Displaying items by tag: India
Religious minorities in India are facing “systematic persecution” at the hands of Hindu nationalists, which is condoned by the authorities, the police, and the media, new research suggests.
The report Destructive Lies: Disinformation, speech that incites violence and discrimination against religious communities in India, by the Christian charity Open Doors, based on research compiled by a team from the London School of Economics (LSE), says that Christian and Muslim minorities are facing an “existential threat” from mobs of Hindu nationalists known as Hindutva.
Hindutva is an ideology that disregards Indian Christians and Muslims (and other religious minorities) as true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside India and asserts the country should be purified of their presence. This is leading to a systemic, and often carefully orchestrated, targeting of Christians and other religious minorities.
Researchers from the LSE - who have not been named for safety reasons - said that “state actors” were complicit in the attacks, as well as media, and senior religious leaders, who offered tacit approval for the violence. Social media are also frequently being used to stir up attacks on minorities, with impunity.
One researcher said: “The extent to which . . . state actors are complicit in the violence is shocking; it was there even at the ground level. The bureaucrats, the police, the lower court judges, all of them are . . . openly colluding to harass these minorities. And politicians, top religious leaders, and powerful media owners [are giving] very overt signals that this [behaviour] is desirable.”
Christian communities are now living in an “atmosphere of deep trauma, fear and anxiety”, the report says.
“Apart from regular spectacular incidents of mob lynching, even daily life for many religious minority groups is now marked by fear and a sense of abandonment from their fellow beings as well as from the government, and indeed their own religious institutions,” researchers said.
The report featured 8 case studies and determined 4 headline findings:
1. Persecution pervades everyday life
The research found that ‘an atmosphere of deep trauma, fear and anxiety pervades the Christian communities that we visited in rural areas, as well as many of the Christian and Muslim communities in medium-sized towns and villages and on the outskirts of larger cities’.
2. Covid-19 has made persecution even worse
Not only have Christians been deliberately overlooked in the distribution of Covid-19 government aid, they have also been the subject of disinformation relating to the pandemic. These lies have spread across mainstream and social media platforms and apps.
3. State officials are increasingly hostile
Some Indian states have anti-conversion laws. These are frequently used to target Christians for ‘forced conversions’ and reflect how hard-line Hindu influences in the political sphere translates to regressive laws.
4. Attacks are shared as warnings on social media
One of the first things extremists will do before attacking Christians and other religious minorities is snatch their phones. This is to prevent them documenting the incident. But the perpetrators themselves will record the attack and post it on social media.
Pray with us that the UK Parliament will respond to this report and use their influence to improve the lives of Christians in India.
Pray with us that each recommendation in the report will be fulfilled.
Pray with us that the lives of Christians in India will be changed (2 Timothy 3:11–12)
Although Christian persecution continues to rise in India, the only recent survey of this fact was in 2020 when a report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India listed 366 incidents where Christians were targeted, 40+ in the first two months. Most incidents feature physical violence, threats, harassment, and the disruption of church services by religious radicals or the police. Disruption of prayer meetings and Sunday worship is now a trend across many states. Many Christians are falsely accused and detained on charges of forced conversion. The US commission on international religious freedom has said, ‘Religious hate crimes in India are rising. Mob violence is carried out against Christians accused of forced or induced religious conversion.’ Christians make up a little over 2% of India’s population. Though they are often accused of following a ‘foreign’ religion, the gospel was introduced there in the first century through Jesus’ disciple Thomas.
Over 1,200 girls in Rajasthan started a movement against child marriages, which saw a spike during the Covid pandemic. Nearly 30% of South Asian women aged 20 to 24 were married before they turned 18. While the Indian government has not maintained comprehensive data, international organisations say child marriages could be a major fallout of the pandemic. By June 2020, only three months into lockdown, 92,203 interventions had been made by ChildLine. 35% of those interventions were about child marriages. Saira Bano, 17, wants to be a teacher and help other girls become independent. She heard of a group of girls from marginalised communities who were starting a campaign to create awareness around child marriage. ‘That got my hopes up,’ said Saira. ‘I attended their meeting and learned that the state government has a scholarship scheme in place to ensure girls like me don’t drop out of school.’
Christians are increasingly being persecuted violently: by brutal IS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Hindu extremists in India. Release International issued a report on persecution trends in 2021. It is a wake-up call to take our prayers for our persecuted family to new levels. Nigerian attacks are driven by Islamist ideologies to destroy ‘the infidels’. 300 Christians remain detained without trial inside Eritrea. The Chinese government is increasing its ‘clean-cup’ of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. North Korea’s policy against Christians is the longest, harshest persecution in recorded history. Iranians constantly fear they are under surveillance when they meet secretly. The pressure has led to an exodus from Iran that will continue in 2021. Egyptian Christian converts from a Muslim background will continue to pay a high price for their faith and will be expelled from their families, divorced, and lose their employment.
Across Nigeria 1,470 Christians have been murdered and 2,200 abducted since January. The most recent offence was in Kaduna State when eight Christians were killed and a church was burned down. Pray for an end to such attacks by Fulani Muslim herdsmen and jihadists. In Burkina Faso jihadists ambushed a baptism and killed 15 of the Christians. Al-Qaeda and IS have been growing in West Africa since January. Pray for God's peace for the many who are living in fear and protection over those who ran away. In India’s Rajasthan state 15 radical Hindu nationalists carrying swords, sickles, and a gun attacked the family of a pastor after they all refused to renounce their Christian faith. The assailants killed the pastor’s 52-year-old father. Pray for God to strengthen and encourage church planters and house churches in different Hindu-dominant villages. Armenian Christian gravestones are used to build roads in Azerbaijan as they seek to eradicate evidence of Armenian culture and identity.
Cyclone Yaas has hit the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal. Nearly two million people were evacuated from West Bengal prior to its arrival. Yaas is the second powerful cyclone to hit India in just over a week, bringing tidal surges with waves higher than rooftops and gusts above 95 mph. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, two airports were closed, and train services were cancelled ahead of the storm. West Bengal reported 20,000 mud houses and temporary shelters damaged or destroyed. Last week Cyclone Tauktae resulted in mass evacuations and over 150 deaths. Both Yaas and Tauktae halted Covid prevention efforts, as mass evacuations took precedence. Odisha officials said they had suspended testing, vaccinations, and a door-to-door health survey in three districts. The coastguards have deployed ships and hovercraft along the coast to execute the relief operation.
Tauktae, the strongest storm on record to hit India, killed over 40 people after it made landfall on 17 May. Branches of the air force and navy are scouring the sea to rescue personnel from oil rigs and vessels that were in the path of the cyclone. One barge sank with 261 people: 188 were rescued, 26 died, and 47 are missing. Other barges ran aground. Deaths were caused by lightning strikes, collapsed buildings, falling trees, floods and fallen live electricity poles in Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Goa. The cyclone caused winds of 125 mph when it made landfall. As Tauktae battered the west coast, another cyclone is likely to hit the east coast. A low-pressure area is very likely to form over the north Andaman Sea and the adjoining east-central Bay of Bengal around 22 May, with the potential to intensify into a cyclone.
After a year of COVID, it has almost become possible to be desensitised to the human reality behind the appalling statistics – infection rates, death rates, hospitalisations are repeated regularly by governments and news sources, however all these bring with them tales of human pain and anguish. This is none more so than the current situation in India. Even on the surface things look desperate; on 12th May according to official statistics there were over 360,000 new cases and 4120 new deaths. However many fear the reality is far worse than this with Times of India reporting that death figures are likely 3 times higher than those being reported.
In horrific scenes, at least 90 more bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims have washed up in rivers in India, as the virus continues to spread into poor rural areas. More than 70 corpses were discovered floating in the Ganges River in the Buxar district of the state of Bihar and dozens more bodies were found upstream in the Ghazipur and Ballia districts in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh. See Guardian article.
Many believe the bodies had been dumped due to the rising cost of cremating bodies, with crematoriums overrun and firewood for pyres now expensive and in short supply.
Images of ambulance drivers throwing bodies over a bridge on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar into the river emerged on social media. The discovery of the suspected coronavirus fatalities was a cause of concern for local villagers who use the river as a source of water for drinking and washing. The Ganges is also the most sacred river to Hindus and is worshipped as the goddess Ganga.
The former chief of the village of Mubarakpur in the district said the dumping of bodies had been happening “for the last week”. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have blamed each other for the dumping of the corpses. “The bodies have floated into Bihar from Uttar Pradesh,” said the Bihar minister Sanjay Kumar Jha, adding that a net had been placed in the Ganges along the state border to prevent any more bodies floating downstream. Uttar Pradesh authorities have denied all responsibility.
The health system remains overwhelmed. According to the Financial Times, St Stephen’s Hospital in New Delhi was close to breaking point last week as it was inundated by victims of India’s coronavirus crisis. As its beds filled with patients in acute respiratory distress, the hospital’s oxygen supplies ran perilously low. At one point, its giant oxygen tank had just four to six hours of piped oxygen left for 300 seriously ill patients. Calamity was only averted after frantic calls to the hospital’s supplier and desperate public appeals. But days later, the piped oxygen ran out and St Stephen’s had to rely for several hours on oxygen cylinders.
“There’s no oxygen,” said Mathew Varghese, one of the hospital’s senior doctors. “The system is broken down and we’re losing patients. We don’t know what to do. We’re used to saving lives and we’re watching people die.”
The crisis at St Stephen’s reflected how India’s brutal second wave has overwhelmed health infrastructure and pushed the complex medical oxygen supply chain beyond its limits. India is reporting 300,000 infections and almost 3,000 deaths every day. Experts estimate the real figures are probably far higher.
As patient numbers surged, families across India have engaged in desperate hunts for oxygen cylinders or hospital beds for ailing loved ones. More than 20 patients died last week after oxygen supplies ran out at another New Delhi hospital. Experts said the shortages were largely down to logistical challenges and bureaucratic mismanagement, with supplies in some parts of the country not reaching areas that are more in need.
For a few personal testimonies: of the challenges facing individuals living in India, please see this account by H Kam Suanthang, Elder, EBC Church, New Delhi and a Covid-19 India Prayer Briefing from Rev George Herman here.
At times such as these we remember the words of 1 Corinthians 12: 26-27: If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
We therefore offer our prayers for and stand with our brothers and sisters who are living amidst this uncertainty. We pray for the families of the patients are also going through horrific experiences trying everything to get the medical support for their loved ones where there just isn’t enough infrastructure to handle the scale of the outbreak.
Pray for strength, wisdom and resilience for the medical staff, many of whom are working long hours under great pressure, with insufficient medicine and oxygen.
Pray for more international intervention to provide more of the much-needed equipment and resources.
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GODTV India Appeal - Our friends at GOD TV are co-ordinating a campaign to pray for and raise money to provide practical support for those in India. They highlight that plight of the Indian people - dying alone in their homes, some on the streets, some in their cars. It seems like there’s no dignity for life anymore. People are not valued. One person tweeted ‘death has reached every family now’ in reference to a village in the north of India. Many families have lost more than 1 person and with not enough space to bury the dead, those grieving are not able to say a proper goodbye. You can support their campaign here: https://www.god.tv/
The entire Indian delegation in the UK for G7 talks must self-isolate after two Covid cases were detected. India's foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar pulled out of face-to-face talks, saying he was aware of exposure to possible Covid positive cases. India is not in the G7 group of nations, but delegates from the country had been invited as guests. Jaishankar met home secretary Priti Patel in person on 4 May, but will now meet delegates virtually. The G7 consists of seven advanced economies - UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA. Their official summit will be next month, but ministers from India, Australia, South Korea and South Africa have been invited as guests as the UK tries to deepen ties with other regions. India is currently on the UK's red list, meaning travel from there is banned, but some people are exempt, including representatives of a foreign country.
Hospitals rely on daily oxygen deliveries, but they are constantly sending desperate messages for extra supplies. A doctor described the situation: ‘Once you've emptied your main tank, there is nothing to fall back on’. Delhi is running out of cremation space for Covid dead. Pyres burn in families’ gardens. One doctor says hospital patients dying without oxygen prevents him sleeping: ‘I should be concentrating on treating my patients, not running around to get oxygen.’ Many hospitals face the same ordeal. Federal officials reported ‘no shortage of oxygen’, and say the challenge has come from transportation. People are paying a price for political wrangling between the state and federal governments. The price is their life. In November a parliamentary standing committee on health warned of inadequate oxygen supplies and ‘grossly inadequate’ government hospital beds. On 5 May the Supreme Court decided against immediately punishing Indian officials for failing to end an erratic supply. However, significant amounts of oxygen and ventilators are now reaching India from Europe and the USA.