Christians in India face persecution “in all areas of public and private life,” according to a study by the Christian Aid group Open Doors.
In majority Hindu India, “Christians are persecuted in all areas of public and private life, and anti-conversion laws (currently in nine states, with more considering adoption) are abused to harass and intimidate Christians,” according to the organization. Although few people are actually convicted under the anti-conversion laws, related cases “can drag on for years.”
According to the U.S.-based Open Doors, “Hindu extremists” in India “believe that all Indians should be Hindus, and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam. They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background.”
Indian Christians are often accused of adopting a “foreign faith” and may be blamed for perceived “bad luck” within their majority Hindu communities. The tension has lead to Christians suffering physical attacks and being killed by fellow community members in extreme instances. Hindu converts to Christianity are “under constant pressure from their family and community to return to Hinduism,” according to the study. “If they do not ‘re-convert,’ they may be boycotted by their community, with a devastating effect on their ability to earn income.”
The ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the economic and social blacklisting of Christians in India.
“Christians are often deliberately overlooked when official COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] food and aid are distributed,” Open Doors revealed.
Many Christian converts in India belong to the low-ranking Dalit caste. The marginalization of Dalits within India’s caste system precedes the recent upsurge in Christian oppression, meaning they already struggled to find work and provide their families with basic needs.
Open Doors’ latest study of Christian persecution in India echoes a 2017 report on religious freedom in India by the U.S. Commission on Interreligious Freedom (USCIRF).
“Conditions for religious minorities [in India] have deteriorated over the last decade due to a multifaceted campaign by Hindu-nationalist groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus,” USCIRF wrote.
“The victims of this campaign include Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, as well as Dalit Hindus, who belong to the lowest rung in the Hindu caste system. These groups face challenges ranging from acts of violence or intimidation to the loss of political power,” according to the report.
An Indian parliament member belonging to India’s ruling, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) presided over a religious ceremony in southwestern India’s Karnataka state on November 29 in which 23 Christians converted to Hinduism. The established ceremonies, in which Christians or Muslims convert to Hinduism, are referred to as ghar wapsi or “homecoming(s)” in Hindi by Indian Hindu nationalists.
“These ceremonies are based on the view that all individuals born in India are Hindus by default, even if their communities have practiced other faiths for several generations,” according to the USCIRF.
Anant Kumar Hegde, a local BJP leader in Karnataka, presided over the November 29 ghar wapsi in the town of Haliyal Taluk.
Roughly 80.5 percent of India’s population of 1.4 billion people adhere to the Hindu faith. Christians, by contrast, make up just 2.3 percent of India’s population.