Hindu nationalist leaders in India held an anti-Christian rally last week in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh state, advocating violence against people of faith.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that less than 500 people attended the rally including leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"Let us drag people from the church and stop conversions at any cost," urged Amit Sahu, president of the state unit of the BJP, while challenging attendees to make the Bastar region a "conversion-free zone."
Roop Singh Mandavi, another BJP leader, said, "We will frighten Christians who are involved in conversion work in the region. We will not allow the missionary work to be carried on in Bastar and will protect the Hindu religion by stopping the conversions."
Even though the turnout was less than anticipated, some Christians are still worried that the rally will provoke a surge in Christian persecution.
"We took a long breath after seeing the poor show in attendance," said a Christian leader from Chhattisgarh. "It was expected that 10,000 to 12,000 people would turn up for the rally. This was very concerning, but less than 500 people attended."
A pastor from Jagdalpur told ICC, "Though the rally was not successful in terms of numbers, the (Hindu nationalist) activists will be more aggressive. It is their plan to do reconversion programs, particularly in the villages and interior places. We won't know about these incidents of persecution because of the remoteness of these areas. Only God can save His people."
"The state is already in tremendous turmoil and Christians and pastors are targeted for what they believe and practice," he added. "This rally will add fuel to the fire. We need prayers and someone to stand with us."
As CBN News has reported, India's Christian population has seen a dramatic increase in attacks and overall persecution since Prime Minister Modi took power in 2014. Verified cases of persecution skyrocketed from 147 in 2014 to nearly 328 in 2019.
The increase comes largely due to the rising level of Hindutva ideology throughout Indian society that emboldens radical Hindus to attack Christians through mob violence.
India is ranked 10th on Open Doors USA's 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
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