Last year, two pastors were visiting a Christian friend one evening in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, when Hindu extremists burst into the house. They dragged the three men outside where a mob of 50–60 attacked them. They were punched and beaten with a cricket bat. “They accused us of luring innocent Hindus with money and benefits and converting them. They threatened us and told us not to pray or to meet fellow Christians,” recalled Pastor Bharat Kumar Wadhwani to Barnabas Fund. The three men were then taken to a police station, where police registered a case of religious incitement against the believers, before later releasing them.
Since Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, became Prime Minister in 2014, the persecution of Indian Christians has intensified. Research by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which was funded by Barnabas, recorded 134 incidents of hate or targeted violence against Christians in the first half of 2016, up from 103 in the first half of the previous year.
Although India’s constitution upholds the rights of religious minorities, Hindu extremists have been emboldened by the often lax response of law enforcement agencies to anti-Christian persecution. In Chhattisgarh state, laws to safeguard traditions, culture and customs are used by Hindu extremists to ban non-Hindu practices and to prevent Christians from building churches.
Many of India’s Christians are Dalits, at the bottom of the Indian caste structure and therefore traditionally discriminated against. A quota system now ensures that Dalits get access to jobs and education. However, it does not apply to Christian or Muslim Dalits, only to those from religions which originated in India.
It is not illegal for believers to share their faith, but false accusations that Christians have bribed, tricked, or forced Hindus to convert are used in some states as excuses for physical violence against Christians. Those who evangelise in public are often threatened and attacked.
Praise God for the growth of His Church in India. Pray that India’s government will make a stand for the right of the Christian minority to worship and share their faith freely. Pray that Indian believers will continue to boldly witness that in Christ all are equal children of God, loved by him, regardless of their status in society.