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Keeping Indian churches open over Christmas

Summary

  • Fear of violence increases around Christmas
  • Anti-conversion laws and Hindu extremists incite anti-Christian violence

NEW DELHI (21 December 2018) – In the midst of growing fear of violence around Christmas, ADF India and its allies have won several court cases protecting the right of Christians to freely live out their faith.

“Many are afraid of Christmas this year. We anticipate more anti-Christian violence and harassment. The Indian constitution guarantees the freedom to practice and propagate religion to every citizen. The cancellation of Christmas events simply for fear of disturbances violates this basic right. The state should never target people because of their religious beliefs but protect them,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India.

Earlier in December, authorities denied Christians in the Karur district of Tamil Nadu permission to hold carol events after they requested police protection out of fear of the violence they experienced in 2017. As a result, they were banned from holding carol services at all because it would cause disturbances to law and order. Lawyers of ADF India successfully intervened before the High Court of Madras, which has now ordered the police to grant protection to the Christians as they celebrate.

Important milestone against anti-conversion laws

In many states in India, Christians will not be able to celebrate safely. With the rise of anti-Christian violence across India, Christian groups and communities fear the time around major Christian holidays. In particular, Christmas raises these fears as mob violence and arbitrary arrests are common at this time of year.

Anti-conversion laws are a big part of the problem. Recently, ADF India has had another success in countering the legitimacy of these laws. The High Court of Jharkhand has agreed to hear a case challenging the state’s anti-conversion laws. This could ultimately set a precedent that leads to the repeal of India’s anti-conversion laws.

“We are very happy to take this first important step in challenging anti-conversion laws across India. Everyone should be able to freely live out their faith. The injustice of these laws hinders Christians and other religious minorities in India from doing so,” said Arora.

Anti-conversion laws in India

Through the increase of anti-conversion laws in India, hostility towards Christians and other religious minorities has risen. This has included arbitrary arrests, threats, physical assaults, and fear of practicing their faith in public. Hundreds of faithful and clerics have been detained because of anti-conversion laws already, including mass arrests. Overall, the effects of anti-conversion laws have been disturbing and hostile as they are far from protecting freedom of religion and are more likely to undermine it. In combination with Hindu extremism they are violently exploited, putting religious minorities in danger.

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