For Indian Christians, the turn of the new year has regrettably ushered in more of the same persecution- according to Persecution Watch, a project coordinated by the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission, in just the first month of 2021, there have been 29 incidents of violations of religious freedom against the nation’s Christian minority community. This list includes all instances in which Christians have been “targeted, opposed, threatened or physically attacked.”
Religious Liberty Commission recorded the highest number of FoRB violations in the state of Madhya Pradesh (9), followed by Uttar Pradesh (6), and Chhattisgarh (5). Less than five incidents were reported in Odisha (3), Maharashtra (2), Bihar (1), Jharkhand (1), Rajasthan (1), and Telangana (1). Important to note is that the two states with the highest frequency of FoRB violations against Christians, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, anti-religious-conversion legislations have been implemented in late 2020 and early 2021. According to RLC, “Concerns have been raised about these ordinances being unconstitutional and they are being challenged in court.”
On 17 January 2021, three separate incidents were reported. In Ambua village, MP, some religious radicals accused Pastor Mukesh Davar of engaging in “illegal religious conversion activities”, causing the pastor to be arrested during a prayer gathering. Pastor Davar was released only after numerous local and national Christian organizations demanded an impartial investigation into the charges. In Gopalganj, Bihar, religious radical extremists ambushed Pastor Kamlesh Kumar’s worship activity and accused him of wrongfully converting others to Christianity; Pastor Kumar was able to escape the mob by finding a secure hiding place. In adjacent state of Jharkhand, a Christian woman, Anita, and her mother, both members of Believers Church, were assaulted by a group of community members disgruntled about the individuals’ faith.
On 18 January 2021, in Madhya Pradesh, a group of community members gathered to conspire that local Christian missionaries were unlawfully evangelizing and were “eroding their tribal traditions and customs.” On the same day in Chhattisgarh, Christian couple Bal Singh and Gudiya Singh were run out of their home and community by angry villagers not long after they had converted to Christianity. Not only was the couple rejected by their friends and neighbors, but their own relatives turned against them, and Bal and Gudiya sought help from a local pastor who provided shelter.
On 22 January in Mharashtra, Pastor Sanjay Diwe and his entire family – wife and two children – were reported to the police for attending prayers at the home of another Christian family. One participant recorded the worship and turned in the videotapes to the police as a First Information Report, alleging that the family had been “promoting enmity between religious communities.”
On 26 January, in an act of aggression and violence, religious extremists ambushed a prayer gathering at Sat Prakashan Communication Centre, where they physically and verbally assaulted the convening Christians. Upon arrival at the scene, rather than arresting the violent perpetrators, the 11 Christians were instead charged with unlawful religious conversion methods.
It the closing of the first month of 2021, and already hardly a day goes by without an incident in which the inalienable right to freedom of religion has been violated against Indian Christians. It is suffice to say that the introduction of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance of 2020 and the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance of 2020 have caused an observable rise in the baseless accusations against Indian Christian leaders and worshippers. Rather than engaging in forced or coerced religious proselytism and conversion, these individuals have been targeted simply for exercising their rights of worship and practice.
Jubilee Campaign calls upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate a comprehensive investigation into the constitutionality of such anti-religious conversion laws. Similarly, we request that he condemn all acts – violent and non-violent – that infringe upon civilians’ right to freedom of religion or belief.