Seven Christian families in Jharkhand state were summoned to a village meeting last year and told they would be ousted from their village because of their faith. Village leaders told villagers not to allow the families to use water from the well, graze their animals on village pastures, or use the village pond. They were told that the property of these families would soon be destroyed or seized.
This kind of incident is not uncommon. India’s believers are subject to eviction, attack and killings. In Odisha ormer Orissa) state, where Christians suffered horrific violence in 2007-8, violent incidents continue. Officially, India is a secular state and, allows freedom of religion, but there has been a clear change in the government stance since May 2014 when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, came to power. In the first 300 days of BJP rule, 168 incidents of anti-Christian violence were recorded. Some Christians believe that Hindu nationalism is advancing so rapidly that true democrac and religious liberty could end in less than a year. India’s state-level “freedom of religion” laws, masked as protective measures, impede a Hindu from converting to another religion. Implemented to varying degrees in six of the country’s states, they are often misused to accuse Christians of converting Hindus to Christianity through force, fraud or allurement.
Prayer meetings are frequently interrupted (often violently by supporters of Hindutva (a political stance requiring all Indians to adhere to Hinduism). Believers found they are sometimes beaten and insulted. In remote tribal areas of the country, Christians are often “caught in the crossfire” of the Indian military targeting Naxalite-Maoist guerilla groups.
The growing Christian population is now estimated at over 25 million (2%). Two-thirds are Dalits, who are at the very bottom of the Indian caste system, meaning that Christians are often very poor and despised. Christian and Muslim Dalits are not eligible for the advantages in jobs and education that the government has given to other Dalits since 1950.
Pray for protection for India’s Christians who are subject to abuse, harassment and violence from radical Hindu groups. Pray that the government will ensure freedom for Hindus to convert to Christianity. Ask also that there will be a government decision to grant Christian and Muslim Dalits the same benefits that are provided for Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits.