‘Behead them’—Hindu extremist calls on Indians to kill Christians

November 10, 2021 by Becca Anderson in Asia

“Behead them—those who come for conversion. “Now you’ll say that I am spreading hate although I’m a saint. But it’s important to ignite the fire sometimes. I am telling you; anyone who comes into your house, street, neighborhood, village, don’t forgive them.”

This was the call to a growing crowd at a recent anti-Christian rally labeled “Stop Religious Conversion” in India’s Chattisgarh State. On October 1, Swami Parmatmanand told his audience (which included some senior members of one of the country’s two major political parties) that converts from Hinduism should be killed.

The extremist leader didn’t stop there: “I want to tell those Christians who went away (converted), why did you leave the ocean for the well? I want you to talk to them politely first. Stop them, protest and shoot them,” he added.

An escalating movement

The death message is not Parmatmanand’s ideology alone. He is a prominent leader of the Hindutva movement (made up of several Hindu nationalist groups), which promotes an India based on Hindu values where there is no room for religious minorities. These groups see religious conversion as a threat, and distribute misinformation about religious minorities, including Christians.

And the recent rally isn’t the only one calling for mass violence. Almost daily, our local partners in India bring us reports about the rapidly escalating anti-Christian movement across parts of India. Frenzied demonstrations have already led to beatings and arrests of Christians.

“The way they spread the message of hatred through these rallies and protests is unbelievable,” a local Christian told Open Doors. “They are shouting slogans like, ‘Beat these Christians with shoes,’ ‘Stop conversion to Christianity,’ ‘Save your country’ and ‘Save your Religion.’ The BJP has shifted its focus back to the issue of “forced conversions,” and as a result, there has been a marked intensification against conversions. “Christians are living in fear and under constant pressure from their communities.”

A recent report, “Destructive Lies,” by the London School of Economics and commissioned by Open Doors, notes that disinformation against religious minorities in India “thrives unchecked,” causing minorities to experience “imminent existential threat.”

“Daily life for many Christian and Muslim communities in urban and rural India has become an excruciating struggle to earn a living and practice their faith while also remaining alive and under the radar of the far-right Hindutva organizations that now dominate the Indian public and political sphere,” researchers wrote.

Through the summer and into the fall of 2021, demonstrations in states like Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh have targeted Christians, churches and pastors. Some of the most recent incidents include:

October 3: More than 10 Christians at a prayer gathering were arrested 3 in Uttarakhand state. Just before the meeting started, a mob of almost 300 people descended on the church in Roorkee, destroying properties and beating up church members.

October 10: a group of more than 50 Christians were arrested in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, for allegedly breaking the state’s anti-conversion law. The police kept seven of them in custody, among them three women who were released on bail three days later.

October 19: a pastor was taken to a police station for questioning after a group of Hindu nationalists forced their way into his church in southern Karnataka state, accusing the pastor and other Christians there of forcibly converting people.

As terrifying as these reports are, we also hear reports of Christians standing boldly in the midst of these kinds of attacks. In one demonstration, an irate group of fundamentalist Hindus shamed young Christian women converts and tried to intimidate them into burning Christian literature. Some gave in, fearing for their lives. Others, like one young girl, boldly stood and refused.

“I will not take any other god except my living God,” she said to those forcing her to repeat Hindu slogans. “If you want to kill me, kill me. Instead of tomorrow, I will die today.” The fanatics said she must have been lured into Christianity with money, but she denied this, as well.

photo: IMB.org

To be Indian is to be Hindu

In certain regions of India (the number of areas is growing), Hindu nationalists like Parmatmanand espouse the belief that all Indians must be Hindu— “to be Indian is to be Hindu.” Those who leave Hinduism for Christianity or other religious minorities must die, rather than upset the life and culture of India. Hindus grow up hearing that Hinduism, which began in India thousands of years ago, is not only a religion; it’s a way of life tied into the country’s caste system.

Followers of Jesus, who view all people as equal, and believe there is one truth that guides all of life and eternity, are directly at odds with the Indian system—and thus, Hindu extremists who base everything they do and say on Hindu beliefs. Many times when Christians are arrested, they are charged with sections in the law that deal with “promoting religious disharmony” and “criminal conspiracy.” In Hindus’ perspective, leaving Hinduism for belief in Jesus “robs” Indian society of someone whose place is already predetermined in it.

As long as these laws exist

Although India’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, individual states like Chhattisgarh have subsequently passed anti-conversion laws. These laws prohibit forced or money-induced conversions—such an accusation is easy to make against anyone who shares their faith, regardless of evidence (or lack of ) that shows coercion.

Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh States require someone wanting to convert to another faith to give the government one month’s notice or face fines and penalties. In Chhattisgarh, a district magistrate must give permission for conversion.

As long as laws like these exist, it will be legal to stir crowds with rhetoric against Christians and manipulate the law to justify discrimination, threats and attacks. At this time, Christians in India are uneasy with the continuing demonstrations, and long only to be able to practice their faith peacefully.

top photo: IMB.org

Pray with believers in India

Ask God to calm the demonstrations and bring peaceful understanding to India for all people to worship as they choose.

Pray for government officials who must enforce laws that are being twisted to persecute non-Hindu believers. They are under tremendous pressure to do what the crowds demand.

Pray for those who seek to stir up volatile crowds and turn them against Christians in their communities. Ask God to blunt their weapons of words and cause those messages to fall on deaf ears.

 

 

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