Christian Families Banned from Worship in One Indian State as Persecution Worsens

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Christian Families Banned from Worship in One Indian State as Persecution Worsens

Christians in India are facing more persecution as the Indian government tries to enforce the Hindu religion across the country. 

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that police in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka are banning Christians from gathering for worship services, saying they weren’t born as Christians so they must have coercively or fraudulently converted to Christianity.

Police officials in Karnataka’s Hassan District summoned 15 Christian families in Bannimardatti village on Jan. 4 to a meeting, then told them to prove they were Christian. The authorities accused them of receiving government-offered benefits as both Christians and Hindus. 

Then the deputy superintendent of police ordered the Christians to stop gathering for worship in their village. 

“This is the final attempt of Hindu radicals using the state police to clamp down on Christian activities,” a local Christian told ICC. “They have tried everything including social boycotts and physical beatings. However, local Christians remained faithful in the midst of continued harassment.”

The order violates the religious freedom rights offered to India’s citizens under Article 25 of their Constitution. Article 25 gives Indian citizens the right to assert and exercise the religion of their choice.

“There is no freedom whatsoever to gather for worship and practice the faith of our choice,” one local pastor told ICC. “The divide between communities is growing and the anti-conversion law that the state government of Karnataka is trying to enact will worsen the situation for religious minorities.”

Karnataka, which is governed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has vowed to enact a law controlling religious conversions and to outlaw those deemed fraudulent.

And ICC pointed that radical Hindu nationalists have used the “specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity as justification to pass similar laws limiting religious freedom,” even though Christians represent 2.3 percent of India’s population. 

CBN News reported that the states of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Chhatisgarh are now the most dangerous places for Christians, where beatings, arrests, church destruction, and at times death, are regular occurrences.

Last month, several Christian families in India went into hiding following a brutal mob attack by tribal animists that sent 21 Christians to local hospitals.

And on Nov. 25, a mob armed with bamboo sticks, iron rods, bows and arrows, and iron sickles, attacked a home and adjoining church hall in Chingrwaram village, Sukma District, where Christians had celebrated a child dedication the previous evening.

The attackers accused the Christians of converting people and celebrating with loud music.

“They beat up the children as well as the women who were cooking food outside,” said Laxman Mandavi, a 21-year-old survivor of the assault. “While the children were beaten up with hands and feet, the others were shot at with arrows and beaten up with iron rods.”

India ranks 10th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Hindu-nationalist BJP came to power in 2014.

“We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned by the actions taken by police in Karnataka,” said ICC’s Regional Manager William Stark. “India’s police should be protecting the rights of the country’s citizens, not unilaterally stripping citizens of their rights due to their religious identity” 

“Article 25 of India’s constitution is very clear. All Indians have the right to profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. What the police in Karnataka have done to the Christians of Bannimardatti is simply wrong and unconstitutional,” Stark concluded.

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