70 Christians, including children, as they traveled home from a national congress focused on praying for peace in India amid escalating persecution were brutally attacked by Hindu extremists.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, three men on motorcycles attacked Christians traveling home from the Third National Congress of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, on Feb 5.
The men verbally threatened the passengers before smashing the windshields of the vehicles, causing injury to the driver and passengers, which included women, children and the elderly.
Pastor Paul Raj, one of the passengers, immediately called the police, who arrived at the scene a short time later. A First Information Report, which is necessary to start an investigation, has been registered against the perpetrators and investigations have been initiated.
Local sources report that the attack is believed to have been perpetrated by religious extremists who were aware of the national congress and planned the ambush on the Christians.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas called the attack a “worrying example of the religious intolerance and violence that is being allowed to fester and take root in the largest democracy in the world.”
“Religious minorities in India should feel safe and free to practice and profess their religion or belief without any fear of reproach, and we call on the authorities to put an end to all forms of institutional propaganda that incite hate toward religious minorities,” Thomas said. “The police must follow up with a thorough investigation of this incident and not allow themselves to be influenced by hardline religious nationalists as they seek to hold those responsible to account.”
CSW notes that the National Congress of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches was attended by about 100,000 people. The event focused on calling on Christians to pray for peace in India at a time when “Christians are experiencing a rising number of hate campaigns that involve church closures, prayer meeting disruptions, police complicity and targeted attacks with impunity by non-state actors.”
During the event, the leadership of the Synod called on the government of India to protect religious minorities in the country and to respect the fundamental freedoms of the Indian Constitution.
Additionally, it urged the government to revoke the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and the National Register of Citizens which are criticized widely in India for their unconstitutional nature.
India is ranked No. 10 on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was ranked No. 31 in 2013, but its position has worsened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power in 2014.
Over 1,400 incidents of persecution against Christians in the country have been reported since 2014, according to an initiative of ADF India.
Amid escalating persecution, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America has written an open letter calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the issue of violence against Christians in India when he meets with Modi next week.
In the past, Trump has praised Modi, calling India’s PM “one of America’s “greatest, most devoted and most loyal friends.”
FIACONA’s letter cites “disconcerting” tactics employed by Modi’s administration, including the marginalization of Christians and other religious minorities.
“Christians across India are already living in real fear,” the letter stresses. “Pastors, Social Workers, and ordinary Christians are arrested, tortured, or killed on false charges. Church properties are being burned or destroyed by members of Mr. Modi’s party. Mr. Modi is mostly silent when his followers go on a rampage interrupting Christian worship services, creating an environment of insecurity and fear.”
FIACONA said that in 2019, it logged 328 cases of violence against Christians in India, including 230 mob attacks and two murders.
Often, many attacks go unreported due to fear of reprisal, the letter notes, as “authorities are often under pressure from Modi’s government to ignore complaints from Christians.”
John Prabhudoss, FIACONA chairman, told The Christian Post the organization is “concerned that the president’s failure to address the issue could end up legitimizing the violence perpetrated by Modi’s party against Christians.”
“For a president who claims to be the champion of Christians both at home and abroad, he seems to be clueless about the violence against Christians in India,” he said.
“Our evangelical leaders here in the U.S. who are affected by the Indian situation one way or the other (many of them have been either deported or refused visas to India) seem to be at a loss. They see Trump as the champion of their causes at home but unable to convince him about India.”
Prabhudoss said the president “does not seem to be well informed about the threat from radical political Hindu ideology.”
“Those who have his ears also seem to be ignorant about it. But those who understand it are afraid of telling him anything he may disagree with,” he said. “So here we are. What will it take to tell the president that his public exaltation of a radical extremist Indian leader is hurting the lives of over 100 million Christians?”