Church in Kerala urges UN action against anti-Christian violence in India, Pakistan
By Lisa Zengarini
In the wake of the recent mob attacks on Christian homes and churches at Jaranwala in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and as sectarian unrest continues in Northeast India's Manipur State targeting Christians, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) has appealed for UN intervention to stop recurring anti-Christian violence in both countries.
“Christians are increasingly becoming the target of riots and mob attacks in India and Pakistan,” the Catholic body noted in a statement.
Sectarian violence in Manipur State
Sectarian violence, mostly targeting tribal ethnic Kuki Christians, has been engulfing Manipur State for more than three months, claiming nearly 200 lives and displacing over 50,000 people, amid prolonged silence from the Indian government. Over a dozen cases of atrocities against women have been reported during the riots which have also led to the burning down of hundreds of churches and other Christian institutions, including schools.
The recent mob attacks against Christians in Punjab
In Jaranwala, Pakistan, more than 80 Christian homes and 19 churches were reportedly vandalized by Muslim mobs on August 16, following false allegations of Koran desecration. In the wake of the attacks on Sunday, 20 August, Catholic communities across Pakistan observed a Special Day of Prayer and solidarity with the victims.
The violence was the latest in a long string of attacks against Christians in Pakistan, who, apart from been discriminated, are regularly victimized by the abuse of the highly controversial blasphemy laws punishing individuals for allegedly offending, insulting, or denigrating Islam and the Prophet.
Sectarianism and communal polarization
Christians make about 2.3 percent of the 1.4 billion people in India, mostly Hindus, while in majority-Muslim Pakistan, Christians account for 1.5 percent of the population.
In its statement the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council appealed to the United Nations to take decisive actions to protect Christians in India and Pakistan from this kind of attacks.
“It is regrettable that the majority population [Muslims] in Pakistan is attacking the minority Christian community on the basis of unfounded accusations,” said Father Jacob G Palakkappilly, spokesperson of the KCBC cited by Uca News agency
“It is obvious that terrorist movements feed on sectarianism and communal polarization in any nation. Through their hateful campaigns, they sow riots that force millions of people to flee because they feel unsafe,” the priest added.
Palakkappilly further pointed out that a majority of people experience attacks and persecution solely because they identify as Christians who are a minority in many countries.
India according to a recent report from New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UCF), an ecumenical body that monitors persecution against Christians, recorded 400 incidents of targeted attacks against Christians in the first half of this year. In 2022, 274 were recorded during the same period. Most of them were targeted under false allegations of religious conversion, which have been criminalized in several Indian States. The anti-conversion laws, KCBC said, have become “a tool for pro-Hindu groups to target Christians”.
UN Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion
The KCBC’ appeal came ahead of the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief which is observed annually on 22 August.
The day was introduced by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in 2019 as part of its efforts to support human rights related to freedom of religion or belief.
By proclaiming the International Day the UN General Assembly recalled that States have the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights, including the human rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, including their right to exercise their religion or belief freely.