Over the past five years, persecution in the world’s second-most populous country has increased significantly and in 2020 discrimination and violence against Christians remained relatively unchanged. For the third consecutive year, India has ranked as the 10th most dangerous place for Christians.
The outcome of the country’s national elections in 2019 gave the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even more political power—emboldening ultra-nationalist radicals to spread their message that to be Indian is to be Hindu and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam. These nationalists use extensive violence to achieve their goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians in certain parts of India, especially house church leaders, face horrific levels of violence from these extremists—thousands of attacks take place every year. And in rural India, Hindu tribes uses water and food as weapons against Christians, cutting them off from access to the village’s water supply and government-subsidized groceries.
Converts to Christianity from a Hindu background are especially vulnerable to persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism through campaigns known as Ghar Wapsi (“homecoming”). This year, Indian nationalists led a violent door-to-door Ghar Wapsi campaign aimed at reconverting Christians to Hinduism.
The COVID-19 pandemic offered a new weapon for persecutors, as Christians in many parts of India were often deliberately overlooked for official COVID-19 food and aid. This discrimination turned deadly, leaving many starving believers struggling to survive, particularly since many Indian Christians are part of the Dalit caste and thus very poor.
In 2020, more of India’s 28 states instituted anti-conversion laws, used to abuse, harass and intimidate Christians, and the BJP has made it clear that it wants to impose these laws nationwide. Currently, nine states have voted for these laws with more considering adoption. Such laws are often used as an excuse to disrupt church services and harass Christians, making it incredibly difficult for believers to share their faith with others without fear or legal repercussions.
In much of India, saying “yes” to Jesus has become a risky decision that costs Christians and their families greatly.
One Church, one Family
The facts and numbers are important. They help us frame the big picture of what’s happening. But the World Watch List research offers a bigger vision and story. Behind every statistic and fact is a life, a family, a church that represents deep suffering but also courage and resilient faith. People who know the consequences yet still choose Jesus. Through our Savior, we and every Christian living in North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan and the rest of the top 50 countries on the 2020 World Watch List are one Church, one Family.
To help you pray with our sisters and brothers,, Open Doors has a mobile prayer app that alerts you to prayer requests from believers. Learn more about it and sign up to get regular updates delivered to your phone. You can also download our FREE World Watch List handbook to learn about all 50 countries and get specific prayer points for believers in each nation.
*representative names and photos used for security reasons