Persecution Numbers Underreported in India

Violence against Christians in India may be suppressed during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t been eliminated: A Christian man was killed and three others injured in an October attack on a church in India’s northwestern Punjab state.

On October 23, seven attackers arrived at a church in Amritsar as Christians were leaving after a prayer meeting. Two remained outside, keeping engines of their vehicles running, while the others entered the church and started shooting, Christian leaders told UCAN.

Police arrested three people in connection with the attack. The other four are still at large.

Prince Atwal, 35, was hit in the chest and the head and died at the scene. It seemed he was the main target of the attack, said his cousin Jaspal Masih.

Atwal had an earlier run-in with the gang leader, Randeep Gill, Masih told UCAN. "That was when Gill tried to disrupt another prayer meeting on alleged charges of religious conversion," he said. "Christians in the state are terrified and angry."

Eight of India’s states, though not Punjab, have anti-conversion laws that prohibit forced religious conversions. The laws, ostensibly meant to protect religious minorities, instead are frequently used as a pretext to accuse minorities such as Christians.

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Of the Indian Christians who received food aid from Open Doors, 80% had been neglected in government relief efforts.

Eight of India’s states, though not Punjab, have anti-conversion laws that prohibit forced religious conversions. The laws, ostensibly meant to protect religious minorities, instead are frequently used as a pretext to accuse minorities such as Christians.

In tracking first-hand incidents of Christians under pressure for their faith, Open Doors found that four people had been murdered because of their faith in the first six months of this year. That compares to a total of eight in the whole of 2019.

However, many incidents go unreported and the undercount is even more pronounced during the pandemic, said an OD spokesperson. “Fewer incidents are being reported due to the lockdown,” the spokesperson said. In the first half of this year, 349 incidents affecting 5,559 people were reported.

The organisation has noticed a dramatic rise in reports of discrimination in relief aid distribution. “Of the more than 100,000 Christians OD partners helped with Covid-19 relief aid, a staggering 80% reported that the government or local villagers sent Christians away from food distribution points, even if they have ration cards,” said the spokesperson.

Some 15% of those surveyed by OD said they did receive food aid, but reported other forms of discrimination such as rejection by the government where they were refused jobs as day labourers because of their Christian faith.

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