India (MNN) — ‘Tis the season, but singing about Christ in the Advent Season got a pastor and 15 carolers beaten up in India this weekend.
A report from International Christian Concern was confirmed by the Voice of the Martyrs USA. VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton says, “Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence to see a church meeting attacked, to see people harassed and beaten up, and sometimes, even the police are called.”
The ICC report notes that around 30 Hindu radicals attacked the group in Hyderabad, accusing the Christians of trying to convert people. The report details an assault that left Pastor Bhim Nayak of Banjara Baptist Church and four other Christians severely injured.
Christians make up around 2% of India’s population, but they face increasing hostility from some of the more radical Hindu nationalists in India. Nettleton says, “With the election of Prime Minister Modi this year, and the rise to power of the radical Hindu RSS-backed government, there is an atmosphere where Christians can be persecuted and the persecutors really don’t worry about repercussions.”
Nettleton says the issues: “they [radicals] don’t worry that they’re going to face stiff penalties for persecuting Christians. That’s the atmosphere that has taken hold in India.”
Here’s why they’re concerned about that: in August, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said, “The entire world recognizes Indians as Hindus, therefore India is a Hindu state…. The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva, and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture.”
Hindutva refers to Hindu religious fundamentalism and an ideology that all other religions are invalid. Now, an RSS coordinator in the Uttar Pradesh region says his organization plans to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism in two separate programs this month.
The Indian constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Yet 6 of the 29 state governments have implemented laws forbidding “forcible conversions.” Christians are concerned, especially as Advent draws closer to Christmas Day celebrations. Nettleton urges other believers to pray. “We can pray for their protection, and I think also pray for their response. One of the challenging calls that we have as Christians from the New Testament is to love those who are persecuting us.”
Why is it challenging? “You can imagine that if your pastor’s being beaten up, as has happened in this case, that’s a pretty challenging thing to try to show love and not anger and not animosity toward the people who are persecuting you.”
Stories of attacks on Christians are coming in every day. Even as churches are beefing up security amid terror threats, this is a season where the hope of Christ is the message behind everything the Church does. “[Pray] that God will supernaturally allow them to show love and to respond in forgiveness and love when they are being persecuted.”