Although religious freedom is guaranteed by India’s Constitution, a growing movement of Hindu Nationalists continues to threaten to usurp this right at the local level, as problematic anti-conversion laws and intense social intimidation are contributing to a concerning rise in persecution against religious minorities such as Christians.
Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and other religious minorities have lived side-by-side in the nation for hundreds of years with varying degrees of civility, but nearly 80% of the population is Hindu and the growing nationalist movement has taken on particularly harsh tones as of late.
International Christian Concern reported that in the Jhabua district last Sunday, Christians were informed that they were forbidden from gathering to worship unless they had special permission from the local magistrate.
“I read the circular last Friday and decided not to have worship on Sunday,” a local pastor told the organization. “The last five months have been difficult. Our congregation has been reduced from 40 members to 15. Even these 15 are now scared.”
The pastor is concerned that this will further intimidate Christians who are already wary of rising persecution.
“I know as a pastor that I need to endure hardships and persecution for my faith,” he said. “But I am worried about those who are showing interest and coming newly to worship with us.”
Last month, a violent mob believed to be Hindu nationalists attacked a church in the Uttarakhand district.
At the same time, officials in the Karnataka state ordered an investigation into all Christian missionaries in the region as part of an effort to enact anti-conversion laws similar to those on the books in other states which criminalize evangelism efforts perceived to be forceful, but which are often leveraged against Christians unfairly.
In August, the leader of the Chhattisgarh state’s Hindu nationalist party held a rally in which he declared “let us drag people from the church.”
India is one of the world’s most powerful nations and a key ally to the United States. It is of the utmost concern to the worldwide Christian Church that our brothers and sisters are being treated in this manner by a first world country whose constitution professes to guarantee religious freedom.
Pray for change in India…and please do what you can to spread awareness about an issue that gets sadly very little attention in the west.
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