Attacks, harassment against Christians high in India: Priest

During a recent visit to the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Ajay Kumar Singh of the Odisha Forum for Social Action advocated for the suppressed Christians of his eastern Indian state. “After 10 years there is hardly any justice for these communities,” said Father Singh.

The Catholic priest declared that the attacks of 2008 were the worst the country has seen in 300 years.

“The violence claimed 101 lives, more than 350 churches were destroyed, 7500 houses were reduced to ashes, scores of convents, presbyteries, dispensaries and 13 humanitarian organisations were also attacked and vandalised. The riots spread to 450 villages in Kandhamal district alone.”

As time moves on buildings are rebuilt; the news headlines change, memories fade. But what is the state of the Christian community in Odisha and around India 10 years on?

Change of government, growth in hatred

In 2014, six years after the Kandhamal attacks, the “secularist” Indian National Congress party was voted out of power, in favour of the nationalist party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dogged by allegations of citing sectarian violence since 2002 when Hindus and Muslims clashed in the state of Gujarat, the BJP has overseen more than a doubling of incidences of reported attacks against Christians in the three years to 2017 with 147 being reported in 2013, the year before the change of government, to 351 last year.

According to Father Singh’s research, physical attacks and harassment against Christians and other minorities are at historically high levels in the country. The number of unreported cases is undocumented.

Fr Singh points to a growing phenomenon in India: decades old laws outlawing the slaughter of cows (animals considered sacred in Hinduism) and the procurement or storage of beef, even within the confines of private, non-Hindu homes have recently been “policed” by vigilante groups, resulting in lynching or severe beatings for those who contravene them.

The so-called “beef lynchings” have been reported not only in Odisha but several states throughout India. Following the figures collected by the human rights defender, 86 percent of the victims of mob lynching for carrying or eating beef are Muslims. 97 percent of all incidents occurred over the last three years since the BJP assumed power in 2014.

Sectarianism an open secret

Though founded on a constitution that allows freedom of religion and acknowledgement of the dignity of all its citizens, the judiciary of India still appears to have a tiered class system and discriminates against Christians and people who belong to lower castes. Most of the Christian population of India are comprised of so-called low castes, thereby compounding their disadvantage when caught in a legal matter, either as complainant or defendant.

In his talk to the pontifical foundation ACN Father Singh stated it is also common that aside from the courts finding in favour of the party with an “Indian origin” religion, the police are less likely to act in cases of violence perpetrated against Christians.

The extra judiciary nature of complaints against Christians (fabrications are common), and the ad hoc fashion of investigations leave members of religious minorities without concrete pathways to access justice, and as illiteracy is high among the poor there is little recourse to record instances of injustice. “It is easy for authorities to dismiss complaints of systemic injustice as made up or exaggerated”.

India a forerunner in religious discrimination

Data collected in the Religious Freedom Report 2016 published by Aid to the Church in Need has indicated that of the 22 countries placed in the ‘Persecution’ category, India is one of six that shows evidence of widespread and serious problems caused by authoritarian states.

This is the reality of the Christians of India. A spouse is vulnerable to divorce proceedings and the revoking of parental rights solely on the grounds of conversion after conversion to Christianity. Catholics are not preferred tenants when seeking housing. The list of discriminations is long.

“Freedom of religion needs to be taken care of,” said Father Singh. “These anti-conversion laws are against human rights and human dignity. India was a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a part of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, so it accepts human rights. These cannot be scrapped.”

The role of the Church for the persecuted brothers and sisters of India

“I do recognise that Aid to the Church In Need has played a very important role in the aftermath of the violence, we are grateful to you for extending your support and solidarity for the victims’ survival.”

“We wish that those who are martyrs, for those who have been affected by these issues, who have been attacked; there should be international public hearing, so that this issue could be highlighted and a lesson learned from this.”

“I do fear the next violence: it could be horrible. There should be no second Kandhamal repeated in India,” concludes Father Singh.


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20 thoughts on “Attacks, harassment against Christians high in India: Priest

  1. Did someone say “divert attention from sex scandals”? Which “sex scandal” dear br, dear sr? For as long as they are NOT proven, kindly do NOT label anyone already… that is as good as ‘bearing false witness against our own br+sr’… There ARE allegations, but then that is NOT the whole truth which we must receive yet.

    Coming to the feeling of being harassed, well, IF many feel that way, then that ought to be evaluated AND as a Church we must take precautionary measures to prevent our Institutions from being thrown open for muck-PR which is also great burning material… that which can burn to ashes what must be bound together instead…

    The report of those in the field DO MATTER dear people! As a Church Family, it becomes each of our responsibility to ensure that another is able to share Christ’s LOVE joyfully, NOT fearfully… And IF someone has some fear, it is important for us to alleviate it, not crush and multiply it further, Na? Can anyone who is saying that THERE IS NO FEAR, ensure also that there will be NO MORE harassing instances? And that does NOT mean that our Governments (State/+Center) are NOT doing their part, for whatever must be GOOD results…

    Much prayers continue,
    With love in Christ Jesus everyone,

  2. The content of the article of Fr.Ajaya is absolutely true and for this three kudos to him. When the country has a constitution why fundamentalists and such organisations take upper hand? I have been following the comments of George Nedumpuram for a long time. It is absolutely clear that most of his comments are biased and based not on facts but on his perceptions and what is in his mind. How can an indepedent person call the writer that the political party of Congress is his patron saint. Such comments are clear evidence beyond doubt that he is biased. When the innocent poor are lynched for eating Beef where was George Nedumpuram? When innocent people are murdered on the street and if anyone speaks of it is it a crime? To me George Nedumpuram will be appreciated if he makes his comment based on facts and figures. “contra factum non est argumentum”. Hence it left to his wisdom.

    The ministers take directions and commands from the RSS headquarters. The fact is that the religious freedom is at stake. No party can be blamed for speaking for the victims. If a ruler or party goes against the constitution it must be challenged and questioned. Open the eyes and the ears to sensitize what is happening in the country.

  3. We can go on talking and debating on the attacks on christains and muslims , what say about GAU RAKSHa DALS , which are mushrooming all over indian States. Who gave them the rights to form a parallel force? . No one questions them. They are openly claiming in public about Gau Raksha dals. Are our police / Security forces/ defence not capable of handling such issues. We are all Indians and protected by the constitution.

  4. If ‘Attacks, Harassment Against Christians High in India’ is true, the social workers disguised as priests and nuns must do introspection. ‘My religion is superior to your religion’ attitude and desire to evangelise is the root cause of all the trouble and conflict.

  5. Sister Goretti and brother S Nayak are entitled to their views. But I am a senior citizen and moved among vast strata of Indian society. It requires independent thinking to understand the ways of social workers in clergymen’s attire.

  6. Vincent,India always has good image and it will be but the people who spoil the secularism of our country must be taken seriously.What the Fr.Singh said very true. Pls. see the real suffering of the people. Come and see the reality then comment like that.

  7. Vincent, I think youre in closed mind, and in your own selfish world, Thus, people like you should open up to the reality before saying anything.

  8. The presentation of Father Ajay about Kandhamal is no doubt a past reality in India. The article blames the Congress for it despite the fact, the riot took place under the government of Biju Janata Dal headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He still continues to be the CM. Also statements like “…Catholics are not preferred tenants when seeking housing> are absolutely nonsense. Yes, it is true veterinarian Hindus don’t prefer non-vegetarian Christians in their houses and that does not mean that they are communal or hating Christians. The attacks against Christians, no doubt have increased since after BJP came to power in New Delhi. Still it is a safe place for Christians. Christians too have deviated from their real mission and now have become small MNCs with their schools and business activists.

  9. This is nothing but defaming India on foreign land (Germany) just to get more foreign contribution. God save the Church from such social workers moving around as priests.

  10. Fr Ajay Singh is exaggerating the situation. We Christian lay people are safe and Happy in India. Let’s not spoil India’s good image for foreign funds.

    1. Vincent,India always has good image and it will be but the people who spoil the secularism of our country must be taken seriously.What the Fr.Singh said very true. Pls. see the real suffering of the people. Come and see the reality then comment like that.

  11. No doubt violence against minorities in India has increased. The worst was kandhmal which took place in 2008 during the Congress regime.Today under different rule it is rising to new height. Who is to blame? We Christians have not entered into sincere dialogue with the Hindus. Our dialogue is to convince them theologically but not socially. Also where are lay people in the dialogue. Vatican II has been ignored.

  12. Kandhamal was indeed the worst pogrom against Christians in modern times. However, complaining in international fora only gives our antagonists another stick to beat us with. There are enough good people in India to stand with us.

  13. Thank you for the resourceful article with facts & data’s. Indeed, it shows the conviction and passion that you have for the minority communities. The Church needs bold & prophetic leaders like you who can stand by & be the voice of the voiceless. More power and strength. …God bless you aboundantly

    1. The Christian persecution data in India is not a figment of imagination but a solid truth. However, still some blind Modi deity worshipers with Christian names are afraid to talk about that, especially the colorful cloth outfitted religious hierarchy; which is such a shameful thing to mention.

  14. It is an open truth known to the whole world that the current RSS rulers are in their earnest and devious effort to wipe off Christianity if they could through all the dirty tricks and intimidation. But they have failed miserably to understand that the persecution targeted against the Christians has made them stronger, and they have grown rapidly. The suffering causing to the innocent believers is the hardest thing to tolerate.

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