By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Pastors and other Christians in a volatile area of India’s western state Maharashtra fear for their lives after Hindu militants reportedly attacked worship services, encouraged by police and local authorities.
The India-based Catholic-Christian Secular Forum (CSF), a major advocacy and aid group, told BosNewsLife that tensions have risen in the town of Malvan since some 200 Hindus opposing Christian conversions targeted a December 2 prayer meeting of a house church.
“They were illegally confined to the house of Pastor Mathias for almost four hours as the religious extremists locked the door, surrounded the bungalow and hurled abuses,” the CSF added in a statement.
The crowd eventually disappeared after police reluctantly intervened, according to CSF investigators. In a separate incident, the wife of Pastor Mathias, who only uses one name, watched how a Hindu mob returned “to set fire to their Scorpio jeep, which is also used for ministry purposes,” the advocacy group said.
She reportedly raised alarm and the attackers fled.
“NO POLICE PROTECTION”
Yet, there is “no police protection” and officials are “ineffective and even appearing to shelter the religious fundamentalists,” the CSF complained.
Besides this month’s incident, Christians were also attacked on October 26, the CSF said. Locals reportedly also warned Christian converts they will no longer buy their fish or sell anything to them.
“The pastors and believers are afraid for their life and the lives of those believers or others who only want to freely attend worship prayer meetings and are at risk,” said the SCF Secretary General Joseph Dias.
He blamed a “lack of enforcing rule of law and not taking strong action against the culprits” for the growing influence of “‘Hindutva’ forces”, the term used for Hindu nationalist militants.
Dias said the Hindu militants are linked to the Hindu Dharma Jagran Samiti movement, which opposes conversion of Hindus to Christianity and promotes a Hindu nation.
HINDU GROUPS CONCERNED
There is concern among Hindu groups that Christianity attracts a growing number of deeply impoverished Dalits, viewed as the lowest caste in India’s ancient system of Hinduism.
Missionaries and church leaders have denied accusations that they are luring or forcing Hindus into Christianity, saying the Bible speaks of a free choice for Christ.
Though Hindu militants “are striking terror“ in the region, Malwan police “appear to take sides resulting in the religious extremists operating freely with repeated attacks,” complained Dias.
“The Hindu Dharma Jagran Sameeti [movement] has been responsible for persecuting the Christians, making false complaints against them, abusing and destroying their properties…socially boycotting them, and preventing them from exercising their Constitutional right to freedom of religion,” he added.
Officials have not commented on the case. Hindu Dharma Jagran Sameeti supporters have denied wrongdoing saying they want to “unite Hindus”.