United Christian Forum Alarmed At Sharp Rise In Violence Against Churches And Worshippers In India

The United Christian Forum (UCF) has demanded urgent judicial and government intervention to check the rapid rise in incidents of violence, coercion and false arrests, traumatising the community. This persecution is most acute in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka; the UCF said citing data collected from its National Helpline Number 1800-208-4545 and human rights groups.

Though the year 2022 is not even halfway over, there already have been 207 cases of violence.  Just in May this year, we recorded 57 cases.  In 2021, UCF had documented 505 cases, with Christmas seeing 16 acts of violence, including desecration and breaking of statues of Jesus Christ at a historic church in Haryana.

“This data flies in the face of statements by government functionaries and leaders of the ruling parties at the centre and in the states that there is no persecution, and that there are only a few stray incidents by fringe elements”, UCF National President Michael Williams said.

It is ironic that the culprits, many of whom film their acts of vandalism and physical violence on unarmed women and men, seem to defy the law; peaceful pastors and others are arrested on charges of “conversion” during routine prayer services. In all such cases, the police is either a mute spectator, or an active participant in the persecution. Despite our appeals to senior officials and administrators, the police have failed to follow protocol, rules, and investigations.

January 40
Feb 35
March 33
April 40
May 57
Total 207

More than one incident has taken place each day so far in 2022. There were 40 incidents in January, 35 in February, 33 in March, 40 in April and nearly double in May with 57 incidents in 31 days with almost 2 incidents a day. There were 48 incidents in Uttar Pradesh, 44 in Chhattisgarh, 23 in Jharkhand and 14 in Madhya Pradesh.  As the new anti-conversion ordinance is implemented in Karnataka, 6 cases were reported from the state.

Other than physical assaults, incidents include brutality against women, vandalism, forcible closure of churches, disruption of Sunday prayers and social ostracization which is most visible in small towns and villages.

We cite two cases from Chhattisgarh and one from Uttar Pradesh as illustrative of the persecution of Christians.

On 2nd May, in Bastar district, a 65-year-old Christian woman and her son were threatened with a social boycott by the panchayat if they professed the Christian faith. The two maintained they were Christians and would remain so. At this, they were attacked and severely injured. The woman sustained multiple injuries, including a wound on the head, and had to be hospitalised. A complaint has been filed before the Superintendent of Police and the District Collector.

On 31st May, in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, a pastor was conducting a prayer service when a mob barged in, dragged him out, beat him up, saying he was converting people. The police, rather than acting against the assailants, arrested the pastor, booking him u/s 295A IPC (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings). He remained behind bars until his bail on 3rd June 2022.

ABOUT UCF TOLL-FREE HELPLINE NUMBER

2014 127
2015 142
2016 226
2017 248
2018 292
2019 328
2020 279
2021 505
2022 207

UCF toll-free helpline number: 1-800-208-4545 was launched on 19th January 2015 with the aim of upholding fundamental freedom and promotion of values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity of India. The helpline helps people in distress, especially those who are not aware of the law of the land and the system by guiding them how to reach out to the public authorities and by providing the way to legal remedies.

As per the records of UCF, there were 127 incidents in 2014, 142 in 2015, 226 in 2016, 248 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, 2020 in 279 (perhaps pandemic gave some relief to Indian Christians), and 505 incidents in 2021 and year 2022 so far till the end of May have witnessed 207 incidents in 151 days.

Hindu Group In India Threatens To Demolish Churches In BJP-Ruled Northern State

The onslaught on citizens of minority faith continues in Madhya Pradesh. Individuals claiming to be members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) say they are preparing to demolish churches in the Jhabua district on Sunday, 26thSeptember.  Auxiliary Bishop Paul Muniya, of the Protestant Shalom Church in Jhabua, led a delegation to District Collector, the highest government official, and submitted a memorandum addressed to the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, seeking his urgent intervention to ensure the safety and security of Christians and to stop the anti-Christian violence. He has also appealed to the state’s governor and chief minister to intervene and diffuse the situation.

Located in western Madhya Pradesh, bordering Baroda, this district had witnessed similar unrest when Azad Prem Singh, a local leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council, had demanded the closure of all churches in the area earlier this year. Although Singh focused on Jhabua and surrounding tribal-dominated districts, the continued escalation of communal threats could have repercussions across the country, particularly in states like Madhya Pradesh which have enacted the anti-conversions laws.

However, far from helping the cause of the minorities under threat, a District Revenue official has directed the Christian priests to present themselves before him and explain the nature of their religious activities and has even sought details of their appointment as priests. The official letter also asked priests to certify if they themselves were converted through allurement or force while threatening to initiate legal proceedings against any illegal conversions, if detected.

Bishop Muniya, while addressing the media, expressed his anguish and concern over what appears to be the local administrators siding with the perpetrators responsible for harassing Christians who number a mere four percent of the one million population of the district. “If there is an illegal structure, let the administration take action. Why are private individuals and organizations issuing such threats?” the Bishop asked. He also sought to know if the same yardstick would be applied to other religious structures in the district and the state.

Father Maria Stephan, PRO of Bhopal Catholic Archdiocese feels both the revenue and police administration of the district are biased against Christians. “Christians are peace-loving citizens. We are seeking judicial remedies to ensure peace and harmony in our society. We have no objection to sharing any official details about our work and personnel to the government provided the intention is right.”

President of UCF, Dr. Michael Williams, while expressing concern and distress over the situation in Jhabua, has appealed to the Prime Minister and Home Minister to help put a stop to this targeted violence.  “The very fabric of our secular nation is being stretched by a few who do not respect the Constitution of India.  Such people are the real anti -nationals and must be dealt with as strictly under law as possible.  This intolerance has no room in our country”, he added.