Christian persecution persists as Indian state closes 50 churches

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More than 50 churches in Madhya Pradesh state of India were not allowed to open for worship services last Sunday as the Universal Hindu Council (VHP) and other radical Hindu nationalist groups sent out a notice to Christians in the Jhabua district forbidding them from gathering.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the notice explicitly stated that churches were not allowed to gather unless they had special permission from the local magistrate. It went viral on social media causing many believers to cancel worship.

Christians in the district are concerned they will no longer be allowed to exercise their religious freedom rights which are guaranteed in theory by India’s Constitution.

“I read the circular last Friday and decided not to have worship on Sunday,” a local pastor told ICC. “The last five months have been difficult. Our congregation has been reduced from 40 members to 15. Even these 15 are now scared.”

“I know as a pastor that I need to endure hardships and persecution for my faith,” the pastor continued. “But I am worried about those who are showing interest and coming newly to worship with us.”

Christians in India make up about three percent of the population, but persecution against believers has risen within the last year. 

According to a fact-finding report, in the first nine months of 2021 there were more than 300 incidents of significant Christian persecution.

The increase in attacks comes from a rising level of Hindutva ideology that encourages radical Hindus to attack Christians through mob violence.

“The fears which are being fueled of Christians converting Hindus are baseless,” A.C. Michael, the National Coordinator of the United Christian Forum, told ICC.

Although persecution is rising, some believers in the Jhabua district are taking a stand. 

More than 300 pastors and Christian leaders met with authorities about the notice that barred them from holding church. They have submitted a memorandum requesting the fair treatment of all communities in the district, including the Christian minority.

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