Christians in southern India are living in fear as the level of persecution against them continues to rise, according to various media reports.
In the first nine months of the year, the Indian southern states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala have reported at least 60 cases of attacks against Christians. In contrast, 36 attacks against Christians were seen in the first nine months of 2017, according to religious freedom advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
According to the website Morning Star News, the hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014.
“In Tamil Nadu, RSS activists are provoking the Hindus in their speeches at public gatherings to cause communal tension,” the Rev. Sagaya Raj, deputy secretary of the (Roman Catholic) Tamil Nadu Bishops Council told the news website. “The current situation is alarming – our state was a peace-loving state, and we lived in harmony. The recent attacks on the Christian community are very disturbing.”
In one disturbing case, a mob of Hindus in Veppur village, Vellore District on Sept. 13, attacked an elderly Christian woman as she took her late-evening walk. The group of Hindus was celebrating the birthday of their elephant god Ganesha.
As the Hindus were carrying their idol down the road, four members of the group stopped the woman and yelled at her for using the road.
“One was yelling, ‘You converted to Christianity, and you are an ‘untouchable’ – how can you use the road when our Vinayagar (Ganesha in Tamil) is passing from here? You are impure, and now you made the road impure by walking on it,'” Christian resident Esther Moses told Morning Star News.
Then other members of the mob began to attack her for defiling their festivities, according to Moses.
“They became very aggressive so that they started beating her,” Moses told told the news website. “The entire neighborhood belongs to nomadic tribes – they are not upper castes over us, yet the Hindu gypsies hate us and treat us like untouchables.”
Christians who live on the street tried to come to the woman’s aid but were also attacked.
Pastor Emmanuel Paul of the Tamil Nadu Synod of Pentecostal Churches reported 13 injured Christians were admitted to a government hospital that night.
“The boy who suffered the nose injury was gasping for breath, his nasal bone was fractured,” Pastor Paul said. “And his dad received blows on his head and was bleeding heavily.”
Local church leaders said they submitted a written complaint to the local police, but they have received no word if any action was taken against their assailants.
India ranks 11th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution