Christians in India demand action against persecution and hate crimes
By Linda Bordoni
About 100 churches and organizations and over 15,000 people gathered on Sunday at a venue close to the Indian Parliament House in Delhi demanding protection and judicial action against a rising wave of anti-Christian violence in the nation.
Protesters sang songs of praise and worship and held placards in Hindi and English that read “Every persecution makes Christians stronger in faith,” “Stop the attack against Christians, “stop attacking our churches.”
A press release issued by organizers of the event on Sunday explained the protest was to draw the attention of the government, judiciary and civil society to “the sharp escalation of targeted hate and violence against Christian communities in many states.”
Churches and Christian rights groups
Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi was present. He told reporters the rally aimed to “demand judicial and government intervention to check the rapid rise in incidents of violence, coercion and false arrests of our people.”
John Dayal, the spokesperson of the All Indian Catholic Union, pointed out that some 350 Christians are in jail in Uttar Pradesh alone for practising their faith, and that hundreds of tribal Christians were forced out of their village in Chhattisgarh.
“We want the government to hear our cries and intervene and take steps to ensure the safety and security of Christians,” he said while addressing the protesters and he appealed to fellow Indians “to stand in empathy and solidarity and raise their voices at the targeted and organized injustice happening across the nation against Christians.”
The United Christian Forum, a human rights group based in New Delhi that monitors atrocities against Christians in India was also present.
“Today,” said its president, “we’ve gathered here peacefully because we want to share the anguish of our fellow citizens who follow the Christian faith in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and so many other places where their basic fundamental rights are being snatched.”
“We are standing up on their behalf… We are also going to be submitting a memorandum to the President of India,” he added.
Anti-Christian violence increased dramatically since the BJP started its rule in March 1998. Hundreds of incidents of violence against Christians and against other minorities are reported by various organizations every year.
Every year, India's internal security and its National Minority Commission officially list more than a hundred religiously motivated acts of violence which are committed against Christians, but observers claim the actual number of such attacks is probably higher because it is estimated that only about 10% of such attacks are ever reported.
These attacks include the ransacking of churches, monasteries, and other Christian institutions, the burning of copies of the Bible, the desecration of cemeteries, the murder of priests and missionaries, and the sexual assault of nuns.