Forced Conversion and Blasphemy Accusations Underscore Most Cases
02/14/2022 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – India’s Christian community is currently experiencing a sharp increase in persecution across eight states during the past three weeks. International Christian Concern (ICC) has recorded at least 14 violent incidents, as well as 12 cases in which Christians were wrongfully jailed under false conversion charges.
Jeff King, ICC’s President, shared his concern, “If the pace of persecution in recent weeks continues long term, it would threaten to exceed the number of incidents that took place last year. This level of persecution is unprecedented, and we are deeply concerned about what this might mean for the future of India’s Christian community. We are holding each of the impacted families in our prayers, as well as the broader community.”
ICC previously reported how the United Christian Forum, an NGO that manages a toll-free number for Christian persecution, recorded 486 incidents last year. This was the highest level of persecution since India gained its independence, and the sharp increase of persecution within the first quarter of 2022 worries Christians that this year will face even higher levels.
Pastor Madhu, who was violently targeted during one of the recent incidents, shared with ICC that he was violently attacked after a month of harassment. A mob of nearly 100 suspected BJP supporters targeted him for alleged forced conversion. He was jailed, but released after two days. “I was shocked to see my church was completely demolished,” Pastor Madhu said, “I don’t know where to look for help, as I am just out of jail on bail. It is becoming increasingly difficult to gather for worship and prayers, especially in my region of Shivmoga district.”
In a separate incident, radical Hindu nationalists brutally beat Pastor Rakash and two of his family members in Uttar Pradesh because they were praying. The three Christians spent over a week in the hospital with serious injuries. “They wanted to burn us alive in the church, but by God’s grace we ended up in the hospital,” Pastor Rakash shared with ICC. “They beat us so badly with fists and kicked [us] in [the] abdomen area and hit me on [the] head with [a] stick. I fell to the ground; even today, I [have an] unbearable headache.”
“Every congregation in my district is under threat from the radical Hindu groups,” a pastor in Karnataka added. “This is the fifth incident after the anti-conversion bill was tabled by the BJP-led government in December 2021. Though the bill hasn’t become law, the torture and harassment have increased so much that the Christians have to go through tremendous mental pressure.”
In a separate incident, five Madhya Pradesh pastors were arrested and jailed on false charges of forced conversions. “Several house congregations had to cancel their Sunday gatherings in our district,” a Christian leader shared. “In the last year, ever since the anti-conversion law was enacted, things for Christians have changed drastically, where it is almost impossible to live as a Christian.”