- 29 cases of mob violence in January 2019 alone
- Mother Teresa sister repeatedly refused bail
NEW DELHI (27 February 2019) – 2019 did not start well for religious minorities in the world’s largest democracy. Violence against Indian Christians rose significantly since the start of the year. In January alone, the United Christian Forum and ADF India documented 29 violent mob attacks against Christians in 13 different states across India.
It is high time special laws are enacted to protect Christians and other religious minorities from being attacked and then imprisoned under false accusations.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. It is worrying to see these horrendous acts of mob violence continue. It is high time special laws are enacted to protect Christians and other religious minorities from being attacked and then imprisoned under false accusations,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India, an advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.
Systematic mob violence
The attacks often take a similar shape and rarely receive any police attention. A mob will arrive at a prayer meeting or Christian gathering, shout abuse and harassment, and beat up those in attendance including women and children. Then, the pastors or priests are usually arrested by the police under false allegations of forced conversions.
In Chhattisgarh, there was a case where village members were ex-communicated for being Christian while they were beaten up and their Bibles were destroyed. In Tamil Nadu, a mob dragged several Christians to a Hindu temple, smeared ashes on their heads, and forced them to worship Hindu gods. So far, neither case has been filed with the police.
Mother Teresa sisters under threat
Sister Concelia Baxla is a member of the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa of Kolkata. She used to work in one of the order’s many orphanages. Last year, she was arrested on false charges of human trafficking because one of the co-workers allegedly took money for facilitating an adoption. While all others involved in the case have been granted bail, Sr. Concelia’s appeal has been rejected multiple times.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, sees the denial of the sister’s right to be released on bail despite her age and poor health as an attempt to harm the Church in India, “Some political power somewhere has decided that she be the sacrificial goat to get at the Church.” Sr. Concelia has been imprisoned for two hundred and twenty two days without a trial.
No isolated incidents
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, said, “While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Indian constitution, we nonetheless see Christians face persecution and denial of their fundamental rights. Sadly, the recent mob attacks are not isolated incidents but testify to what many Christians experience in India today. All people have the right to freely choose, and live out, their faith. We urge the Indian government to uphold this right and do more to protect religious minorities and promote religious freedom.”