Home Equality & Justice Thrashed and humiliated: Christian communities under attack in India

Thrashed and humiliated: Christian communities under attack in India

A Christian family in India faced violence while they were returning from their home after participating in a religious program in a nearby village. The incident took place on Sept. 17 in Tarn Taran district of Punjab, north India.

Pastor Jeras said, “I returned at night after attending a prayer meeting in a nearby village. I was just entering my home when 10 to 12 people came after me and attacked me.”

The 45-year-old told LiCAS.news: “They were armed with swords and knives. They attacked me and hit me repeatedly. I suffered ten stitches on my head. They also hit my son and wife.”

The pastor had left his daughter at home and went to the meeting with his wife and son. After the incident, he took his family to the hospital for treatment. He suffered severe injuries to the head, back and hands.

Police have registered a case against four people, but no arrests have yet been made. Jeras alleged that some of the attackers enjoy the protection of the local law maker.

Jeras has built a church on the top of his house. He said that earlier also some local people had threatened his son to close the church.

Pastor Jeras after he was attacked in Tarn Taran district of Punjab, north India on Sept. 17. (Photo supplied)

India has been witnessing more attacks in the last few years against the minorities after Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014, and again retained the power in the May 2019 national elections.

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Christians in India have faced a wave of violence during the rule of Hindu BJP government. Most of the attacks have been carried out by hard-line Hindu activists and commentators say they enjoy the support of the BJP-led government.

In another incident, over 60 hard-line Hindu activists attacked a group of Christians in Bheri Kudar village in the eastern state of Jharkhand on Sept. 16 after blaming them for cow slaughter although a subsequent police probe found no evidence that a cow had been killed by the Christians.

Pastor Raj Singh, one of the victims, said they were brutally thrashed and humiliated. BJP was voted out of power in Jharkhand state in December 2019 elections in the state and currently, a secular alliance is in power there. Following the attack, the police arrested seven people.

In BJP ruled Karnataka state in southern India, police recently removed 15 crosses from a hill near a Catholic parish in Chikkaballapura district accusing Christians of infringing on government land and putting up crosses without authorization. Parish priest Father Antony Britto Rajan, however, said the government officials acted peremptorily and without previous intimation.

He said the police officials insisted they were acting after a state High Court order but they did not show any such order.

A half-yearly report released on July 28 by Persecution Relief, an organization working to protect Christian freedoms in India, revealed crimes against the Christian community in India are on the rise. The victims include women and small girls who were targeted and killed after they refused to recant their faith.

During the first half of 2020, as many as six Christians were murdered for their faith. There was no let-up in anti-Christian violence even while the nation battled the COVID-19 pandemic and remained under nationwide lockdown for over two months from March 25 to curb the spread of the virus.

Hate crimes against the Christians during the first half of 2020 included arson of churches, use of physical violence, sexual abuse, murder of clerics and damage to Christian properties including educational institutes and cemeteries.

The members of the community were bullied, terrorized, hassled, boycotted, physically assaulted, and there were even attempts to hinder their worship at many places, the report said.

A shrine inside a Christian home in Kerala, India. (Photo supplied)

Persecution Relief said it has documented as many as 293 cases of hate crimes against Christians in the first half of 2020, up from 208 cases last year during the same period, and 51 hate crimes of serious nature targeted women and children. In the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh, a 10-year-old girl and two Christian widows were sexually assaulted and murdered.

According to Persecution Relief, the northern most populous state of Uttar Pradesh fared the worst with the highest 63 incidents of harassment of Christians, followed by the southern state of Tamil Nadu which saw 28 cases in the first six months of 2020. Christian families have been rendered homeless and forced to stay in makeshift shelters at many places as 37 cases of excommunication and social boycott have also been chronicled.

Open Doors released their 2020 World Watch List earlier this year naming the top countries with the worst treatment of Christians. Over the past seven years, India has risen from No. 31 to No. 10 rank for their harsh persecution of Christians.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has listed India as a Country of Particular Concern and noted that religious minorities in the country continue to be subject to violent attacks although India is a democratic and secular nation.

Another report released recently by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, an umbrella body of more than 65,000 churches across the country, claimed there was a spurt in the incidents of attacks against Christians in 2020 and their houses and churches were vandalized, and members of the community were assaulted and even lynched.

There are 966 million Hindus among India’s population of 1.3 billion. Muslims account for 172 million while there are 29 million Christians.

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