressed as Santa was taunted and hit by two of the men before they moved onto other church members and threatened to burn them alive in their vehicle.

The incident escalated when the building's landlord evicted the couple hosting the service following pressure from the attackers.

CSW's South Asia Team Leader, Steven told Premier this sort of attack has become all too common in the region.

"There has been growing intolerance to Christians and Christian activities - increasing verbal abuse, intimidation and assaults. When Christians meet in homes for prayer meetings they are attacked, churches have been burnt down and false allegations of conversion have been made."

Steven says Christians are particularly vulnerable to attack during lent and the Christmas season.

Although there is legislation in place to ensure Christians can safely exercise their faith in the country, Steven says he questions whether these laws are put into action by relevant authorities on the ground.

CSW have set up a number of monitoring groups there to help in responding to distress calls and intervene on behalf of victims.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "It is disheartening and deeply concerning to see that moments of celebrations are being hijacked by those who wish to plant seeds of contention and discord in India. Respect and sensitivity toward one's right to manifest and observe their religion or belief is paramount, including during festivities. CSW urges the authorities to take appropriate measures against such thuggish behaviour and to foster a culture of respect for one another's religion or belief." 

A complaint has been registered with the police but an investigation into the incident has not yet been opened by police following a failure to register a no First Information Report.

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