The secular nation of India has an 80% Hindu majority and a 4% Christian minority. Hinduism is strongly connected to Indian identity and extreme Hindu nationalism under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is growing.
Persecution has worsened since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. Religious extremists and militant groups target Christians and intensifying violence has occurred in several of the more stable states where persecution was less prevalent in the past. The police response to anti-Christian violence is often dismissive.
In December 2019, there were violent protests when Modi proposed a Citizenship Amendment Bill, which excludes Muslim immigrants from nearby Muslim-majority countries from gaining Indian citizenship, but allows it for non-Muslim minorities from those countries. Christians feared that it could provoke “hate crimes” against them by Muslims.
Since 1978, Freedom of Religion laws were introduced in several states. Despite their name, these are in effect anti-conversion laws banning the use of force, fraud or allurement in conversion. Their vague terms make Christians actively sharing their faith vulnerable to false accusation. Modi’s government supports the laws being rolled out nationally.
In August 2019, Himachal Pradesh state approved a stricter new Freedom of Religion Bill with jail sentences of up to five years for forced conversions, and up to seven for the conversion of women, minors and Dalits. Anyone converting must now state a month in advance that they are freely doing so.
In November 2019, the Supreme Court bailed the remaining five of seven Christians wrongfully convicted of killing a nationalist leader in 2008. The killing sparked horrific anti-Christian violence in Orissa (formerly Odisha) state taking 90 lives, injuring thousands, leaving 56,000 homeless and destroying nearly 300 church buildings.
It is becoming increasing difficult for Christian organisations to receive financial donations. Christian and Muslim Dalits suffer more discrimination than Indian-origin Dalits and are excluded from the Dalit education and employment quotas.
Ask God to protect Indian Christians against discrimination and violence. Pray that rising Hindu extremism will be quelled and that political leaders will pursue peace rather than division.