Hate crimes against Christians in India have exponentially risen in the first half of 2020 despite a national lockdown due to the pandemic.
In a report released in July, the ecumenical group Persecution Relief documented 293 incidents of persecution between January and June, including five rape and six murder cases.
Persecution Relief is an interdenominational network that provides comprehensive support to the persecuted Christians in India.
“Compared to last year’s number of 208 incidents, this year has seen a disconcerting rise of 40.87 percent in spite of the complete nationwide lockdown which was imposed for almost three months,” the report noted.
Shibu Thomas, founder of Persecution Relief, said the “vicious cruelty of these crimes exposes the tainted mentality and attitude of the religious extremists of this day and age.”
“This frightening and dangerous crusade of religious nationalism and intolerance has now peaked at new inhuman altitudes,” he added.
The group documented at least 2,067 cases of Christian persecution in India since 2016.
The report cited six killings “influenced by religious bigotry” in all three states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha.
Out of the 28 states and nine union territories in India, “hate crimes have been committed against Christians in 22 states/union territories.”
In the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, which is considered the “most hostile state,” 63 hate crimes against Christians were reported, or equivalent to 21.5 percent of the national tally.
Tamil Nadu ranked second with 28 cases, including two hate crimes resulting in death and an incident of arson that destroyed a church structure.
In Chhattisgarh, at least 22 cases of hate crimes were recorded including the rape and murder of a widow.
There were 21 cases of hate crimes and one murder in Jharkhand while 20 cases were reported in Karnataka.
The report also revealed at least 51 hate crimes of “heinous nature against women and children,” including five cases of rape. One of which was perpetuated against a 10-year-old girl.
The report also cited 37 cases of boycott and excommunication, 130 cases of harassment, threats, and intimidation, and 80 incidents of physical assault.
From number 31, India ranked 10th over the past seven years in the Open Doors World Watch List as one of the countries with “severe” religious persecution.
In April, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of particular concern” along with China and North Korea.
“Christian minor lynched, women and men murdered, ex-communication is at all high, church buildings burned, priests attacked, the list goes on,” said Thomas.
He urged the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “break his silence concerning the intensifying Christian persecution in India.”