India is the world’s second most populated nation, with over one billion inhabitants, and also in theory, the largest democracy in the world.
Supposedly, the Indian government gives its people the right to choose their own religion.
Unfortunately, the startling reality is that Christians — a religious minority in India — are facing more persecution than ever before, at the hands of radical Hindu nationalists.
There are over 60 million Christians in India today, and the majority of them face the constant threat of violent attacks where they live and work, in addition to losing their homes and churches. These attacks include:
- Churches being burned down.
- Pastors being beaten and even killed.
- The homes of Christians being burned down.
- Christians being beaten and wounded with large sticks and swords.
One woman in the Eastern region of Orissa — where attacks have run rampant for years — describes watching the death of her brother-in-law at the hands of a radical Hindu nationalist:
“They asked him, ‘Will you deny Christ and become a Hindu?’
He said ‘no.’
Christians are terrorized, beaten, ostracized, and even killed for practicing their faith, which first came to the subcontinent over 1,000 years ago — possibly from Thomas the Apostle.
But this centuries-old faith in one of the largest and most influential nations in the world is at risk of being destroyed completely — at rapidly increasing rates.
Statistics that very few Americans know about include:
- Last year, the number of attacks against Christians increased almost 20% from the previous year.
- It was estimated that a church was burned down or a pastor was beaten almost 10 times a week last year.
- Right now, attacks on Christians are growing rapidly at a rate of 100% every year.
By the end of this year, the number of direct, violent attacks against Christians may double in number from the previous year.
“When the Christians are beaten by the extremists, they receive injuries mostly on their heads or their vital body parts. The assaulters do not care if the person dies in the attack.
They know that they will not be punished because the government (and hence the judiciary) will take their side. In most of the cases the assaulters go unpunished,” one partner of Open Doors, a non-profit serving the persecuted church, reports.
Attacks are not only physical, however. Christians are also being socially boycotted, some of them forced to leave not only their homes and families, but their cities and villages entirely — forced to start new lives with no family, resources, or identity.
What’s at the root of this disturbing increase of violence against Christians in India? And why does the government seem to turn a blind eye to the spreading injustice and destruction?
The Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP)
The dominating political party in India right now is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which believes that India should be a nation united under a single religion, language, and culture — Hinduism.
Their ideology goes hand in hand with the same radical Hindu Nationalists who are beating and terrorizing Christians across the nation.
The BJP has severely limited missionary and evangelistic activity in the country. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of the BJP, took office in 2014, thousands of non-governmental organizations that receive international funds for various projects have been shut down. Compassion International, India’s largest single donor, has been banned from engaging in activities that include religious conversion.
Millions of dollars lost per year that feed and educate children, provide valuable resources to those in need, and overall help support the infrastructure of a nation that is deeply affected by poverty.
Nearly 600 churches, charities and other groups in India which depended on Compassion International lost funding to help 150,000 children.
All of this, despite the fact that:
- 44% of Indian children under 5 are underweight.
- 72% of its infants suffer from anemia.
- India ranks high for the number of children suffering from malnutrition.
Clearly, India is in a dire situation. Many thousands are losing much-needed aid and support, millions are facing persecution, and a country with one billion people is facing a radical transformation — for the worse.
Not only does the BJP refuse to allow Christian aid, resources, and compassion in their nation, they appear to condone the actions of those who are violently persecuting Christians by turning a blind eye to persecution. When asked about incidents of attacks against churches and Christians, Modi responded, “I have never heard of such incidents taking place.”
The root of this kind of political policy and persecution is a belief in Hindunization, which seeks to eliminate or convert all non-Hindu peoples through attacks like burning, torching, and beating. Radical Hindu Nationalists who subscribe to this ideology are also violently opposed to preaching or teaching that would attempt to bring other Indian people into their faith.
Despite the fact that Modi has made public announcements supporting free speech, the attacks continue. There are no legal consequences for those who are actively violating the rights of others.
As a result, Christians are left to face unchecked violence, the threat of death, destruction of their homes, and extreme limits on their personal liberties.
And the power of the BJP continues to rise. They have consolidated their political power across India after winning several state elections.
As a result, 65% of India’s population has come under the BJP, both at union and state level.
The BJP believe:
- Christians and Muslims, and their religions, are second-class citizens.
- You are born into your religion, no conversions allowed.
- Converting to another religion “by force or enticement” is prohibited. (Giving candy to a child, a free Bible, or any humanitarian aid would be considered an “enticement.”)
The sort of persecution we’re seeing in India has now spread north into the neighboring country, Nepal. In September, a bill was passed in Nepal that will likely restrict Christians — and others — from sharing their religious beliefs.
This is shocking news considering that the country has only recently made advances for religious freedoms, and even depending on the Church for help, especially in the wake of the earthquake in 2015. During this time of crisis and upheaval, many Christian groups entered Nepal, bringing practical aid, resources, support and compassion to those in need.
Not only that, Christians have cared for orphans in Nepal for many years, and played an active role in stopping human trafficking.
But we may see a crackdown on these activities.
Hindu Nationalists from India, and from within Nepal, are bringing pressure to the government to come down hard on non-Hindu religious activity.
Because Nepal largely depends on India for resources and economic support, they are heavily influenced by their neighboring nation. There are also factions within the Nepali government with similar views to the BJP.
Persecution stemming from Hindu nationalist views is not limited to within the borders of India. It’s spreading.
What can we, as Americans, do to respond to this critical situation that violates the rights of millions, threatens to destroy entire communities of people, and is spreading to other nations?
First, we can pray with our brothers and sisters in Christ, the majority of whom are remaining incredibly courageous and faithful in the face of persecution.
One young girl says, “We may have lost everything, but we will never turn our backs on Christ. I still have joy, and am thanking God despite my circumstances.”
Secondly, we must speak out, to say that we cannot remain silent while millions of Christians in India are suffering day in and day out, facing an ever-present threat of being beaten, attacked, or even killed, or having their homes — and all their possessions — set on fire.
We can start by declaring that India must uphold religious freedom as a basic human right.
You can help stop the persecution. Click HERE to help save the Christians in India by signing our petition.
What do you think? Write me at [email protected].