ATTACKS AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN INDIA RISE AS HINDU NATIONALISM TIGHTENS ITS GRIP
Attacks against Christians in India have been rising alarmingly, according to reports. There has been an upswing in attacks since the March 2017 elections, which saw a landslide victory for Hindu nationalists. The All India Christian Council reports an increase of almost 20 per cent in attacks against Christians in 2016. Physical violence against Christians is up 40 per cent and murders have doubled. In states across India, church workers have been beaten, threatened and killed. Attempts have been made to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. Church services have been disrupted, churches and Christian schools have been bombed, vandalised and demolished. Bibles have been torn up and burnt. Militants beat one evangelist with chains, stripped him and forced him to drink urine. A Christian cemetery was desecrated and skeletons dug up and strewn across the graveyard.
The report, “Atrocities on Christians in India” records a fresh attack every 40 hours. It says: ‘The attacks have become severe and more frequent. Incidents used to be confined to a few states. Now the violence has spread to 23 states.’ The sharpest rise has been recorded in Uttar Pradesh and the state of Telangana. Right-wing Hindu nationalism has been gaining ground, particularly since the BJP took power in 2014. Further nationalist gains in the March elections have encouraged radicals, according to a partner of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world. ‘Fanatics have become more common, attacking minorities, boys and girls who are dating and the Dalit community,’ says the Release partner, who cannot be named. The Dalits are the so-called untouchables, who fall outside the Indian caste system.
These are the underclass who are assigned the most menial jobs in society. Increasing numbers are converting to Christianity. In May 2016, 16 Dalits in Jharkhand who had become Christians were beaten and driven from their homes by the village council. The council ordered them to worship Hindu gods. When the Christians refused, villagers tied their hands and legs and beat them. They also beat women and children who tried to help them. Five Indian states have now imposed anti-conversion laws. And there have been moves to bring in nationwide legislation aimed at outlawing evangelism to prevent Hindus from converting. The AICC logged 108 incidents in the first six months alone of 2016. A separate report by the Evangelical Fellowship of India found there were more attacks against Christians in India in 2016 than in the two previous years combined.
In Andhra Pradesh a pastor was beaten to death by a Maoist. In Assam, a couple who had recently converted to Christianity were murdered in their sleep. And a woman was raped and murdered in Chhattisgarh. In the same state, a pastor and his seven-month pregnant wife were doused with petrol by religious extremists, who threatened them with swords and demanded they chant, ‘Hail Lord Rama’. In Uttar Pradesh fanatics who accused a Christian of converting Hindus, shaved off his hair, eyebrows and moustache and paraded him through the town. Also in Chhattisgarh, a gang raped and murdered a 14-year-old Christian girl who was on her way to school. Villagers had excommunicated her family for accepting the Christian faith. The authorities have yet to take any action against the culprits.
In Odisha, the body of a 64-year-old pastor was found near a railway bridge. His throat had been cut. The murder weapon, a long handled knife, was found near his body. Some attacks appear to be a reaction against what reads like a Christian revival in parts of India. In September 2016 in Bihar, police moved in to arrest four pastors after villagers complained to the local police about their preaching. According to reports, a man who had been paralysed for three years started to walk again, many people were delivered of demons and the wife of the village head was healed from illness. Release International Chief Executive Paul Robinson says, ‘For some years now, we have watched the alarming rise of religious intolerance in India. This is highlighted by moves to impose anti-conversion laws, not only at state level, but across the country.’
‘Accounts of God at work read like stories out of the Book of Acts. Persecution will never stop the spread of the Church or the gospel. Dalits are coming to Christ, because for the first time they are finding love and acceptance. The All India Christian Council (AICC) is defending Christians in the courts who have been wrongly accused. AICC leader, the Rev Dr Joseph D’Souza says, ‘Justice is what we look for, though the system works at a snail’s pace.’ One hopeful sign was a reduction in the number of attacks after Dr D’Souza invited the Home Minister Sri Rajnath Singh to speak at a conference in New Delhi. He says, ‘The minister made a clear and strong message that no atrocity against Christians will be tolerated in India. The message was widely covered in the media.’ ‘Whether that will halt the rising trend of attacks against Christians, remains to be seen,’ says Paul Robinson of Release.
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS CHRISTIANS RIGHTS TO SPEAK ABOUT THEIR FAITH
British Prime Minister Theresa May is praising the role of Christianity and defending the right of people to speak about their faith, even as British Christians are facing growing government oppression around the practice of their beliefs. In her Easter message to the nation, May said “we should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country.” She also emphasized that Brits need to “treasure” the country’s tradition of religious tolerance and freedom of speech. “We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ,” she said. May’s use of her bully pulpit to promote religious freedom comes at a time when British Christians are feeling less comfortable speaking about or practicing their faith.
Just last month, a British court convicted two street preachers of a public order offense for preaching the Bible in public. Also last month, an employment tribunal judge criticized a Christian nurse who lost her government job after speaking to her patients about her faith. The judge said “people should not express anything about their own beliefs without it first being raised as a question by someone else.” Last year, another court found British bakery owners guilty of discrimination after they refused to make a cake with a pro-gay message. An independent think tank says the 2010 British Equality Act has turned human rights into a “weapon” against religious freedom. “Since its enactment, equality legislation has enabled the courts to exercise complete control over who is free to discriminate against whom and to regulate the inner moral convictions of private citizens,” says the ResPublica report.
May’s Easter comments may be designed to push back against the recent advances against religious freedom. The daughter of an Anglican vicar, May has said in recent years that her Christian faith informs her decision-making. She told the BBC in 2014 that “faith is part of who I am and therefore how I approach things.”
Former Olympian Bruce Jenner has been hailed a hero by some in the LGBT community for his recent sex-change surgery. But one man who has changed sexes twice says that the transgender movement has left a trail of misery in its wake. Walt Heyer has experienced sex-change regret first hand. “The surgery fixed nothing, it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems,” Heyer said. “If more people were aware of the dark and troubled history of sex-reassignment surgery, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to push people toward it,” he said. The Church needs to be mindful that it is a hospital for broken people, and as such, we need to administer assistance and guidance to those people who are suffering,” Heyer said. “We want them to be healed and find the source of Christ in their life so they can be restored the way I have been,” he added.