India: 8,000 Christians targeted by violence and persecution in 2015, report says

Protesters in Mumbai hold placards during a rally by hundreds of Christians against attacks on churches nationwide.Reuters

An Indian Christian organisation has claimed there were more than 200 major incidents of anti-Christian hate speech and persecution in the country last year.

According to the Catholic Secular Forum's (CSF) report, India Christian Persecution, seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed in 2015. It says the total number of victims of violence, including women and children, is around 8,000, and many churches were damaged or destroyed.

The report, sent to Christian Today, claims the central state of Madhya Pradesh tops the list for anti-Christian violence, followed by Tamil Nadu in the south of India and Jharkand in the east. Christians are sometimes accused of offering inducements for conversion to Dalit people and Madhya Pradesh has strict anti-conversion laws which it has recently tightened. CSF head Joseph Dias says in the report that "forced conversion is not in any way the aim of the Christian faith".

Figures given in the CSF report for overall violence are higher than those given in the Open Doors World Watch list, which ranks India as 17th in the list of countries where Christians' lives are endangered.

Open Doors says that in 2015: "More than 350 Christians were physically attacked, at least nine Christians were killed for their faith and at least three women were raped in the reporting year. Attacks mainly come from Hindu extremists, although extremist Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Maoists have all targeted Christians."

The Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by the ruling BJP party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing combination of social movement and paramilitary group, has led to hostility toward Christians in some areas. This is complicated by the appeal of Christianity to tribal and Dalit people; the RSS is opposed to conversions out of Hinduism and its offshoots have staged elaborate "ghar wapsi" conversion ceremonies for Christians and Muslims wanting to return – as they describe it – to Hinduism.