How uptick in anti-Christian violence threatens Indian democracy
Somu Avaradhi has led mass at a local prayer house in India’s southern state of Karnataka every weekend for the past several years. But one Sunday last October, as he parked his car in front of the small building, the pastor noticed something was off. A group of unfamiliar, agitated men had gathered outside. From within the building, he could hear others singing Hindu prayers and chanting “Jai Shri Ram” – a phrase that literally translates to “Victory to Lord Ram,” but has increasingly become a dog whistle for attacks against India’s religious minorities.
As soon as he crossed the threshold, a mob of Hindu fundamentalists attacked Mr. Avaradhi with verbal abuse and allegations that he had forced people to convert to Christianity. He and some church members tried retreating to a police station, but a crowd waited there as well. A man whom Mr. Avaradhi denies knowing had filed an official complaint against the pastor for luring him to convert. Mr. Avaradhi was sent to the hospital for injuries sustained in the protest, and arrested soon after.
Similar stories have played out across India, where documented attacks against Christians jumped 81% from 2020 to 2021. Mobs have vandalized churches, attacked missionary schools, disrupted prayer meets, and assaulted pastors and practicing Christians, accusing them of forced conversions. Survivors and activists say authorities have failed to investigate these incidents, often filing charges against the victims themselves, turning a blind eye to the violence.