Christian persecution by Hindus rises in India, say humanitarian groups

The latest extremist attacks against Christians in 2016 thus far have come from an unlikely source.

As Christianity has seemingly been under attack in places like Iraq, Syria, and Africa for over a decade from extremist groups like ISIS and Al Shabaab, the first six weeks of 2016 have seen a fresh outbreak of anti-Christian violence in India with nearly 30 incidents of religiously motivated violence against Christians reported in just over two months.

While it follows a global trend, it’s Hindu nationalists leading efforts of persecution and attacks.

"His silence is tacit approval...He needs to come out again and reign in his party."

— Jeff King, ICC

According to various news reports, there have been 26 documented incidents of religiously motivated violence against Christians spread across the subcontinent since Jan. 1. Incidents of violence against Christians have always existed in one form or another, but were usually limited to a particular region or issue.

However, the violence has begun to spread with Hindu radicals enjoying near complete impunity for their actions.

“They are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Jeff King, president of the International Christian Concern, told “There has been an increase in attacks because these nationalists feel emboldened with [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi in power.

Religious Demographics of India

Local police officials took no action against the aggressors in many of the incidents. One such was Jan. 29 in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu when a mob of over 30 radicals in the village of Ettimadai ruthlessly attacked, beat, and dragged a Catholic priest and three church officials from their car.

All four men tried to flee from the mob but were eventually caught. The mob then dragged and beat them for a mile and a half. Despite pleas for help during the incident, police stood idly by.

Congress recently sent a letter to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) urging him to condemn the recent wave of attacks against Christians.

Congress recently sent a letter to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) urging him to condemn the recent wave of attacks against Christians. (Reuters)

All four men were hospitalized as a result, with the priest requiring treatment in the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital.

The group was first approached by the mob while they were waiting in their car outside the police station to speak with authorities regarding the arrest of a priest and two others from an AIDS/HIV clinic run by the church.

Just two weeks earlier, in the Nizamabad District of Telangana State, a local pastor and members of his congregation were savagely beaten by a mob of 40 Hindu radicals after they falsely accused him of trying to convert Hindus to Christianity.

According to locals, the attack occurred during a Christian prayer gathering and resulted in the hospitalization of six, including a four-year-old girl whose leg was broken during the attack.

Map of Christian Persecution Worldwide

“It was [a] very scary scene,” Pastor Nitin Kumar, recently recounted to humanitarian group International Christian Concern. “They tore my cassock and I received blows, punches, [and] kicks from all directions as I was their prime target. [Our] Bibles were snatched from us and were tore and trampled. [Other] believers ran to all directions as they were chased by the mob.”

And just last Sunday, a Pentecostal church in the Chhattisgarh state was attacked by a mob believed to have been a part of the militant Hindu Bajrang Dal organization. They were alleged to have entered the church during prayer services and broke chairs, fans and musical equipment, according to Christian Today. It was the fourth attack on churchgoers in the region over the last six weeks.

While attacks against Christians have occurred for quite some time, the problem has seemingly become widespread after the election of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Indian People’s Party. The BJP believes in what is known as Hindutva—a cultural nationalism which favors Indian culture over westernization.

"Since 2014 there has been a significant increase in attacks on Christians and Christian communities by radical Hindu forces in India,” David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA told “The government, which came into power with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has strong Hindu nationalist ties. As a result, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily.”

And while Modi and the BDP have not publicly praised the attacks, they aren’t publicly opposing them either.

“The central government has refused to speak out against the atrocities – thus further encouraging radical Hindus to step up their discrimination against Christians,” Curry added. “The government's tolerance--if not promotion--of discrimination against Christians has led to a marked rise in the number of people within India openly pushing for a completely Hindu India.”

The rash of outbreaks led humanitarian groups like the ICC to campaign in Washington to put pressure on Modi and the BDP to stop the wave of extreme nationalism.

“His silence is tacit approval,” King of the ICC said. “Push came to shove once before and he [Modi] had to come out and say that India is tolerant and the nationalists backed down.

“And the most of the populace is very tolerant, but he needs to come out again and rein in his party.”

Late last month, a bipartisan letter was sent to Modi by eight U.S. senators and 26 members of Congress, requesting that he strongly and publicly condemn the acts of persecution.

But so far, there has been no response.

“The BJP will be silent unless there is political pressure,” King added. “With Congress coming out with this letter, with that rise in pressure, the party will have to address the issue.”