Escalating Trouble in Southern India
Church leaders in India are alarmed over a dramatic increase in violent attacks against Christians in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where one pastor has been murdered and others beaten, and churches have been demolished.
On Dec. 28, in the town of Narketpally in Andhra Pradesh, Suverthamma Moses responded to a late-night knock at the door, and was struck on the head with an iron bar, then stabbed by her attackers. When her husband, Nama Moses, a Baptist pastor, rushed to her rescue, he was stabbed multiple times.
“The attack took less than 10 minutes while three extremists were standing outside the house. The neighbors later came to their rescue, and rushed them to the Kameneni Hospital,” Franklin Sudharkar, General Secretary of the All India Christian Council, told World Watch Monitor.
Thankfully, Moses and his wife survived the vicious attack. Sudharkar said the Hindu Vahini, a nationalist youth organization suspected in the Dec. 28 stabbings, is responsible for severely injuring at least six pastors in separate attacks throughout Andhra Pradesh.
The All India Christian Council documented 72 incidents of anti-Christian violence and hostility in Andhra Pradesh in 2013, nearly double the 39 recorded in 2012. Today the state, India’s fifth-most populous, has the country’s highest rate of anti-Christian incidents, according to the All India Christian Council.
“The jump from 39 incidents in 2012 to 72 incidents in 2013 is alarming, and the reasons for this escalated growth on the Christian minorities is the culmination of every effort of the right-wing political party to woo the majority of the communal agenda in the coming election of 2014,” Moses Vatipalli, a project coordinator for the All India Christian Council, told World Watch Monitor.
India’s “communal agenda” arises from the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s promotion of “a clear vision of India’s civilizational consciousness,” which it says “has its roots in Bharatiya, or Hindu world view.” In that view, according to the party, “almost all religions practiced in different parts of the world have existed peacefully in India, and will continue to do so.”
Though the official policy sounds harmless, the reality is somewhat different. The BJP is the ruling party in three of the five Indian states with laws forbidding forced religious conversions – laws that are frequently used to shut down churches or intimidate Christians who speak about their faith. The party has proposed stiffer penalties in Madhya Pradesh, India’s second largest state.
Though the BJP holds only two of the 294 seats in the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly, the party has been making inroads across India. National parliamentary elections are scheduled for May with Narendra Modi as the BJP’s candidate for prime minister.
Meanwhile, pressure on Christians continues to increase.
On New Year’s Eve, extremists in the town of Rajamundry set fire to a worship center operated by a church named Dr. John Wesley of Young Holy Team, after church members concluded a night service.
On Jan. 10, in Vakirabad town, armed Hindu Vanihi militants knocked on the door of Pastor O. Sanjeevi of Hebron Church, hitting his wife with an iron rod when she opened the door. The attackers then stabbed Pastor Sanjeevi eight times. He died three days later, leaving behind his wife and four children. “About 250 church members he looked after felt bewildered and deprived by the incident,” an area church leader, Rev. Madhusudan Das of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told World Watch Monitor.
In response to the recent murder, the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches petitioned the state chief minister and the National Human Rights Commission of India to improve protection for Christians.
The most recent attack, on the morning of Feb. 2, a Sunday, left the Bethel Gospel church building in Hyderabad, a western district of Andhra Pradesh, burnt to ashes.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we lift up the grieving families of those who have been injured and killed in recent months. Hold them close in the tender comfort of Your presence with them. Protect them from the increase in violence, and bring peace to this part of India. Equip the Christians to face each day clothed with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and on their feet the readiness of the gospel of peace. Protect them with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is Your Word. Ever remind them that their struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Fill them to overflow with Your loving compassion so that it spills over into the lives of those around them, and draws many to Yourself. In the name of Jesus, to whom belongs all glory and honor, Amen.