Published: 17:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 15 August 2011
Over 60 violent attacks against Christians in India this year
Country/Region: India, South and East Asia
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship of India
Over 60 violent anti-Christian attacks were recorded in India during the first half of 2011 as Hindu extremists continue to target churches, pastors and Christian families.
Christians in India face two-three violent incidents every week
In one incident in Jharkhand state at the end of May, five Christian families fled their homes in fear after being beaten up by Hindu extremists. One woman was hospitalised, suffering internal injuries, while another woman - a mother of three - was abducted and held for a month until a court ordered her release. Police have failed to make any arrests in connection with this incident.
In April, an angry mob of 150 Hindu extremists attacked a Christian worship meeting in Delhi and indiscriminately beat up participants, including women and children. Two Christians required hospital treatment for head injuries. The assailants also destroyed furniture and vehicles.
Saul Pradhan, a 45-year-old Christian pastor, whose house was torched by Hindu fundamentalists two years ago, was found dead in Kandhamal, Orissa state, in January. The police claimed that his death was due to cold, but Saul's body bore marks of assault.
The southern state of Karnataka, which is governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been worst hit by the anti-Christian violence; of the 64 incidents recorded throughout the country, 20 happened in Karnataka. These include pastors and Christians being threatened and beaten, church services being disrupted and the buildings ransacked, and Christian property being seized or destroyed.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India, which recorded the anti-Christian incidents, said it was "deeply concerned at the continued hostility against the Christian minority community in the country". As well as violent attacks, there have been numerous cases of Christians being falsely accused and arrested on charges of "forcible conversions".
Rather than protecting the Christian community, the police often take action against them. Several Christian victims have been forced to accept a compromise with their attackers, including submitting to demands to leave the village or area, not conducting worship services in their homes or paying a fine.
The blatant disregard for the law by alleged Hindutva proponents, coupled with the inaction and often bias of the police in favour of the attackers, has left the community vulnerable and helpless in the onslaught of violence.
EFI called for state governments to take immediate steps to protect the Christian minority, and for the Karnataka authorities to withdraw the "false and malicious cases" that have been registered against Christians.