India: Five attacks on Christians in the last week

Christians in India have protested against the lack of protection for religious minorities.Reuters

Christians in central India faced numerous attacks from suspected Hindu nationalists last week, with reports of attacks on churches as well as a centre for disabled children.

Three Protestant churches were attacked in Indore, in Madhya Pradesh, on May 12, according to AsiaNews. The attackers threw stones at one church and vandalised numerous pieces of church property at St Paul's Anglican Church.

The militants also tried to set fire to one of the churches by throwing burning rags inside the building. The police responded quickly and extinguished the flames before the fire spread.

Some have speculated that the violent Hindu group Sanskritik Jagran Manch was behind the attack.

In the early hours of May 13 a centre for disabled children run by Augustinian nuns in the same region was attacked by unknown criminals who threw bricks on the roof which fell in the room where the nuns were sleeping, AsiaNews reports. The nuns were unharmed in the incident, and none of the children were at centre on the night it was attacked.

One of the nuns, Sister Jaya, said: "Thanks to the Lord's divine providence, no one was injured and the children were not present at that time. Now we sisters are afraid."

Pastor Ronald Emmanuel Sinclair was also reportedly stopped, questioned and beaten on Sunday May 10.

Sajan George, head of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Fides news agency that the attacks were conducted by Hindu fundamentalists targeting Christians for no reason other than "hatred toward helpless Christians" and "the aim to terrorize them."

George called for justice for Christians in the region. "As the situation is tense and violence [is] likely to spread like wildfire, the state has to take appropriate and timely measures: it is a priority to protect the rights of defenceless Christians in Madhya Pradesh and ensure justice," he said.

There have been numerous reports of low-level violence and acts of intimidation against the Christian community in India, which many have attributed to a rise in Hindu nationalist sentiment since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom Report, released at the end of last month, said that incidents of religiously motivated violence had increased over the past three years, attributing the rise partly to religiously divisive sentiment during the election campaign.

The report added: "Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)."

Modi's government dismissed the report, saying it showed little understanding of Indian society.