India’s church had been hoping that the country’s Supreme Court would recognise the persecution faced by Christians. India is number 11 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and the rise of Hindu nationalism has seen life get harder and harder for Christians and other religious minorities, particularly in the growing number of states which have often-abused anti-conversion laws.
But, sadly, the update from the court hearing on 14 April is not encouraging. The Union of India has claimed in an affidavit to the court that the cases of persecution brought by the petitioners are ‘falsehood’ and ‘exaggeration’.
Petition filed in 2022
The petition was initially filed in March 2022 by Dr Peter Machado, the Archbishop of Bangalore, together with the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India. It asked the Supreme Court to look at the ‘sinister phenomenon of violence’ and ‘targeted hate speech’ against Christians in parts of the country. The Supreme Court was initially due to respond in July 2022, but the hearing was delayed several times.
The number of cases of violence against Christians in these regions has risen sharply in recent years – and there may be far more than the hundreds of reported cases, since reporting these crimes is often a challenge. Many persecuted believers are simply too fearful of reprisal, or that they will not be taken seriously by legal authorities, to report the violence they experience. As Archbishop Peter has said, many of India’s Christians live in ‘a climate of fear’.
But, in the response to this petition by India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, he alleged that the claims were being made to ‘keep the pot boiling’ to tarnish the country’s image at international level. He stated the official position of the government that ‘there is no communal violence against Christians in India,’ adding that the petition sent a wrong message to the public that Christians in India were in danger.
Mehta questioned the statistics brought by plaintiffs: “The attempt of the petitioner is to paint a particular false picture […] the country is governed by the rule of the law and the attempt to create a false narrative […] is an attempt to short circuit the process of law.” He added that India was a ‘vibrant pluralistic society’ founded on strong democratic principles.
“A systematic campaign to marginalise and oppress Christians”
While India’s Constitution does guarantee freedom of religion or belief, this is sadly not the experience of many of India’s 69.5 million Christians (five per cent of the population).
“Shockingly, the attacks are often carried out with impunity”OPEN DOORS SPOKESPERSON
An Open Doors spokesperson says: “There is a huge body of evidence that Christians are facing some of the worst persecution anywhere in the world. Open Doors has documented hundreds of cases of harassment, intimidation, discrimination, and violence against Christians in India in the last few years, based on reliable sources and eyewitness accounts as well as horrific filmed footage of attacks.
“These attacks are not isolated incidents, but part of a systematic campaign to marginalise and oppress the Christian minority in India. And, shockingly, the attacks are often carried out with impunity, as the police and local authorities fail to protect the victims or prosecute the perpetrators.”
Keep praying for India’s Christians
The Solicitor General’s comments come ahead of an official hearing of the petition, which has been scheduled for 8 May to give Archbishop Peter and others the time to respond to this affidavit and its dismissal of their claims.
Though these comments are not encouraging, the Indian church is praying for God to move and for their persecution to be acknowledged and responded to. Your prayers can help change the lives of the women, men and children who face extreme discrimination, opposition and violence for choosing to follow Jesus.
Once there are any updates, we will share them with you here…
This story was originally published in opendoorsuk.org. Read the full story here