Sixteen pastors have been falsely accused of disturbing the peace because they met with an official regarding the case of another pastor who had also been charged with “disturbing peace” after radical Hindu nationalists attacked his church.
Police filed a case against the 16 pastors on Nov. 13, the day they went to the local magistrate’s office in the southern Indian state of Karnataka for peace talks on behalf of the Christian community and Pastor Chandrakanth, who had been told to appear before the official that day, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern which didn't disclose the exact location.
On Nov. 7, about 40 radical Hindu nationalists had attacked Pastor Chandrakanth and his congregation during a worship service. After the mob stormed the worship hall, church members formed a human barrier between their pastor and the radical Hindus.
“The congregation stood before me as a human fence,” the pastor was quoted as saying. “Otherwise, they would have killed me. The radicals want to wipe out Christianity from this area and they think it is easy under the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government, presently ruling the state.”
However, after the police arrived on the scene, they filed a case against Pastor Chandrakanth, not the mob, for disturbing the peace.
While Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%, radical Hindu nationalists have been carrying out attacks on Christians under the pretext of punishing the minority for allegedly using monetary rewards to convert Hindus to Christianity.
Several Indian states have “anti-conversion” laws, which presume that Christians “force” or give financial benefits to Hindus to lure them into converting to Christianity. While some of these laws have been in place for decades, no Christian has been convicted of “forcibly” converting anyone to Christianity. These laws, however, allow Hindu nationalist groups to make false charges against Christians and launch attacks on them under the pretext of the alleged forced conversion.
India ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List.
Open Doors USA warns that since the Hindu nationalist BJP took power in 2014, persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased.
The group reports that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”
“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”
Human rights groups in India said last month they had documented over 300 incidents of Christian persecution in just the first nine months of 2021, warning that this year might be the worst in terms of the number of such incidents in the country’s history.