19 May 2014

Release

Fears that extremist Hindu attacks against religious minorities could escalate. Media call to interview Kumar Swamy, National Co-ordinator All India Christian Council, in the UK on June 2 and 6.

There are fears that the landslide victory for India’s right-wing BJP party could herald an escalation of attacks against religious minorities, including India’s Christian community.

There have been a growing number of attacks against Christians by extreme nationalists, pursuing the Hindutva ideology that to be Indian is to be Hindu.

The huge electoral success of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been described as a victory for ‘muscular nationalism’.

Its leader, Narendra Modi, stands accused of failing to prevent the 2002 religious riots in his home state Gujarat, which killed more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims.

India’s Christian minority has also come under repeated attack from Hindu extremists. Many of these have been from the far-right RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), which gave its strong support to Narendra Modi. The aim of the RSS is to turn India into a Hindu nation.

Christians make up less than 6 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion population. Hindu nationalists have been open and violent in opposing the church. Militants have murdered several pastors and beaten others. They have attacked and threatened churches and their congregations.

Persecution has been particularly intense in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states in the south. Pastors of independent churches in rural places – a significant area for church growth – have been targeted.

Observers say most incidents of mass violence against Christians have taken place in states under the rule of the BJP. The Evangelical Fellowship of India says Modi’s rise has led to growing insecurity among Christians, who fear ‘the scale of persecution will increase’.

Hindu nationalists have used political means to try to stem the spread of religions such as Christianity. Seven Indian states have now passed anti-conversion laws – though they are yet to be implemented in Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Christians say such laws are being used to curtail church activities, including social programmes. Hindu extremists have attacked church leaders and then accused them of ‘forcible conversion’ – even in states where such laws are not in place.

In 2008, Hindu extremists launched a campaign of anti-Christian violence in Odisha (formerly Orissa) state, which left more than 120 Christians dead and more than 50,000 displaced.

Kumar Swamy, the National Co-ordinator of the All India Christian Council, is visiting the UK in June and is available for interview on June 2 and 6.

He is being hosted by Release International, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide.

The AICC is a leading voice in India speaking up on behalf of the country’s Christian minority and its Dalit underclass. This cross-denominational body represents 4,000 organisations and churches. It monitors, documents and intervenes on human rights issues, and has worked alongside the United Nations.

Kumar Swamy is also a member of the Dalit Freedom Network UK, which is campaigning for the emancipation of the so-called Untouchables and ending human trafficking among the Dalits.

To book an interview with Kumar Swamy, please contact Release Head of Communications, Matt Constant, on 01689 823491, or Paul Thomas on 07747 535588.

Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by: supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.

Source: Release International