Christians in India's Crosshairs: How They Live Under Anti-Conversion Law

“Catholics indoctrinate children in orphanages, intoxicate the minds of students in schools, take advantage of the weakness of the sick in hospitals and buy the hearts of the poorest and peasants”, say activists from the Prime Minister’s BJP party. Narendra Modi, to pit Hindus against Christians in the country, in official speeches and through social networks.

Since Modi came to power in India, in 2014, religious persecution of Christians has increased dramatically in the country, despite the government calling itself “socialist and secular”. One of the prime minister’s campaign promises was that India would become a 100% Hindu country by the end of this year.

With the On the pretext of protecting Hinduism, the anti-conversion law signed in December 2021 increased the persecution of other religions, especially Islam and Christianity. The simple act of talking about the Christian faith, for example, can be considered a serious crime. It is also forbidden to celebrate Christian dates and festivals, such as Christmas.

With Hindu radicals in power, Christians are being expelled from their homes, people lose custody of their children and jobs, they are arrested and beaten. During the peaks of the Covid pandemic-, the Indian government even banned donations to Christian communities.

According to the Open Doors Brazil Mission, the persecution of Christians in India is, above all, due to religious nationalism. According to this concept, radicals define that anyone born in the country belongs to Hinduism and that converting to another religion is a betrayal.

Pastor Shekhar (whose surname is omitted for safety) , protected by the Christian organization, was praying with colleagues at a church in the city of Ambala, in the north of the country, when police arrived and beat the religious.

The Christian leader was hit by bamboo in the back , on his feet and on his head, until his eardrums burst. After the torture session, the officers determined that if he did not leave the city, he would be arrested. “It was the biggest heartbreak of my life to leave my church and all the members behind,” Shekhar said, as he revealed to Open Doors.

“Police cars arrive, they take you by force and leave you stuck for hours. I lived in a lot of fear after going through this several times,” said Sudeep (surname withheld also for security), another persecuted Christian, according to the Catholic association. He received legal support, in addition to financial help from the organization to set up a clothing sales business during the pandemic.

According to Sudeep’s testimony, police officers even threatened to kill him if he didn’t abandoned Christianity, but with the support of the Christian community he has resisted in the country. “I am doing nothing wrong in living my faith,” he declared.

“Anti-conversion law is dictatorial paranoia”

“The whole nation, governments and authorities in the country apply laws that take away the rights of members of other religions, reaching dictatorial paranoia”, highlights Mauro Cruz, secretary general of the association.

As a caste society, it still exists. what Cruz defines as a “clan oppression” and an “ethnoreligious hostility”, through which Christians are placed as an inferior social category, which subjects them to lose their rights and suffer violence.

Christian education as a whole is under threat.In the small town of Pandavapura, in the south of India, Sister Luisa, from the Salesian order of Mary Immaculate, runs the St. Joseph school. Last year, as every year, she organized a party for the children at Christmas. “There were a hundred students, 80% of them Hindus. A man was dressed as Santa Claus and then a dozen people demonstrated in front of the school accusing us of converting the children”, Luisa told the newspaper Le Figaro.

After that, according to the religious, there were threats to take over the Salesians’ land and the managed school. for them.

Trend of greater persecution in the coming years

Despite the movements in favor of the persecuted in India, the expectation is that attacks on Christians intensify from now on, following the high of recent years in the world. From 2015 to 2022, there was an increase of more than 30% in the number of persecuted Christians on the planet. There are more than 360 millions of people.

“The dictatorial paranoia, with governments increasingly Hindu and with the purpose of eliminating Christianity in the country , tends to be a reality”, reinforces Cruz.

Modi’s party obtained an absolute majority in parliament in 2019, which means that the prime minister will remain in power for another five years. “Hard-line Hindus will therefore continue to attack Christians and Muslims with impunity and the level of violence is likely to remain extreme,” concludes the secretary general of Open Doors.

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