At least six people were admitted to hospital with serious injuries after a private prayer meeting in India's Chhattisgarh state was interrupted by a mob of around 70 people.
The incident took place at around 8:30 p.m. on Monday evening in a house in Surguda in the Bastar District.
Approximately 30 people had gathered to pray when a mob, wielding weapons, surrounded the property and others entered the house, as reported by CSW.
They proceeded to verbally abuse and assault the Christians, burning Bibles, furniture, bicycles and a motorcycle.
Police have assured Christians in the area they will register a report required to open up an investigation against the perpetrators of the attack. It's believed those who carried out the attack were affiliated with Hindu right-wing ideology.
CSW's Chief Executive Scot Bower said in a statement: "My thoughts today are foremost with those who are recovering in hospital, their families and all those who gathered in private to pray. This brutal attack on a prayer meeting is yet another example of the rise in crimes against religious minorities in several Indian states. When private prayer gatherings are seen as soft targets for mob violence it is evident that states are failing to uphold an individual's right to manifest their faith, which is a central aspect of freedom of religion or belief and protected by the Indian constitution.
"Religious minorities must feel free and safe to be able to express their faith without trepidation or fear of being attacked. There is clearly a need for the state authorities to take sustainable measures to change the perception of other faiths among the community, and encourage the need for mutual respect and peaceful coexistence."
According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), 55 incidents of violations against Christians were recorded in the region of Chhattisgarh in 2020, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh.
Between January and March 2021, the state has already witnessed at least eight incidents documented by a source known to CSW. The incidents involve Christians facing pressure to convert through ghar wapsi ceremonies, known as 'homecoming' ceremonies, where non-Hindus are converted to the Hindu religion, ostracisation from the village, restrictions on burial rights and denial of access to communal village resources.
Chhattisgarh is one of the nine states in India which has controversial laws regulating religious conversions. Known as Freedom of Religion Acts, according to CSW, these laws are often used as a basis to intimidate and initiate false charges against religious minorities from practicing and sharing their faith.