By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christians in central India are recovering from injuries after hundreds of anti-Christian activists attacked them for refusing to abandon their faith in Christ, several sources confirmed.
The chief of the Adnadhi village in India’s Hindu-ruled state of Madhya Pradesh reportedly summoned the Christians on August 15 to a site where a mob of some 250 people assembled.
When eleven of the believers arrived, they were given two options: abandon their faith or leave the village, according to local Christians and advocacy groups.
“When they refused, stones were thrown at them. Four of the attacked victims required hospitalization due to internal injuries,” added Christian rights group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), citing several sources.
The village of Adnadhi is home to 15 families who converted to Christianity about 20 years ago, Worthy News learned. The victims were not identified amid security concerns.
“Although they have faced some opposition in the past, this attack was completely unexpected. The incident was reported to the police. But the authorities have refused to take any action against the attackers,” VOMC stressed.
There was no immediate comment from officials, but Madhya Pradesh is known for its hardline policies towards non-Hindus, including Christians.
VOMC said it was impressed by “the steadfast faith of our Christian brothers and sisters in this Indian village.” The group asked Christians to pray for healing the injured and the other Christians as they “remain at their village” despite the recent ambush. “May God work within the hearts and minds of the opposing villagers, establishing His peace over this entire community,” VOMC said in a statement.
Anti-Christian attacks have increased in Madhya Pradesh since the enactment of anti-conversion legislation, which came into force in March, Christians said.
Critics linked the anti-Christian violence here and in other states to the rhetoric and policies of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People's Party.
“Due to growing religious intolerance and the normalization of religiously motivated violence, many radical Hindu nationalists view all religious conversions to non-Hindu faiths as fraudulent,” said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
“In an increasing number of cases, radical Hindu nationalists equate all non-Hindu religious activity with forced or fraudulent conversions,” ICC explained in an assessment.
“This assumption of guilt has been the catalyst for many violent attacks on Christians simply exercising their religious freedom rights,“ ICC added in a report obtained by Worthy News.
Despite the crackdown, there are some 67.4 million Christians in India, about five percent of the nation’s mainly Hindu population of 1.4 billion people, according to researchers.
The nation ranks number 10 on the annual World Watch List (WWL) of 50 countries where advocacy group Open Doors says Christians suffer most for their faith. “Christians in India are struck down not once but twice,” added Open Doors, which compiles the WWL based on in-depth research.
“As well as the devastating [coronavirus] pandemic, believers face ongoing persecution. Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” the group stressed.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under international pressure to improve the rights of Christians and other religious minorities.
Under his leadership, Parliament passed legislation to fast-track citizenship for religious minority groups such as Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, as well as Christians and Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
However, critics say in practice, his BJP party continues to encourage crackdowns on non-Hindu groups, including devoted Christians, across the country.