India Gov't Turning a Blind Eye to Religious Attacks
India's Christians continue to face hate and intolerance, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
ICC reports 25 Hindu Radicals attacked and vandalized a Pentecostal church in Chhattisgarh state during its Sunday service on March 6.
The church is located in Kachana colony, in the state capital of Raipur.
The attacks come on the heels of a letter from the U.S. Congress to India's Prime Minister, expresing grave concern over increased religious intolerance in India.
According to witnesses, the radicals beat 60 Christians gathered at the church and forcibly stripped several women. They also destroyed Bibles, musical instruments and chairs.
The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was not allowed to visit India. Click to watch an interview with Father Thomas Reese who was part of the delegation that was not granted visas.
Arun Pannalal, President of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, said the radicals claimed their attack was justified by accusing the church of conducting forced conversions.
"They began alleging that people were being converted," Pannalal told the media. "They fled before police could reach the spot. This is the sixth attack on churchgoers in Chhattisgarh in the past six weeks."
Although police arrested seven people for the attack, local activists say that's unusual. The claim there's an atmosphere of looking the other way when it comes to the activity of Hindu radicals, and that has opened the door to several attacks in Chhattisgarh over the past week.
Prior to the attack in Raipur, Christians across Chhattisgarh told ICC that Hindu radical groups had targeted them.
ICC reports that on March 4 radicals attacked Pastor Baliram in the Kondagaon District of Chhattisgarh and stated that Christian activities were no longer permitted there.
Then on March 5, Christians in the Dantewada District reported members of the Bajrangdal radical group assaulted them, according to ICC.
"Every day Christians are attacked," a local Christian wanting to remain anonymous told ICC. "What is reported in the media is like the tip of an iceberg."
The vandalizing of the church comes as the entire nation of India is debating the role of radical Hindu activism, Dr. John Dayal of the United Christian Forum said.
"The government in exacerbating an environment of hate and intolerance against civil society, the intelligentsia, and, above all, religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians," he told ICC.
"The attack on the church in Raipur is just one more sign of the growing religious intolerance in India," said ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark. "Hindu radicals, who continue to go unchecked by the government, are dividing India along religious lines and labeling religious minorities, including Christians, as inferior and anti-India."
"India's government must do more to secure the constitutional rights of all of its citizens, including Christians, and to punish those who actively violate these rights," Stark continued. "Unless this is done soon, India risks forever losing its reputation as a pluralistic and tolerant democracy."