- The Washington Times
Monday, February 14, 2022

A “sharp increase” in the persecution of Christians across eight states in India suggests the South Asian nation is on track for a second record year of such attacks, a religious liberty group said Monday.

In the past three weeks, International Christian Concern reported, there have been 14 violent incidents involving Christians and 12 cases of believers being jailed on what the group said were “false conversion charges.”

According to the religious liberty group, the United Christian Forum, a nongovernmental organization in India, recorded 486 incidents of persecution in 2021, which it said was “the highest level of persecution” since India gained independence in 1947.

“If the pace of persecution in recent weeks continues long term, it would threaten to exceed the number of incidents that took place last year,” Jeff King, International Christian Concern president, said in a statement. “This level of persecution is unprecedented, and we are deeply concerned about what this might mean for the future of India‘s Christian community.”

Christians comprise approximately 2.3 percent of India‘s population of 1.3 billion. Nearly 80% of India‘s citizens are Hindu, while Muslims make up 14.2 percent.

Observers such as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom blame the Hindu nationalist policies of the BJP-led government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi for fostering a climate where such attacks can take place. In recent years, several Indian state governments aligned with the BJP have passed laws forbidding conversion from Hinduism to another religion, and others have such bills under consideration.

According to the International Christian Concern report, one pastor in Karnataka state says such legislation has created a climate of fear.

“Every congregation in my district is under threat from the radical Hindu groups,” the pastor, whose identity was not disclosed, said. “This is the fifth incident after the anti-conversion bill was [proposed] by the BJP-led government in December 2021. Though the bill hasn’t become law, the torture and harassment have increased so much that the Christians have to go through tremendous mental pressure.”

Claire Evans, a senior manager at International Christian Concern, said the current election season in the nation also contributes to a climate where believers are under attack.

“We’ve been anticipating that a rise [in] persecution incidents is going to increase because of the Hindu nationalist rhetoric that is naturally present during times of the elections,” Ms. Evans said in a telephone interview.

She added, “The authorities have relied upon Hindu nationalism as an element to move the political process forward in their favor. And we really have seen a rise of nationalist sentiment and religious truth and extremism to move these political agendas forward.”

The Washington Times has contacted India‘s embassy in Washington for comment.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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