- Pastor Balu Saste to receive judgment in religious freedom case in India
- Indian Christians face mob-violence almost every single day in 2019
NEW DELHI (13 March 2019) – Hostilities against Christians and other religious minorities are on the rise in India. A telling example is the ongoing case against Pastor Balu Saste, his wife, and eleven other parishioners. After a mob stormed their place of worship in a small village in Madhya Pradesh, the victims were detained and charged under existing anti-conversion laws. This week, the Sessions Court of the Kukshi district will be hearing final arguments. The blind pastor, his wife, and his son Ruben featured in the I’m Human, Right? campaign commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Pastor Balu and his family are merely trying to serve their small community of Christian believers.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Pastor Balu and his family are merely trying to serve their small community of Christian believers. Their right to do so is firmly secured under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which provides for religious freedom. This is not the only case in India where Christians have been falsely accused under anti-conversion laws. These laws make religious minorities subject to arbitrary imprisonments and criminal charges, mob violence, and violations of their fundamental rights,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India.
Rise in violence against Christians
Pastors Balu, his wife, his son, and members of his congregation were violently attacked and later detained by the police. A group of Hindu extremists stormed their church during a service beating and harassing worshipers. The police came and arrested Pastor Balu and his family, stripped them of their clothes, beat them, and kept them detained without bail for three days. They were convicted of forced conversions and are now awaiting judgment of their appeal at the Sessions Court.
In 2019, violence against Christians has risen significantly. In January and February, the United Christian Forum and ADF India documented more than 50 violent mob attacks against Christians in 13 different states across India. 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, like in the case of Pastor Balu, the pastors or priests are usually arrested by the police under false allegations of forced conversions.
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 violence and 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.”
Recently, for the first time, India has entered the top ten of the world watch list for the persecution of Christians. This persecution stems from the religious nationalism of the Hindutva movement. See Tehmina Arora speak about persecution of Christians in India on BBC World.