Churches in India have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action regarding Christian persecution following several reports of disruptions of religious services before the Holy Week.
There have been reported disruptions of religious services by Hindu fundamentalists in five states in the days leading up to and on Palm Sunday.
Following the incidents, the Catholic Church in India has called on Modi, a member of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to stop such “repeated acts.”
“We are distressed that people have begun taking the law into their own hands in various matters. This is not good for the country and not good for social and religious harmony,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told the National Catholic Register on Wednesday.
“We call upon the prime minister to rein in these unruly forces and restore India’s image,” he added.
The disruptions of church services reportedly took place in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. According to World Watch Monitor, four of the five states are ruled by the BJP. The Hindu fundamentalists reportedly interrupted the Sunday services and accused the churchgoers of “conversions.”
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) issued a statement last Tuesday to condemn the incidents and urge the government to take action.
“We urge the respective state governments and the central [federal] government to not only take note of these violations, but also to take action to curtail the non-state actors who function with impunity,” the statement said.
“We also request that the state machinery be held accountable and responsible for enforcing the rule of law, so that minorities can live in peace and without fear,” it continued.
In the incident that took place in Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Krishna Paul of Believers Church in the village of Jahanpur was reportedly beaten up by a mob and brought to the police station. He was only released after Christian leaders intervened and spoke to the police.
In some cases, church pastors were allegedly taken to the local police station by force, in others, the fundamentalists brought the police along with them.
Two days before Palm Sunday, representatives of the Hindu group known as “Yuva Vahini” (Youth Carrier) disrupted a prayer service at a Protestant church at Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh.
The Yuva Vahini representatives reportedly detained and questioned about 150 Christians, including seven from the U.S. The Hindu group accused the “foreign visitors” of promoting conversions and using money to facilitate them, but the police found nothing suspicious after questioning the Americans and other foreigners visiting the church.
Uttar Pradesh gained international attention in March after BJP swept the polls in the state and Hindu nationalists nominated Yogi Adityanath, who is known for being an opponent of religious minorities, as the chief minister.