Extremist Hindu mobs are routinely attacking Christians on the ground that they are violating "anti-conversion" laws.
On Christmas Day the Indian government announced that it had refused to renew the foreign-funding license for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The move puts at risk the very existence of the charity that has cared for so many of India’s “poorest of the poor.”
Since the announcement, the sisters have had to ration food and items that they regularly provide 600 people at their motherhouse and orphanage, according to a report from Angelus News.The sisters have appealed the denial of their license, and continue their daily routine of prayers and service.
The Indian Home Ministry’s denial of their application was based on “adverse reports” that the nuns were engaged in converting Hindus to Christianity — charges that the nuns deny.
Rise of Hindu nationalism
The move by the Indian government was just the most recent incident in an intensification of persecution against Christians that began when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
While the Constitution of the Republic of India guarantees religious freedom, Christians, who make up only 4.9% of the population, are finding this freedom openly violated. Open Doors, an organization monitoring persecution against Christians worldwide, now ranks India as the tenth most dangerous country for Christians.
Systematic program of persecution against Christians
According to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need’s 2021 Religious Freedom in the World Report, persecution of Christians in India is taking place in several different ways.
First, as in the case of the Missionaries of Charity, the Indian government is freezing the bank accounts of different organizations in accordance with the Foreign Currency Regulations Act (FCRA).
In 2020, the government used FCRA to revoke the foreign currency licenses of four Protestant charitable organizations, and one Catholic one, the Don Bosco Tribal Development Society.
Secondly, Christians are suffering religious persecution in India due to anti-conversion legislation. In eight of the 28 states in India, laws exist to curb the activities of individuals and groups engaged in converting people to Christianity through “forcible” or “fraudulent: means, including “inducement” and “allurement.”
In Madhya Pradesh, for example, the government implemented an anti-conversion law that calls for 10 years of prison time if anyone converts to religions other than Hinduism. Since the law was put into effect, more than a dozen Christians, including priests, have been jailed, according to a report by Aid to the Church in Need.
And thirdly, human rights organizations have recorded numerous incidents in which mobs of Hindu hardliners have committed acts of vigilante justice against Christians who they say are guilty of trying to forcibly convert Hindus to their faith.
According to a report by the United Christian Forum, 2021 was the “most violent year” for Christians in India, who suffered at least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution.
The report found that most of the incidents were committed by Hindu mobs who “criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions.”
The mobs act with impunity, and without fear of arrest. According to the UCF report, police registered formal complaints in only 34 of the 486 cases of violence committed against Christians.
Documented incidents of persecution
A recent report compiled by three human rights watchdog groups documented numerous incidents of violence committed against Christians. Just a few of the many incidents recorded include:
October 12, 2021: Extremist targeted two nuns at Mau. At a bus stop, a vigilante mob dragged a dozen Christians, including two nuns, to a police station.
October 10, 2021: Mob attacks Christians in Mau. Police took several people into custody after receiving complaints from a right-wing Hindutva group that they were converting people to Christianity. The mob interrupted a prayer service and forced the group of Christians, including a priest, to the police station.
June 25, 2021: In Gonda, a number of Christians taking part in a church gathering were taken into custody by the police.
March 22, 2021: In Kerala, a Protestant pastor was taken into custody while attending a prayer meeting.
March 14, 2021: In Agra, a Protestant pastor was taken into custody while preaching at a church gathering.
January 3, 2021: A mob attacked a group of about 25 Christians gathered at a house in Uttar Pradesh. Some suffered severe injuries, including broken hands. The mob then summoned the police, who took the pastor and three Christians into custody.
January 27, 2021: Religious extremists barged into a church meeting in Kanpur, and then called the police who took the pastor into custody on charges of forceful conversion.
October 3, 2020: More than 200 people allegedly barged into a church in Roorkee (Uttarakhand), vandalized the premises and attacked people assembled there for prayers on Sunday.
Invitation to Pope Francis
Prime Minister Modi after meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 30, announced on Twitter that he had invited the Holy Father to visit India. The pope accepted his invitation for what would be the first visit of a pope to the country since John Paul II travelled there in 1999.
In 2016, Pope Francis said that he was “almost sure” he would travel to India and Bangladesh the following year, but, according to news reports, Indian Catholic Church leaders failed to convince Modi to invite him.