05/26/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) marks the third anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power in India with concern over the continued deterioration of religious freedom and security for the country’s religious minorities. Since coming to power in May 2014, religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, have endured significant increases in attacks on their communities and places of worship.
Over the course of 2016, ICC documented 361 attacks on Christians and their places of worship, making 2016 one of the toughest years for Christians in India’s recent history. These attacks ranged from physical assaults to the vandalism of churches to social boycotts against Christians to even the rape of Christian women. In the first five months of 2017, ICC has already documented another 50 attacks, including a series of attacks leading up to the Easter holiday.
Many of these attacks were reportedly carried out by members of radical Hindu nationalist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Bajrangdal, emboldened by the “tacit approval” of the current government led by Prime Minister Modi. According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions.”
“Prime Minister Modi claims to be doing a better job for the country, but ever since he became Prime Minister things have become worse for Christians,” Pastor Mahesh Chand from Uttar Pradesh told ICC. “Attacks have increased year after year and there is sense of insecurity among the Christians as the authorities seem to be backing the Hindu radicals.”
“On average, at least one documented case is recorded every day by several Christian groups and helplines run, for instance, by the United Christian Forum,” Dr. John Dayal, a religious freedom activist in India, told ICC. “India faced sharp scrutiny at the United Nations Human Rights Council this May when its record of human rights violations in the 2012-16 Universal Period Review cycle came up for discussion in Geneva.”
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Today marks the end of another difficult year for Christians in India. Religious intolerance and hostility continue to rise as the BJP-led government fails to confront radical Hindu nationalist groups perpetrating much of the violence against India’s religious minorities. For India’s Christians, Prime Minister Modi’s time in office has been marked by little else than fear and the increasing violence facing members of their community. India’s constitution guarantees the right of religious freedom for all, yet Prime Minister Modi and his BJP-led government have done little to make this constitutional guarantee a reality for India’s religious minorities. If India is to continue to be considered one of the world’s leading secular democracies, this trend cannot and must not continue.”