Violence against Christians in India rises yet again

July 8, 2021 by Christopher Summers in Research

India has long been known as a violent country for followers of Jesus. That’s why it’s ranked in the top 10 of the World Watch List for the last two years.

 

But many observers assumed the violence in India would go down in 2020 because of COVID-19. The lockdowns imposed in India made movement much more difficult and minimized potential public confrontations that could turn violent.

 

Open Doors just compiled the final data from 2020. And it turns out: the assumption was wrong.

In fact, violence went up in India in 2020 from 2019, despite a decrease in the number of reports we received from our local partners due to the travel restrictions created by COVID-19. While in 2019, our local partners received reports of 825 incidents of Christians facing persecution for their faith, in 2020 the total number of incidents was 698.

However, despite receiving fewer reports, the incidents that did get reported to Open Doors local partners in 2020 appear to show an increase in violence towards Christians in India. In 2019 eight murders were recorded, compared with 18 in 2020.

See how India’s extremist violence against Christians played out in one believer’s life

In 2019, 1,676 Christians were reported as being physically abused, while in 2020 there were 1,893 individuals who reported beatings.

And in 2019, there were 51 reports of homes or properties that belong to Christians that were damaged, while in 2020 there were 201 such reports.

It’s important to remember that the 698 incidents of severe persecution reported to Open Doors’ local partners on the ground, likely only represent a small fraction of the overall persecution of and discrimination against the 66 million Christians in India. Plus, there’s no doubt the pandemic played a role in the violence reports we received this year. “We know that the reported figures are just the tip of the iceberg,” an Open Doors spokesperson says. “Many incidents go unreported. A major cause for this is that sadly many Christians who live in rural areas think that persecution is normal, and they can’t do anything about it. They don’t know their rights. And the pandemic is another factor. Our partners are less able to investigate incidents due to all the restrictions.”

Some of the reasons for the increasingly violent persecution faced by Christians in India are explained by a research report commissioned by Open Doors and conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The report, Destructive Lies: Disinformation, speech that incites violence and discrimination against religious minorities in India, shows how often attacks and persecution against religious minorities are ignored. These attacks are sometimes even condoned by powerful forces and people in India—including state and regional government, police, and media—to keep on the good side India’s vocal minority of radical Hindu nationalists.

The report explains, “It is now frequently the case that violent squads or vigilante mobs of [radical Hindu] men with connections to local and national politicians or ambitions to be noticed and rewarded by local or national politicians intrude into the homes and places of worship of these communities, looking to start violence.”

Download the new report

Commissioned by Open Doors, the new report on religious persecution in India was conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science, a world-renowned research institution. The report makes it clear that religious minorities in India are under attack.

Get the report
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