One of the notable trends to emerge from the World Watch List is rising Hindu nationalism in India (number 10). Two recent attacks over the new year period have underlined how this nationalism is used to persecute Christians. In one, a pregnant woman lost her child after she was kicked. Please continue to keep India’s Christians in your prayers.
Hindu nationalism is on the rise on India - making Christians increasingly vulnerable
A pregnant woman lost her baby and others received death threats in two attacks on Christian communities in India over the new year period.
On 31 December, eight Christians from a church in Dewla, a village in the state of Madhya Pradesh, were gathered in a home to plan for a new year’s prayer meeting when group of some 35 Hindu nationalist militants stormed the house and attacked them.
One of the attackers kicked Leela, who was eight months pregnant, causing her to go into premature labour. No one could rush her to the hospital because the extremists continued to attack the group, although one of the believers did manage to call the police. Tragically, just after the police arrived, Leela gave birth to a still-born baby.
The group of believers – which included the church’s pastor – were also verbally abused and their mobile phones stolen.
The attack is currently not being investigated. This is despite police visiting the scene in response to the emergency call and Christians attempting to register it as an incident. A group of 50-60 Christians, including pastors, have spent some time gathered outside a local police station, demanding that a case is filed against the attackers.
Four days later, on 3 January, a group belonging to Bajrang Dal attacked Christians attending a prayer meeting in Uttar Pradesh state to mark the new year. Five people, including the pastor, were handed to police and a complaint registered against them for ‘forced conversion’.
"They said if we don't say it, they would kill us, and they started hitting us" Pastor in India
Bajrant Dal is the militant youth wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group. The attackers forced Christians to mock Jesus and chant a Hindu slogan. At least one woman and a teenage girl were injured.
“They said if we don't say it, they would kill us, and they started hitting us,” the pastor told The Hindu. “And then they called the police.” The police confiscated four Bibles, two other religious books, a diary and a keyboard from the premises which hosted the prayer meeting.
One of the notable trends to emerge from the recent World Watch List launch is the rising tide of Hindu nationalism in India which claims that ‘to be Indian is to be Hindu’. This makes Christians increasingly vulnerable, as has sadly been reinforced with these two recent attacks.
“The Indian Constitution enshrines freedom to practise, profess and propagate one's faith, and this arrest is misuse and abuse of the law,” Bishop Gerald J. Mathias of Lucknow told Catholic news site CRUX in response to the attack in Uttar Pradesh. “Any convention can be disrupted by vigilante groups. Even people attending a prayer meeting can be falsely accused of conversion activities taking place. Democratic freedom guaranteed in the constitution is not followed in our country.”
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