Christians beaten during prayer meeting in India

Christians have faced increasing hostility in India in recent yearsDanish Siddiqui/Reuters

Christians were beaten and threatened with death as they held a prayer meeting at a church in India last week.

The Christians were praying together at the Praise the Lord Church in Tamil Nadu on Friday when Hindu nationalists distrupted their meeting, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports.

Eye witnesses said six men ranging from their early twenties to late thirties broke into the meeting and threatened the pastor, Philip Rangasamy. 

The Christians were told that they would be killed if they did not stop praying.  They were then physically assaulted by the men, who have been identified as belonging to Hindu Munani, a Hindu nationalist group.

One churchgoer's hand was fractured during the attack, while an elderly woman sustained head injuries. The perpetrators also destroyed Bibles and song books.

A report was filed with the police and the suspects have since been arrested.

Pastor Rangasamy said this was the second time that the church has been targeted in recent months.  He said that on February 10, the same suspects threatened to hurt him if he did not obtain permission to hold church services, even though the church has been conducting them for the last 13 years.

Nehemiah Christie, Director of Legislation and Regulations of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches in Tamil Nadu, said the government had "ignored" repeated calls from human rights activists about growing religious intolerance in the state.

"We had highlighted the impunity surrounding non-state actors on this church since the first incident took place on 10 February," he said.

"We even shared the video footage of the intrusion then with the police and sought the help of officers to take action against the perpetrators but nothing was done.

"The apathy and neglect by the police has now resulted in more people being hurt with risks of more attacks taking place.

"This is becoming a routine feature all across the state of Tamil Nadu. I call on the government to take stern action those police officers for their disregard to protect and preserve the rule of law."

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We urge the state and central governments to prosecute those who incite hatred and perpetrate violence against religious minorities.

"The freedom to assemble and pray is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen, which is enshrined in the Indian constitution.

"We urge the police to uphold rule of law and take seriously the concerns that have been raised by local human rights defenders."