Southern India: Violence Against Christians Ratchets Up

October 10, 2018

Christianity has been in India since apostolic times, brought there by St. Thomas the Apostle in A.D. 52, as attested by St. Ephraim, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian, among others. St. Thomas was martyred in India in A.D. 72. Today the Malankara Orthodox Church of the East still survives there, an apostolic Church that broke with Holy Orthodoxy over the Council of Chalcedon in 451. There also remains a small number of Orthodox Christians under the jurisdiction of the the Holy Metropolis of Singapore. Roman Catholics and Protestants came to the Indian Subcontinent much later. As this article shows, Christians are frequently persecuted in India, treated as “Untouchables” by the Hindu majority. This persecution occasionally turns violent. Christians of the ancient apostolic Churches are less often subjected to this treatment than are evangelical Protestants, but this persecution is a matter of concern for all Christians, and for all people of good will who believe in the dignity of every human person and in every person’s freedom to worship as his or her conscience dictates.

“Violence against Christians Ratchets Up in Southern India,” Morning Star News, October 9, 2018:

Christians in southern India are increasingly living in fear as the level of violence against them continues to rise, sources said.

The southern states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala saw at least 60 cases of persecution of Christians in the first nine months of 2018, compared with 36 such attacks in the first nine months of 2017, according to religious freedom advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India.

Although none of the states’ governments has explicit connections with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), commonly known as the political arm of the Hindu extremist Sangh Parivar (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates), the RSS volunteers are found throughout regional, secular parties, sources said.

“In Tamil Nadu, RSS activists are provoking the Hindus in their speeches at public gatherings to cause communal tension,” the Rev. Sagaya Raj, deputy secretary of the (Roman Catholic) Tamil Nadu Bishops Council told Morning Star News. “The current situation is alarming – our state was a peace-loving state, and we lived in harmony. The recent attacks on Christian community are very disturbing.”

In one case, a mob of nomadic Hindus in Veppur village, Vellore District, on Sept. 13 attacked an elderly Christian woman as she took her usual late-evening walk while they were celebrating the birthday of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha in a procession.

As Hindus were carrying a Ganesha idol, four members of the mob stopped her and rebuked her for using the road, Christian resident Esther Moses told Morning Star News.

“One was yelling, ‘You converted to Christianity, and you are an ‘untouchable’ – how can you use the road when our Vinayagar [Ganesha in Tamil] is passing from here? You are impure, and now you made the road impure by walking on it,’” Moses said.

The rest of mob also reviled her for “defiling” their festivities, she said.

“They became very aggressive, so that they started beating her,” Moses told Morning Star News. “The entire neighborhood belongs to nomadic tribes – they are not upper castes over us, yet the Hindu gypsies hate us and treat us like untouchables.”

Church members who live on the same street rushed to rescue her and were also attacked, she said.

“It is not just about the Ganesha procession – they always had problems with Christians using the road,” she said. “They warned us several times in the past. They tell us, ‘We belong to RSS, and you are Christians. We cannot both walk on the same road. If you see us passing by, go inside your houses and don’t come out until we are gone.”

More than 10 Christians sustained minor injuries, including a father and son who took strong blows to their heads and noses, Moses said.

“The goons in the mob were heavily drunk,” she said. “They started hurling stones at the Christians who came to rescue the elderly lady.”

Pastor Emmanuel Paul of the Tamil Nadu Synod of Pentecostal Churches told Morning Star news 13 injured Christians were admitted to a government hospital that night. They were later transferred to Christian Medical College hospital in Vellore.

“The boy who suffered the nose injury was gasping for breath, his nasal bone was fractured,” Pastor Paul said. “And his dad received blows on his head and was bleeding heavily.”

Moses’ husband, a convert from a nomadic Hindu tribe, planted a church in the area about four years ago.

“At least 50 believers gather for worship services every Sunday, and this road off our street is the only route that connects us to the church,” she said.

Church leaders submitted a written complaint, and police registered a First Information Report (FIR), but they said they have no indication that any action has been taken against the assailants….

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.