Rise in attacks on Christians in southern Indian state

Rise in attacks on Christians in southern Indian state

Report says Karnataka recorded an increase in violence after an anti-conversion law was proposed in October

Bijay Kumar Minj Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi Published: December 13, 2021 09:40 AM GMT
Rise in attacks on Christians in southern Indian state
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Delhi pray at the yearly feast of Christ the King in New Delhi on Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

A fact-finding report by a Protestant group in India has documented 39 violent attacks on Christians in the southern state of Karnataka since January.

The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) published the report on Dec. 13 claiming that the Christian community in Karnataka had good reason to feel targeted by the outbreak of violence.

“It is clear and obvious that an atmosphere of fear and apprehension prevails in the Christian community and its grassroots religious clergy because of a systematic targeting through a vicious and malicious hate campaign,” said Reverend Vijayesh Lal, EFI general secretary and publisher of the report.

He further added that it was “equally obvious that those involved in carrying out this hate campaign and fear-mongering enjoy the protection and possibly support of elements within the political and law and order apparatus in the state.”

Reverend Lal said the EFI was making the report public in the interests of the Christian community in the state and the country and to help safeguard peace and harmony by calling upon the state government to act immediately before any major untoward incident takes place.

Copies of the report have been sent to the office of the prime minister of India, the federal home minister, the National Commission for Minorities, the governor and the chief minister of Karnataka.

The latest attack was reported on Dec. 9 when some Hindu activists attacked four Christians and set their religious books on fire

The report claimed that constant talk about enacting an anti-religious conversion law at the highest levels in the state government had encouraged non-state actors to target Christians, a minuscule minority at 1.87 percent of Karnataka’s population of 68.4 million.

The report said the Karnataka government’s proposal to survey “official as well as unofficial churches and Bible societies aimed at preventing alleged religious conversions” surfaced in the first half of October.

The proposal was initiated by a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator who is also the acting chairperson of the committee on the welfare of backward classes and minorities.

However, it was reported on Oct. 28 that the state government had put a hold on the survey.

Following this, the state government started gathering information about people who had converted to another religion in the past 25 years.

The escalating situation seems to be getting out of hand and so far there is no effective response from the authorities to stem the hate campaign, the report said.

The latest attack was reported on Dec. 9 when some Hindu activists attacked four Christians and set their religious books on fire at Srinivasapura in Kolar district.

On Dec. 4, an unidentified man armed with a machete barged into a church in Belagavi and chased the priest in charge.

A video of the incident posted on social media showed the armed man charging at Father Francis D’ Souza, the parish priest of St. Joseph Worker Church. Luckily, no harm came his way as the intruder escaped after people raised the alarm.

Reverend Lal said the commission team had met over 50 such affected priests and leaders, including those who are leading pastor fellowships across the state.

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