Christian leaders in India are demanding action be taken against a mob of 200 radical Hindu nationalists who left a church damaged and at least three Christian women seriously injured in an attack in India's northern state of Uttarakhand.
The attackers accused the church of "illegally" converting people to Christianity.
The Union of Catholic Asian News reports that a police complaint indicates that the mob attacked the church on Oct. 3 in Roorkee city's Solanipuram Colony and comprised members of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party and radical Hindu nationalist groups associated with the party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.
As the service was about to begin, the mob reportedly barged into the church, thrashed the congregants and vandalized church properties, injuring at least three Christian women who were taken to a hospital in Dehradun city.
Video footage of the damage caused by the attack was posted on social media.
The attackers claimed the church was engaged in illegal conversion activities.
The police complaint acknowledges that 200 people attacked the church, but no one was initially reported to have been arrested. However, a case has been filed against the perpetrators.
"We demand strict action against them and police protection for us," Prio Sadhana Lanse, a leader in the church and who filed the police complaint, was quoted as saying.
Lanse said the church members recognized many individuals in the mob as they had previously threatened to shut down the church.
"The church that was attacked has been active for the past 30 to 40 years," Rev. Titoo Peter, a Methodist pastor, told UCA News. "Christians in Roorkee enjoy good relations with people of other faiths, and this is the first incident of a church being attacked. It is the handiwork of some bad elements who do not want peace and harmony in the area."
Uttarakhand is one of the several Indian states that have "anti-conversion" laws.
While some of these laws existed for decades in some states, no Christian has been convicted of "forcibly" converting anyone to Christianity. These laws, however, enable Hindu nationalist groups to make false charges against Christians. Nationalists are emboldened to attack churches under the pretext of the alleged forced conversion.
Hindu nationalists have accused Christians of giving financial benefits to Hindus to convert them to Christianity. Anti-conversion laws state that no one is allowed to use the "threat" of "divine displeasure." This means Christians can't talk about Heaven or Hell. Also, if snacks or meals are served to Hindus after an evangelistic meeting, that could be seen as an "inducement."
Christians make up about 2.5% of India's population, while Hindus comprise 79.5%.
India ranks as the 10th-worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the U.S. State Department to label India as a "country of particular concern" for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations.
Open Doors USA warns that since the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party 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."