The state of Chhattisgarh, in central India, is gaining a reputation for continued attacks by Hindu nationalists on Christians. Chhattisgarh, which borders the states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, is the scene where well-known Hindu extremist groups are persecuting religious minorities and continue to accuse Christians of “forced conversions.” It was in nearby Orissa in 2008 that scores of Christian churches and homes were burned, while Christians were murdered. An investigation of the atrocities remains inconclusive.
Last week, a Christian place of worship was incincerated in Kondagaon district in Chhattisgarh. According to a report by the Fides news agency, the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which brings together several evangelical Christian communities, built a chapel of wood and straw in the village Chhote Salna. The chapel was burned down on the evening of April 2 as local Christians looked on helplessly. The land on which the church stood had been donated by local Christians, who came to worship there from elsewhere in the district.
On the day of the arson, believers were publicly threatened by Hindus belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who accused them of converting people through fraud and seduction. Christians filed a complaint to the local police. The VHP seeks to instill Hindu values throughout the sub-continent and opposes conversions from Hinduism.
Reports indicate that on March 13, in the nearby district of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, a group of Hindu fundamentalists were joined by police officers in demolishing a church in response to claims that it had been built illegally. Another case of intimidation took place in Balrampur Ramanujganj district in Chhattisgarh where, at the end of March, Christians at prayer in the village of Nagra were attacked by a mob of Hindus who accused them of engaging in “forced conversions through fraudulent means.” Police on the scene, rather than halting the interruption of Christian worship, instead asked the Christians to cease and desist. Christians have since reiterated their desire for “peace and freedom of worship” and have sent an appeal to the governor of Chhattisgarh, asking to take immediate action against the perpetrators of violence.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.
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