By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in several parts of India on Thursday, December 31, were hoping for a more happy 2010 after a year which reportedly saw at least 152 anti-Christian attacks.
A report released by the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported violence in the north-central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Orissa in the east, Gujarat in the west and Himachal Pradesh in the north.
EFI, which represents evangelical churches and organizations throughout the country, said several Indian states have anti-conversion laws, which Hindu militants misuse to attack and detain Christians on charges of “forcible conversion”.
Evangelical investigators said violence has also increased in southern India, long considered a less dangerous for Christians.Of the total 152 incidents, 86 happened in southern states, mainly Karnataka with 48, Andhra Pradesh with 29, Tamil Nadu with five and Kerala with four, according to the ‘Partial List of Major Incident of Anti-Christian Violence In India, 2009’.
EFI General Secretary Richard Howell linked the increase to influential Hindu politicians. “In May 2008, the [Hindu-hardline] Bharatiya Janata Party installed its first government in Karnataka and ever since Christian community is the target of their attack,” he said.
His organization’s report follows two previous years of violence that killed over 100 people, mainly in Orissa.
Church groups have expressed concerns of more violence, with thousands of Christians still living outside their burned homes and churches. Howell said India’s Christians are potentially facing a similar situation as in Iraq. “A report released on December 2009 by respected American think tank Pew Research Centre has placed India second only to Iraq insocial hostility and religious bias perpetrated by individuals and groups,” he explained.
He suggested that the attacks have increased since the late 1990s. “The first large-scale ruthless attack against Tribal Christians in Dangs district of Gujarat in December 1998,” he said.
“In March 2004, Tribal Christians in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh became the target of the second massive anti-Christian attacks. A series of brutal anti-Christian attacks began in Orissa’s Kandhamal district began on December 24, 2007.”
Analysts have linked the attacks to concerns within Hindu groups over the spread of Christianity in the mainly Hindu nation, especially among groups such as Dalits, the ‘lowest caste’ in the country’s ancientsystem of Hinduism.
Yet, Howell said many Christians still trust God to help overcome their difficulties. “The Christian response to these attacks has been one of forgiveness and an appeal to the government to protect the life and property of its citizens, and punish the guilty according to the law of the land.”