Christians in Northern India Forgo Christmas Celebrations After ‘Record’ Year of Persecution

An Indian army soldier (R) stands along with villagers in front of a ransacked church that
ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

The Hindu nationalist government of India presided over the escalation of Christian persecution in the country at a “record pace” in 2023, religious freedom experts told Breitbart News, and faces little to no pressure to protect their Christian populations from the West.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly claimed in public — including on the lawn of the White House in June — that India is not a hotbed of persecution or violence against religious minorities.

“I’m actually really surprised that people say so. And so, people don’t say it. Indeed, India is a democracy,” Modi said while standing next to President Joe Biden during a visit to Washington this year. “We have always proved that democracy can deliver. And when I say deliver, this is regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender. There’s absolutely no space for discrimination.”

In reality, Hindu nationalists organized mob attacks on Christian communities throughout the year, burning down churches and often destroying entire neighborhoods, leaving Christians displaced. The worst of the violence in 2023 occurred in Manipur, northern India, where members of the majority Hindu Meitei tribe went on a rampage against majority Christian Kuki-Zo communities throughout the spring and summer, often filming their atrocities. Modi’s government did not comment on the matter until a video went viral in the rest of the country showing a mob of presumably Meitei men raping Christian women in broad daylight and parading them naked through the streets.

“The police were there with the mob which was attacking our village,” one of the assaulted women revealed in an anonymous interview in July. “The police picked us up from near home and took us a little away from the village and left us on the road with the mob. We were given to them by police.”

At least tens of thousands of people remain displaced in Manipur as of September, according to the United Nations.

As a result, Christmas celebrations will be largely absent in Manipur, local media reported Thursday.

“The violence continues. In this environment, nobody can celebrate Christmas, or any other festival like before,” Manipur local Helamboi Baite told the Indian outlet. “It won’t be the same for us. Maybe, families would have a somber celebration inside their homes, but I don’t think any gathering will take place in the streets.”

Manipur Christians held a mass funeral for the remains of 87 people killed in the mob violence erupting in May on December 19; they had not received the remains of their loved ones before then.

“The youngest tribal victim in the ongoing violence is one-month-old Isaac, while the oldest is 87-year-old Veinem Chongloi,” the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), a Kuki-Zo organization, said in a statement, according to The Print.

The outburst of anti-Christian violence in Manipur followed a protest by Christians in New Delhi in February in which a crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 people demanded the Modi government act to protect Christian communities.

“We’ve gathered here peacefully because we want to share the anguish of our fellow citizens who follow the Christian faith in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and so many other places where their basic fundamental rights are being snatched,” said the United Christian Forum, a human rights group participating in the rally.

The national government in New Delhi rarely actively participates in this violence but also does little to stop it.

“The Brahmins that sit atop the cultural landscape of India (Prime Minister Modi and his political party, the BJP) see Christianity as a direct threat to their status and power and are therefore intent on strangling it,” Jeff King, the president of International Christian Concern (ICC) and author of The Last Words of the Martyrstold Breitbart News. “Modi is a very savvy world-leading politician that will never be seen making anti-Christian comments. His main job is to stay silent in response to attacks on Christians.”

“Violence against Christians this year continued at a record pace,” he explained, “and will eclipse the 600 recorded attacks in 2022. Large-scale riots by radical Hindus in Chhattisgarh and Udar Pradesh displaced thousands of Christians and destroyed hundreds of homes and churches earlier this year, beginning in the late fall of 2022.”

“Because of Modi and his government’s inaction in Manipur, we saw an incredible outbreak of anti-Christian violence,” King continued. “Christians suffered greatly under the brutal attacks and hundreds of churches were targeted. While it’s been difficult to get accurate information from the region because of the government’s lockdown, by summer 200-400 Christian churches, including at least two dozen Meiti churches, and dozens of temples had been destroyed along more than 3,500 houses.”

“Just in the last 12 months, you have massive riots in Chhattisgarh against churches and of course in Manipur in the north, where over 350 churches were destroyed,” David Curry, the president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, told Breitbart News in a recent conversation. “And when you think of it, that’s a lot of churches, that is a lot of people who have been displaced, hundreds of thousands — and the government has done little to nothing about it.”

“They wouldn’t even acknowledge it was happening until a video escaped of that young Christian girl being raped caused such an uproar. So it’s shameful,” he added, urging the U.S. government to pressure “friends” such as India and Nigeria, where jihadist terrorists regularly destroy Christian communities, to address the safety and freedom of Christians at home.

Biden welcomed Modi to Washington for a state dinner, the highest honor for a foreign head of government, in June. The leaders exchanged personal gifts and Modi signed a range of agreements with both Washington and American companies, prominently a deal to jointly manufacture jet engines with General Electric. The Biden administration was careful not to condemn Modi’s handling of mob violence against Christians in his country, instead hailing India as a “vibrant democracy” and worthy partner.

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participate in a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on September 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden is hosting a Quad Leaders Summit later today with Prime Minister Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. (Photo by Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participate in a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on September 24, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images)

“I think what the American government should do is start with our friends and I put Nigeria and India in that category because these are countries which, by all rights, are democracies,” Curry told Breitbart News. “They’re going to want to have relationships with us and we should use that friendship and all of the hundreds of millions — and ,who knows, even billions of dollars — that we are putting into security and so forth in these countries to create a stronger human rights and religious freedom environment.”

“But India is going the other way despite all that we are doing with them and for them, military contracts, et cetera, business contracts,” he observed. “They — the government, the administration in charge there — is targeting Christians and Muslims, any religious minorities, those that are not Hindus and creating a very difficult environment for them.”

“We need to draw a tough line on religious persecution,” he urged.

King, of ICC, predicted violence against Christians in India would continue unabated without outside pressure.

“Until India’s business interests and Western capital flows are affected, the hate speech and anti-Christian activities urged on by Modi (silently) and the BJP (openly) will continue or keep growing,” he told Breitbart News.

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