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Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash
Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash
World News

Rising attacks on Christians in India prompt concerns ahead of national elections

by Lydia Davies

In India, the Christian community is facing an escalating threat, with 161 incidents of discrimination and persecution reported within the first 75 days of 2024.

This trend, documented by the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCF), spans 19 states and heightens worries as the general elections approach.

The UCF report emphasised that nearly a third of these incidents occurred in Chhattisgarh, a state with a notorious history of ostracising Christians.

Among the cited violations were instances where villagers denied Christians the right to bury their dead according to their rites.

With national elections scheduled from 19th April to 1st June 2024, there is concern that these tensions could intensify.

The UCF has appealed to Indian authorities for equitable protection and rights for all citizens, irrespective of their faith.

"We request our leadership to put an end to this violence by taking strict action against perpetrators of all such crimes," the UCF stated, advocating for a peaceful and just electoral process.

A significant factor contributing to this surge in anti-Christian sentiment is the spread of Hindutva philosophy by groups such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Hindutva's right-wing Hindu nationalist ideology, which is intolerant of other religions and cultures, has been bolstered by the BJP's rise to power in 2014, underscored by increased religion-nationalist rhetoric and actions.

This phenomenon has been described as 'hybrid persecution', involving both pseudo-legal measures and direct violence against individuals for their religious beliefs. With India poised on this precarious brink, prospects for religious freedom appear dim.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity that received the report, shares these concerns. John Pontifex from ACN spoke with Premier Christian News about the challenges faced by Protestants in India.

He said: "Being a Protestant in India is very difficult and very problematic because of laws that are in place that safeguard, as politicians would see it, against conversions by non-Hindu groups. So we have to be very careful not to be obviously involved in that work, as that would put a lot of pressure on our communities there.”

ACN underscored the urgency of addressing these rising intolerance levels and attacks on religious freedom.

As India gears up for its upcoming elections, Pontifex calls upon ACN's supporters to pray for peace and justice. Pontifex concludes: "We call for religious freedom in its various forms to be upheld."

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