Attacks against Christians are on the rise in Karnataka State, India, after reports that an anti-conversion law might be passed. As a result, Indian police have told churches not to meet – particularly in the run-up to Christmas – as they cannot protect them. Please pray for protection for believers – and that this anti-conversion law will not be passed.
Police in India's Karnataka state have advised church leaders to stop meeting as officers cannot guarantee protection from militant Hindu nationalist groups.
This isn't the first time churches have faced obstacles to meeting at Christmas - in 2016, a curfew was imposed in Manipur after Christians were attacked
Local pastor Thomas Johnson explains the situation: “A few pastors were called and told to not conduct prayers as fundamentalist groups may attack them and the police will not be able to give them protection. It’s not banned because they have not given anything in writing, but they say it is to maintain communal harmony.”
He added that the advisory was mainly directed at meetings in rented halls or private houses and not in official church buildings.
Many persecuted Christians around the world see a rise in the level of threats and violence in the run-up to important Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter – and it’s no different for our church family in India.
“As Christmas approaches, churches in India want to meet up more, but as a result the number of attacks also scale up”Anonymous Indian Christian
One local Christian, who did not want to be named, says, “As Christmas approaches, churches in India want to meet up more, but as a result the number of attacks also scale up.”
On 29 November, the Hindu nationalist Bajrang Dal group barged into a prayer meeting in Belur, in Karnataka's Hassan district, accusing those present of forcibly converting Hindus. The police had to intervene to stop further escalation.
Earlier in the month, members of a fundamentalist Hindu group, Sri Ram Sene, disrupted a prayer meeting in a hall in Maratha Colony in the city of Belagavi, Karnataka State, and locked them up until the police set them free. The attackers accused the pastor of luring poor Hindus into the Christian faith.
According to The Indian Express newspaper, the spike in attacks on Christians in Karnataka comes after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proposed an anti-conversion law for the state. Anti-conversion laws differ from state to state, but they generally say that ‘no person should convert or attempt to convert, either directly or indirectly, any person from one religion to another by use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means’.
Karnataka's Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had previously announced that the bill would be passed by the government during the Winter Session of the Karnataka Assembly, scheduled to begin on 13 December. Bommai has made it clear that he is supporting the bill and wants to see it enacted soon.
Local media say that more than 25 pastors in the city of Belagavi were told to not meet until Christmas Eve when the Karnataka Assembly ends.
“If Karnataka adopts the law, local Christians will immediately be affected by it and the squeeze will be even tighter”Dr David Landrum, Open Doors
Dr David Landrum, Director of Advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: “Anti-conversion laws are unjust and undermine India’s claim that it respects religious freedom.
“These laws are already in place in nine Indian states, and Hindu nationalist groups have used them as a pretext to attack and accuse Christians of forcibly converting Hindus and Dalits. The attacks are fuelled by the spread of disinformation.
“If Karnataka adopts the law, local Christians will immediately be affected by it and the squeeze will be even tighter.”
While India is a secular state according to its constitution, there is a growing myth that forced conversions (from Hinduism to other religions) are on the rise, and so the government must protect those vulnerable in the Hindu faith. Behind the myth lies the heart of the ‘Hindutva’ ideology: if you’re not Hindu, you’re not Indian.
Please pray for God’s protection for our church family in India, especially around Christmastime. Pray that fear and threats would not stop Christians from coming together to worship, and that God would thwart the plans of all those with plans to harm believers.
One way you can stand with your church family in India is to invite your MP to the launch of the 2022 World Watch List launch on the 19 January. At the launch, they will hear first-hand accounts of persecution from around the world and be equipped to advocate for freedom of religion or belief on behalf of persecuted Christians.
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