Attacks on Christians in India
SINCE the end of the British colonial rule and the partitioning of India in 1947, Christians in India have undergone an escalating series of attacks encouraged by the growth and rise to power of Hindu nationalism.
The predominate religion in India is Hinduism, followed by Islam and Christianity. In this country of over one billion people, there are substantial numbers of other religions too like Jainism and Sikhism.
Christians represent only 2.5 per cent of the total population in India. However, attacks on Christians continue to take place in the country every now and then.
India has long been dominated by the Indian Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has ruled India for much of its independence from Britain.
Realising that India was not only predominately a Hindu nation, but also the largest Muslim country on earth, the NCP fostered a relatively benign policy of tolerance to all castes, the groups within India’s former social system, and all religions as well.
After the upheaval of independence where millions of Muslims migrated to Pakistan and many Hindus merged into India, and the violence of the first Indo-Pakistan war in 1947-1948, the government had tried to maintain a policy of non-interference in the affairs of minority religions in India.
As long as these religions did not appear to be converting Hindus, there was usually a hands-off approach to religious co-existence.
But this has changed as the Hindu-nationalist Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had gained momentum by coming to power in 2003 and again in 2014. Since then, attacks on Christians have risen dramatically.
These attacks have included burning of churches and copies of Bible, attacking and vandalizing Catholic-run schools and Christian cemeteries, attacking Christian tourists, raping nuns and even killing them.
In a particularly gruesome attack, an Australian missionary by the name of Graham Staines, was burnt to death in 1999 along with his two innocent minor-aged sons in Odisha while they were sleeping in their jeep at night.
The attacks are not limited to rural areas only but have occurred in other cities and states as well like Delhi, Mumbai, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa
The BJP’s mantra of Hindus first and the protection of Hinduism has encouraged attacks on Christians from both Hindus and Muslims. Both Hindus and Muslims believe that Christians are attempting to proselytize, or convert people to their religion.
There are also reports appearing in newspapers and on some television channels that Christians keep converting Hindus and Muslims to Christianity by force.
I would like to inform readers that these reports are totally untrue. We Christians do not change the religion of another person; we only change their lives.
We also do not give money to Hindus and Muslims to change their religion. No Hindu or Muslim is forced or lured to come and pray in the church to pray.
They go there out of their own free will because they find peace, serenity and solace there, and also miracles happening in their lives. If they change their religion, it is out of their own free will and not by force.
The pastors of the New Life, Baptist and other Christian denomination churches only lay their hands on the person’s head and prays for his or her healing.
Just because we Christians are peace-loving people and do not retaliate, it does not mean that the BJP, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena can take an upper hand on us.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Mumbai, India