Christians in India uncertain about this year’s Christmas celebration
As Christmas is approaching, there is a growing sense of fear among Christians because of the ongoing religious persecution in the country.
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), over half a dozen incidents of violence against Christians were recorded in just a week in December.
As a consequence of these incidents, several churches were shut down, at least 10 Christians were arrested and booked with criminal charges, and 25 Christians families faced social boycott where they were denied clean drinking water.
Though the increasing intolerance is not new for Christians in the country, these incidents are affecting the sentiments of the community and preventing them from celebrating the holidays freely.
Pastor Raja Bhovi, head pastor of His Grace Church in Karnataka, told ICC that they have canceled all their Christmas events, including carols, cottage meetings and pre-Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village. “There is a fear of being attacked by Hindu radicals,” the pastor said.
In the first week of December, a mob of radical Hindus attacked pastor Bhovi’s church community and beat the Christians.
“We were small in number at the police station compared to mob of Hindu radicals,” Pastor Bhovi explained. “All of the 25 Christian families were present at the police station to lodge a complaint, however, the police told us that Christians cannot hold any meetings in the village and that pastors from outside the village cannot visit the Christian families, even during this festive season.”
The extremists cut off the water supply and threatened the 25 families to recant their faith, if not they would be thrown out of the village.
“We are bringing all of the 25 Christian families to Arsikare, a town that is 30 kilometers away from Banni Mardatti village, to celebrate Christmas,” Pastor Bhovi told ICC. “Our hope is that we will have a peaceful Christmas celebration, even though it is away from our homes.”
Another pastor from Uttar Pradesh told ICC that “We are very uncertain about this year’s Christmas. Unlike previous years, we have been told to shut down our church since December 8. It is a very painful situation for us now. We are all hoping that things will change.”
Christmas is a season of celebration for Christians. But fearing persecution, many believers are either canceling their programs or adjusting their celebrations to avoid being attacked by Hindu extremists.