By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Indian police have detained hundreds of Christians demonstrating against attacks on churches in New Delhi and nearby areas amid concerns over a wider crackdown on Christianity in this predominantly Hindu nation.
Witnesses said security forces intervened when the Christians prepared to march to the home minister’s residence on Thursday, February 5, to demand that the central government investigate church attacks that protesters blame on Hindu hardliners.
Police herded them onto buses and detained them at a local police station, witnesses said.
John Dayal, a prominent Christian rights activist, told reporters that he and some 200 other detainees were later told they could leave on bail. But the Christians declined, Dayal said, adding that they would continue their protest in custody where they were singing hymns Thursday morning, February 5.
The protest came after a mysterious fire gutted a church in New Delhi and several other churches were vandalized over the past two months.
Church leaders said they are disappointed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not condemned the violence. Christians comprise roughly 2.3 percent of India’s population of 1.26 billion.
Church officials claim attacks on churches have increased since Modi’s Hindu hardline Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections last May.
Carrying placards that read “Enough is enough, what are police doing?” the protesters initially assembled outside the city’s main Sacred Heart Cathedral, where they were dragged into buses and taken to a police station.
Several priests and nuns were among those detained, reporters said. Christians were expected to be released later in the day, but the incident was expected to add to anxiety within India’s Christian minority.
Devoted Christians, including missionaries and church leaders, have also been attacked in elsewhere in he country, often on charges of “forced conversions”.
Hindu groups are concerned about the spread of Christianity, including among Dalits, seen as the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s ancient system of Hinduism, BosNewsLife monitored.
Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto has condemned the anti-Christian violence. “A clear pattern of orchestrated attacks is emerging as more churches are targeted, vandalized and set on fire,” Couto told reporters.
Priest Savarimathu Sankar, a spokesman for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, said the Christian community wants justice and security in what is often called the world’s largest democracy.
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