Christians in India have experienced an increase in persecution during the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has revealed.
The report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) documents 135 cases of discrimination against Christians in the first half of 2020, including the murder of two Christian men and a teenage boy.
Other instances of persecution including lynching, false accusations, threats and being ostracised by the community for their faith.
Most of the documented attacks occurred in Uttar Pradesh, in the north of the country, where there were 32 recorded hate crimes against Christians.
In Odisha, a 14-year-old Christian boy was reportedly killed in a horrific murder after a group of attackers crushed him to death with a stone and dismembered his body.
In Tamil Nadu, it was reported that a Christian father and son were tortured and murdered by local police.
In Jharkhand, Christian women were sexually assaulted and some Christian converts were told to renounce their faith or face being barred from the community well.
EFI said that the real level of persecution may be much higher as Christians are often too afraid to report crimes against them. On some occasions, the police refuse to register cases, it said.
"The police have been very reluctant and slow to register FIRs [First Information Reports] in these cases involving recognizable offenses despite being duty-bound to do so under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Even in the cases registered with the police, most never come to court," EFI said.
The organisation fears that persecution will only increase if anti-conversion laws are imposed in more states across India. At present, eight ouf of India's 29 states have anti-conversion laws in place making it illegal for anyone to change their faith, but campaigners want the laws to be imposed across the whole country.
The EFI is calling on the Indian government to protect Christians and other religious minorities.
"We especially appeal to the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, to deal stringently with the various right-wing organizations operating in these states whose primary agenda is to create an atmosphere of fear among the Christian community and other religious minorities," it said.