Reports of increasing numbers of Christian persecutions in India have reached the ears of the Supreme Court. This was following the petition for protection filed by Archbishop Peter Machad, the National Solidarity Forum, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
In the petition, it was noted that approximately 500 attacks were made against Christians in 2021 and about 200 attacks in the first five months of 2022.
However, the Indian government dismissed them as self-serving reports that were based on conjecture. In a report by Hindustan Times, they also told the SC that Christian organizations and individuals had a "hidden oblique motive" behind the public interest litigation.
The Union home ministry explained in an affidavit that the agenda may be in line with hopes that they could get assistance from outside their country and meddle in the nation's internal affairs.
The Indian government's response to claims of Christian persecution did not come as a surprise, especially to Todd Nettleton, chief of media relations for Voice of the Martyrs.
Nettleton explained that members of the government referred to India as "Hindustan" or "land of the Hindus." He predicts that the SC's response to the petition will be difficult.
The petition is in line with the increased attacks by far-right Hindu groups following the passage of the "anti-conversion" law in multiple Indian states.
The Anti-Conversion Law and Christian Persecution in India
The law aims to prevent involuntary religious conversion. Although this seeks to prevent "fraudulent" means or "inducement", critics claim that it is instead being used to violate people's freedom of religion.
In a report by India Today, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that the law lacks evidence to support accusations of wrongdoing. In turn, this creates a hostile, and occasionally violent, environment for religious minority groups. Continuous talk about the law has also emboldened anti-Christian vigilantes.
In 2017, a Catholic nun and four tribal women were detained after being suspected of induced conversion. Three Christians were also arrested based on similar allegations.
In 2021, Christians throughout India were assaulted during worship. According to The New York Times, anti-Christian vigilantes also interrupted church services and burned Christian books.
Rev. Joseph D'Souza, Archbishop of the Angelican Good Shepherd Church of India, told Fox News Digital that these attacks are not isolated due to similar incidents having occurred in multiple states.
According to the Voice of the Martyrs, India has an estimated Christian population of 30 million to 70 million, and about 5% belong to minority groups. Given the number of Christians, bishops in India were asked to take a stand against the violence.
Church's Response to Attacks
The Forum of Religions for Justice and Peace wrote a letter to Cardinal Oswald Garcias, president of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, and urged him to address the attacks made by far-right Hindu nationalist groups.
In the letter, they stated statistical evidence of violence and detailed the seven well-planned attacks that happened on Christmas. They also explained that the attacks against Christians, Muslims, and minority groups were in violation of the Indian Constitution.
However, they were met with silence as a response.