The morning after Christmas Day, the Christian community in India’s northern state of Haryana found a life-size statue of Jesus Christ at the entrance to their historic church desecrated and the lighting inside the premises damaged.
The statue was vandalized between 12:30 a.m. and 1:40 a.m. Sunday after two unidentified men arrived on a motorbike and jumped over the main gate of the 19th century Holy Redeemer Church in Ambala district’s cantonment area, the parish priest, Patras Mundu, told The Hindu newspaper.
The suspects first damaged the lighting and the decoration inside the premises and then threw bricks at the glass cage that housed the statue of Jesus, the priest said.
“While one of them was pulling down the lighting, the other was recording it on his phone. They were also in contact with someone over phone as if taking instructions. The face of one of the suspects is clearly visible and should not be difficult for the police to trace him,” Fr. Mundu was quoted as saying.
The priest added that the suspects appeared to be acting at someone’s behest, adding: “The agenda seems to disturb the Christian community."
Police told the media they are analyzing the footage of the incident.
Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh state’s Agra city, about 280 miles from Ambala, Hindu nationalists burned effigies of Santa Claus, accusing Christian missionaries of using the tradition of gifts to commemorate the birth of Christ to convert people to Christianity, Republic World reported.
“As December comes, the Christian missionaries become active in the name of Christmas, Santa Claus and New Year. They allure children by making Santa Claus distribute gifts to them and attract them towards Christianity,” Ajju Chauhan, the regional general secretary of the extreme Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, claimed.
While Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%, the country’s 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 passed “anti-conversion” laws that 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.
Days before Christmas, the southern state of Karnataka became the 10th state in India to pass an anti-conversion law.
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 group warns that since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, persecution against Christians and other religious minorities has increased.
Open Doors USA 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 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 in October they had documented over 300 incidents of Christian persecution in just the first nine months of 2021. They warned that this year might be the worst in terms of the number of such incidents in the country’s history.