Report: Christians in India Suffered ‘Targeted Violence’ Throughout 2020

A Christian nun holds a crucifix during a Good Friday procession in Hyderabad, India, Friday, March 30, 2018. Christians all over the world attend mock crucifixions and passion plays that mark the day Jesus was crucified, known to Christians as Good Friday. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.

Indian Christians were victims of at least 327 instances of discrimination and targeted violence during 2020, the Barnabas Fund revealed this week.

Citing the annual report of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the Barnabas Fund — a charity providing aid to persecuted Christians — noted that violence against Christians in India included five murders, six churches torched or destroyed, and 26 incidents of social boycotting.

“Christians, especially in rural areas of several states across the country, were victims of violence, had their congregational prayers disturbed, and places of worship attacked,” the EFI stated in its report, which acknowledged it is by no means an exhaustive list.

The report echoed the findings of Open Doors, which last week released its own yearly World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian. India ranked number ten on that list.

In India, “Christians are persecuted in all areas of public and private life, and anti-conversion laws (currently in nine states, with more considering adoption) are abused to harass and intimidate Christians,” the annual report declared.

In India, religious identity is increasingly tied to national identity — meaning that to be a “real” Indian, you must be a Hindu, a notion often implicitly — if not explicitly — encouraged by the ruling government.

Less than a decade ago, India was ranked number 31 on the World Watch List but has steadily climbed the ranks every year since Narendra Modi, a hardliner of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came to power as prime minister in 2014.

The belief that Christians are not truly “Indian” means widespread discrimination and persecution is often carried out with impunity, since authorities easily look the other way rather than investigating charges of abuse against Christians. India also continues to block the flow of foreign funds to many Christian-run hospitals, schools, and church organizations, all under the guise of protecting the Indian national identity.

According to the EFI report: “The most alarming development has been the expansion and scope of the notorious Freedom of Religion Acts, which are commonly known as anti-conversion laws.” This legislation renders Christians who actively share their faith vulnerable to false accusation, and the laws effectively have the potential to criminalize all conversions.

As a result of the anti-conversion laws, “religious minorities can now be targeted by just about anyone, especially vigilante groups many of whom are complicit in the mob violence of earlier years in campaigns against beef and the slaughter of cows,” the report stated. “Moreover, this law places the burden of proof on the person who has been accused of conversion.”

At least 66 Christians were falsely accused or arrested in India in 2020.

Most recently, Uttar Pradesh became the eighth state in India to adopt an anti-conversion law, when in November 2020 it passed the “Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance.” Earlier this month, members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hardline Hindu group, employed the new law to accuse five Christians of trying to unlawfully convert people to Christianity.

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