Christian Leaders Fear Rally Will Trigger New Wave of Persecution
08/05/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Hindu nationalist leaders in India held an anti-Christian rally in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh state. At this rally, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) perpetuated false narratives against Christians and advocated for acts of violence against the Christian community.
According to local reports, the anti-Christian rally took place on Tuesday, August 3, and was held in Jagdalpur, the district capital. While the event was highly promoted and attended by prominent leaders of the BJP, less than 500 people attended the rally.
Speaking at the rally, Amit Sahu, President of the Chhattisgarh BJP, said, “Let us drag people from the church and stop conversions at any cost.” Sahu went on to challenge those gathered at the rally to make the Bastar District a “conversion free zone.”
Roop Singh Mandavi, another leader of the BJP, 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.”
Many Christians in Chhattisgarh fear that the rally will trigger another wave of Christian persecution. Last month, ICC documented several incidents of persecution in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh after the Superintendent of Police issued a circular ordering district police to monitor Christians and arrest those engaged in illegal conversion activities.
“We took a long breath after seeing the poor show in attendance,” a Christian leader from Chhattisgarh, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ICC. “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.”
“Though the rally was not successful in terms of numbers, the Hindutva activists will be more aggressive,” a pastor from Jagdalpur told ICC. “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,” the pastor continued. “This rally will add fuel to the fire. We need prayers and someone to stand with us.”
Radical Hindu nationalists across India continue to promote false narratives against Christians to justify religious intolerance and violence. The issue of forced religious conversions is often used to vilify Christians and justify anti-Christian policies like anti-conversion laws.
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is even though some of the anti-conversion laws have been in force since 1967.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of Christians in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh. Rallies like the one held on August 3 and hateful statements made by nationalist leaders often act as the trigger point for surges in persecution. In Uttar Pradesh, a similar promotion of anti-Christian narratives led to a wave of persecution and arrests. In the past seven weeks, at least 14 incidents of persecution have taken place in Uttar Pradesh, leading to the arrests of at least 45 Christians on trumped up forced conversion charges. Action must be taken against events like this to ensure they do not evolve into new waves of persecution.”