The south Indian state of Karnataka was identified in 2011 as the most unsafe place for the Christian minority in India for the third consecutive year. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s (EFI)annual report, “Battered and Bruised….”, Karnataka remained the state with the highest incidence of persecution in 2011 with 49 cases of violence and hostility against Christians. Between Christmas Eve 2011 and New Year’s Day alone, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) documented at least six anti-Christian attacks.
On the evening of December 25, Compass Direct News reported that about 20 people beat Christians with stones and wooden clubs as they celebrated Christmas at a house a few miles from the city of Mangalore. The attackers, allegedly from a local extremist Hindu Jagran Vedike (Hindu Revival Forum), indiscriminately attacked the Christians, including women and children. A 27-year-old man identified only as Joyson, a pastor’s wife identified as Lata, a 29-year-old woman identified as Roshini, a woman identified as Annamma , and a 23-year-old man identified only as Deepak, were all injured in the attack. A local Christian told Compass by phone that police arrested five of the attackers, but that they had been released on bail.
On the evening of December 28, a group of men from the nationalist Hindu Sriram Sene disrupted the prayer meeting of the Divyadarsana Ministry Church at the home of a Christian. Alleging the meeting was to convert Hindus, the men tried to manhandle the Christians. When the police arrived, instead of detaining the intruders, they took Pastor Raju Doddamani, Naik and three other Christians to the police station for interrogation. The believers were released late that night.
The same day, unidentified persons burned a Christmas tree and a crib that were part of Christmas celebrations by local Catholics. Police arrested two men, but their identities were not disclosed. Police reportedly said the decorations were burned over suspicion of “conversions.” However, evangelizing and conversion are legal in India.
Also on December 28, suspected Hindu nationalists ransacked the building and broke the windows of the Hebron Assembly Church. The attackers also destroyed household items in the house of the pastor, identified only as Prasanna. Police registered a case against the attackers, but at press time no one was reported to have been arrested.
On New Year’s Eve, more than 10 men invaded a service of thanksgiving at Karnataka Calvary Fellowship Church. The group of suspected Hindu nationalists forced the church to stop the service. Police arriving on the scene only summoned the pastor, identified as P.R. Jose, to the police station the following morning.
And then on the evening of January 1, about 20 men disrupted the New Year’s Day worship service of the Blessing Youth Mission Church at the house of a believer, manhandling Pastor Siddu Seemanth Gunike and accusing him of forcibly and fraudulently converting Hindus. Local police intervened to rescue the pastor and other Christians.
The attacks on Christians in Karnataka are “shameful” and “a blot on the secular and democratic India,” GCIC President Sajan K. George said. The local government and authorities were “complicit in the persecution against Christians,” he added. Anti-Christian attacks have continued and even escalated in the state after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to sole power in May 2008.
In its 2010 report of Christian persecution in India, the EFI had warned about increasing attacks on Christians in Karnataka, remarking that “although in 2007 and 2008 two major incidents of violence occurred in eastern Orissa state’s Kandhamal district and hit headlines in the national as well as international media, little efforts have been taken by authorities in India to tackle the root causes of communal tensions, namely divisive propaganda and activities by powerful right-wing Hindu groups, who do not represent the tolerant Hindu community.” Christians account for about 2.3 percent of India’s population, which is more than 1 billion.
Father, we lift up Christians in Karnataka state of India. Comfort them in the midst of the attacks in the past month. Protect them from further attack, but also protect them from fear as they gather to worship You. Soften the hearts of the authorities to provide security and deal with the root causes of the tension between Hindus and Christians. Give thanks for the many Hindus who are tolerant of their Christian friends and neighbors. In the name of Jesus who is our sure defense, Amen.