1,000 attacks against Christians in 500 days

Persecution intensifies in India's southern state of Karnataka

Extremists use public demonstrations as a way to intimidate India's Christians. In India's state of Karnataka, there are reports of over 1,000 acts of persecution in the last 18 months.

NEW DELHI, March, 2010 (Compass Direct News) – Minority Christians in southern Karnataka state are under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days, according to an independent investigation by a former judge of the Karnataka High Court.

The spate began on Sept. 14, 2008, when at least 12 churches were attacked in one day in Karnataka’s Mangalore city, in Dakshina Kannada district, said Justice Michael Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka High Court.

“On Jan. 26, [2010] – the day we celebrated India’s Republic Day – Karnataka’s 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city,” Saldanha told Compass, saying the figure was based on reports from faith-based organizations.

“Attacks are taking place every day,” said Saldanha, chairperson of the Karnataka Chapter of Transparency International.

The latest attack took place on March 17, when a mob of around 150 people led by Hindu extremists stormed the funeral of a 50-year-old Christian identified only as Isaac, reported the Karnataka-based Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

As the funeral service about to begin, the mob pulled the coffin apart and desecrated the cross the relatives of the deceased were carrying. They threw the body into a tractor and dumped it outside, saying his burial would have contaminated Indian soil and his body should be buried in Rome or the United States, added the GCIC.

Mission India workers impacted by persecution

Mission India's own indigenous staff and ministry partners are among those affected by the ongoing persecution in south India.

Last week, an Adult Literacy teacher was attacked and beaten by a group of local tribals angered by his Christian faith. The attack came as our literacy teacher was holding the burial service for his own father. Our partner reports this literacy teacher was forced into hiding.

And last August, 8 staff and partners were arrested on false charges of coercing children into following Jesus.

After 7 days behind bars, these believers were released, but they still are facing charges. The legal system in India moves very slowly, and they must report to the courts monthly.

Please pray that the charges will be completely dismissed. Pray that ministry work in this region - especially new Children's Bible Clubs that launch in April - will be able to continue smoothly.

With police intervention, the funeral took place later the same day.

Blaming the state government for the attacks, Saldanha said the ruling Hindu nationalist party had “outdone Orissa.”

Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya denied the results of the inquiry.

“The allegation of Karnataka having faced 1,000 attacks is absolutely false,” Acharya told Compass. “There is liberty in the state. Sections of the media are trying to hype it, and such claims are politically motivated. Karnataka is the most peaceful state in India, and the people are law-abiding.”

The wave of persecution in Karnataka began as fallout of the anti-Christian mayhem in eastern Orissa state, where Maoists killed a Hindu extremist leader on Aug. 23, 2008, with extremists wrongly accusing Christians. The attacks in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, the epicenter of the bloodbath, killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions.

Violent attacks have largely stopped in Orissa, but Karnataka continues to burn.

In addition to the attacks, numerous Christians also have faced false charges of fraudulent or forced conversions throughout Karnataka.

“I have been to many police stations where complaints of [forced] conversions have been lodged against Christians, and when I asked the police why they were acting on frivolous complaints, most of them told me that they had orders from above,” Saldanha said.

In Saldanha's report, he notes that Christians “are dragged to the police station under false allegations, immediately locked up, beaten up and denied bail by the lower judiciary, which functions as the loyal partner of the police department and refuses bail on the grounds that ‘the police have objected.’”

The report says 468 Christian workers in rural areas had been targeted with such actions since September 2008.

“Numerous others have been threatened and beaten up,” the report states. “The police are totally out of control, with the lower judiciary having abdicated its constitutional obligation of safeguarding the citizens’ rights particularly from a tyrannical state machinery, while the state government proclaims that everything is peaceful.”

There are a little more than 1 million Christians in Karnataka, where the total population is over 52 million.

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