Why It's Becoming More Difficult to Be a Christian in India
It's becoming more difficult to be Christian in India. The Evangelical Fellowship says it knows of at least 177 cases of persecution that occurred in the country last year.
The Fellowship reports that during 2015, 68 incidents involved physical violence, 36 involved the stopping of services or the damaging of churches, and 18 Christians and pastors were arrested. At least three women reported rape cases -- including a nun who was raped at her convent.
The worst persecution happened in central India in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Twenty-five million Indians, or about 2.3 percent of the population, are Christian. Many of them are Dalits, the poorest social group known as "Untouchables." Dalits are often denied their basic rights, including access to higher education, government jobs, and running for political office.
Six Indian states prohibit conversion from Hinduism to Christianity, or Islam. Reconversion ceremonies, where those who have converted to Christianity are forcibly re-converted to Hinduism, are commonplace -- especially in rural villages.
Hindu priests and village leaders forcibly shave the heads of Christian converts in a practice known as tonsuring. Tonsured individuals are paraded around their village, subjected to ridicule, and then forced to say Hindu prayers during re-conversion ceremonies.
Christian leaders say many more cases of persecution against Indian Christians have gone unreported -- especially where the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJP) Party has assumed control in many state governments. They say in most cases, those who commit the acts of persecution go unpunished despite the guarantee of religious freedom enshrined in the Indian constitution.