Christians have to prepare for another not so ‘Merry Christmas’ in India
As many of the world’s Christians prepare to celebrate the Christmas holiday, Christians in India are struggling with a growing sense of fear. In just a single week in December, International Christian Concern (ICC) documented over half a dozen instances of religious persecution against Indian Christians. In some cases, entire programs have been cancelled due to fear that the programs will invite attacks.
As a result of these incidents, at least 10 Christians were arrested on trumped up criminal charges, 25 Christian families were cut off from clean drinking water, and several churches, including one church with nearly 600 members, were shut down. Unfortunately, this trend of increasing intolerance and persecution is nothing new for India’s Christians, and it is having an impact on the community’s ability to freely celebrate the Christmas holiday.
“We have cancelled all our Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village, including carols, cottage meetings, and pre-Christmas events,” Pastor Raja Bhovi, head pastor of His Grace Church located in India’s Karnataka State, told ICC. “There is a fear of being attacked by Hindu radicals.”
On December 4, Pastor Bhovi’s church community was attacked by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists as they were clearing a plot of land for the construction of a church. The Christians were brutally beaten by the extremists as a result.
“We were small in number at the police station compared to mob of Hindu radicals,” Pastor Bhovi explained. “All of the 25 Christian families were present at the police station to lodge a complaint, however, the police told us that Christians cannot hold any meetings in the village and that pastors from outside the village cannot visit the Christian families, even during this festive season.”
After this, the extremists in the village cut off the water supply for all 25 Christian families. According to locals, the radicals told the Christians that they would be driven out of the village unless the agreed to recant their faith.
“We are bringing all of the 25 Christian families to Arsikare, a town that is 30 kilometers away from Banni Mardatti village, to celebrate Christmas,” Pastor Bhovi told ICC. “Our hope is that we will have a peaceful Christmas celebration, even though it is away from our homes.”
In another incident of persecution affecting the Christmas holiday, a church in Uttar Pradesh was shut down by extremists after they filed a false criminal complaint against the church’s pastor. On December 8, Pastor Ramjit was called to the local police station where he was told that he had been accused of being involved in forced religious conversions. The police went on to tell Pastor Ramjit that he was no longer allowed to hold Sunday worship services at his church.
“If we fail to get permission, we will have to organize several smaller gatherings in homes on Christmas day,” Pastor Ramjit said. “We are going to have a service one way or another.”
“We are very uncertain about this year’s Christmas,” Pastor Ramjit told ICC. “Unlike previous years, we have been told to shut down our church since December 8.
It is a very painful situation for us now. We are all hoping that things will change.” he continued.
Currently, Pastor Ramjit is working hard to obtain permission from local authorities to at least allow him to hold a Christmas service on December 25.
Across India, Christians are facing similar challenges this Christmas season. With persecution and religious intolerance continuing to rise, many are adjusting their Christmas celebrations. In some cases, entire programs have been cancelled due to fear that the programs will invite attacks. Please remember to pray for your Indian brothers and sisters in Christ this difficult Christmas season.