Christmas 2021 has become one of the most violent days for Christians in India as 16 incidents of hate crimes were recorded in a single day, capping a year of violence that clocked more than 500 cases.
The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India reported 505 incidents of attacks on Christians, including three incidents of murder.
After midnight on December 25, unidentified persons vandalized the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Ambala Cantonment town, which was built in 1848, in the northern state of Haryana.
Various groups have earlier reported several violent incidents against Christians in the past year.
On May, 18, 2021, the father of Pastor Ramesh Bumbariya was killed when attackers entered the religious leader’s house.
Two days later, Pastor Alok Rajhans was also killed in Loisingha village in Odisha’s Bolangir district. The pastor’s wife was also injured in the attack by a group of religious extremists.
On June 30, Sonu Kashyap, a criminal on parole, killed pastor Vinod Kumar as he was going to visit an ailing person in Sangoi village in northern Haryana state’s Karnal District.
There were also several reports of harassments following the passage of the Freedom of Religion Bill in many states.
On February 15, a 20-foot tall statue of Jesus in Gokunte village in Kolar district was demolished.
The ecumenical United Christian Forum (UCF) reported on February 15 at least 53 incidents of violence against Christians in India in the first 45 days of the year.
On January 19 alone, six Christian families were exiled from their village for refusing to renounce their Christian faith.
On January 23, a statue of St. Augustine in the campus of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Ramanathapuram in southern Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district was vandalized.
On February 2, the faithful in Kanyakumari, a coastal town in southern Tamil Nadu state, were prohibited from praying in their church for not asking prior permission from authorities.
The year 2021 also saw calls for genocide and threats of mass violence against Christians and Church leaders.
Uttar Pradesh state topped the 2021 list with a record of 129 cases of attacks, followed by Chhattisgarh, 74; Pradesh, 66; and Karnataka, 48.
Anti-Christian vigilantes also stepped up attacks in the second half of 2021.
While October topped the list with 74 incidents followed by December with 64, August and September saw 52 and 50 cases, respectively.
Coercion, intimidation, threats of violence, and harassment of Christians were the most common.
Worship in churches was interrupted or forced to stop in 65 incidents, and five churches were destroyed.
“There has been a steady rise in incidents of violence against Christians ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party, was voted to power in 2014,” said A C Michael, national coordinator of UCF.
An international Christian rights organization has also warned against what it noted as “a sharp increase in persecution” across eight states in India in the past three weeks.
The group International Christian Concern recorded at least 14 violent incidents and 12 cases in which Christians were reported to have been “wrongfully jailed under false conversion charges.”
India is ranked 10th on the World Watch List for the persecution of Christians by the advocacy group Open Doors.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade.