Anti-Christian assaults in India reflect growing Hindu nationalist threat ( CRUX )

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters dance to celebrate after their leader B. S. Yeddyurappa was sworn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka state in Bangalore, India, Thursday, May 17, 2018. (Credit: Aijaz Rahi/AP.)

MUMBAI – Two separate incidents of harassment in mid-January, just 48 hours apart, offered vivid reminders of the threats faced by India’s small but vibrant Christian minority, which increasingly finds itself menaced by a strong nationalist wave within the country’s Hindu majority.

That Hindu nationalist current is often viewed as part of the electoral base of the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and allied with his BJP political party.

In both recent cases, Catholic clergy and laity were accused of violating Indian’s controversial anti-conversion laws, which critics say are often used to intimidate and marginalize minority groups.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, the country’s leading Catholic prelate and a close advisor to Pope Francis, said the incidents reflect “the danger of any conversion law.”

On Jan. 18, a Catholic priest named Father Joseph Amuthkani, co-pastor of a local parish, was detained by police in Thandla in the northeast of India after he had traveled to a small nearby settlement to celebrate Mass. According to Father Peter Kharadi, a local church official, a cluster of fundamentalist Hindus began accusing Amuthkani of illicit missionary activity under the terms of India’s anti-conversion laws.

Kharadi said that police took Amuthkani along with a religious sister, a catechist and their driver to the station. They quickly released the others, but asked Amuthkani to remain. As time passed, Kharadi, both local Christians and Hindu fundamentalists began gathering outside the police station.

As Kharadi describes the scene, the Hindu group demanded that Amuthkani be charged with a criminal offense under the anti-conversion law, while the Christian contingent insisted upon the priest’s release. After several hours and confusing indications from police officials, Amuthkani eventually was released in the early evening – according to Kharadi, he was carried to the local parish on their shoulders amid songs of thanksgiving.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here

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