Christians in India have frequently faced opposition from neighbours as well as authorities. A growth in Hindu nationalism has exacerbated the problem. In recent months, however, attacks on Christians in northern India have spiked even higher, often instilling fear in congregations within the area.
According to Vijayesh Lal from the Evangelical Fellowship of India, incidents have risen to a never-before level in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. In an incident that took place late October, a group of believers were meeting in Agra when a mob of 40 to 50 people forced their way in, carrying bamboo poles and hockey sticks. Many of the gathered Christians were beaten, and seven of them left in serious condition. When the police arrived, several of the assaulted victims were detained for “hurting religious sentiments,” but none of the attackers have been arrested to date.
The violence has not been restricted to Uttar Pradesh; it has also spread to other areas of northern India. In a surprising twist, Hindu activists have apparently joined other religious groups. In the state of Jharkhand, tribal leaders influenced by members of the militant Hindu group RSS persuaded villagers to drive five Christian families from their homes. The home of one of these victims, Sidiu Bari, was left in shambles. Facing the threat of expulsion and seizure of their land, three of the families converted back to the tribal religion. Similar situations are happening around Jharkhand.
In Punjab, where over half the population is Sikh, Christians are facing opposition from both Hindus and Sikhs. A pastor in the village of Chaksharif was attacked on October 31st. The mob accused him of using the church as a means for sexually exploiting women. In another village, a church building was set on fire on November 7th. Both the pastor and his wife were converts from Sikhism and had been sharing the Gospel among the Sikhs since 2007. For more details on the persecution facing Christians throughout India, visit our country report.
Please remember to uphold the Christians of northern India in your prayers as they face opposition from all directions. Pray that those affected will stand firm in their faith. May the Christians of various church denominations band together in unity, supporting and encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25). Also intercede for the civil authorities who need wisdom and diplomacy in order to handle cases of persecution in a fair and just manner, while ensuring proper help and protection are provided to those being abused.