01/14/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –On Dec. 29, Mahadevi Jogi, a Christian resident of Tukkanatti village, dressed up in new clothes as she prepared to take part in her church’s Christmas celebration. Sitting in a packed church hall with 80 other Christians, Jogi looked forward to the Christmas feast scheduled to follow the service.
Less than ten minutes after the service started, however, Jogi found herself collapsed on the floor with a fractured knee. A chaotic scene surrounded her as a mob of 30 radical Hindu nationalists stormed the church and beat her fellow congregants.
“Christmas this year turned out to be very violent,” Pastor Akshay Kumar, leader of the church in Tukkanatti, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “I have been serving as a pastor in this place for the past 20 years and have never faced such aggression. I feel sorry for my congregation as they had to go through this on a festive day.”
According to Pastor Kumar, members of the Sri Ram Sena were responsible for the attack on his church. The mob of 30 broke into the church chanting Hindu nationalist slogans and used sticks and a rope to beat members of the congregation. The injury inflicted on Jogi happened when a mob member took a steel bucket and slammed it into her knee.
Across India’s Karnataka state, where Tukkanatti is located, there was a surge in attacks on Christians over Christmas. Across the state, Christian congregations faced mob violence and threats at the hands of radical Hindu nationalists.
In another incident, Christ Grace Prayer Hall Church was forced to cancel their Christmas service in Akkihebbalu village. Speaking to ICC, Pastor H.R. Peter explained, “A mob of Hindu radicals, joined by the police and the Tahsildar, came to the church on Christmas Eve and told us we could not hold a Christmas service. The reason they gave was that we did not have the proper permission to gather as a congregation.”
Pastor Peter has been serving as head pastor of Christ Grace Prayer Hall Church for the last eight years and has a congregation of 150 members. According to Pastor Peter, this is the first time he has been forced to cancel Christmas.
“We only have one festival, unlike other faiths, and we do not have freedom to celebrate,” Pastor Peter told ICC. “Everyone in the congregation was disappointed.”
“We are being hounded by the anti-Christians,” Pastor Peter continued. “The goal is to wipe out Christianity from the village. Several times the Hindu radicals have come to the church to disrupt the services. They’ve told us we cannot run the church anymore because we did not get permission to hold prayers.”
In December, the state government’s passage of a new anti-conversion law encouraged radical Hindu nationalists in Karnataka to become more aggressive in their anti-Christian activities. For months leading up to the introduction of this law, state politicians falsely claimed Christians were fraudulently converting Hindus to Christianity and the anti-conversion law was needed to stop the Christians.
On the street level, these statements by politicians incited many radicals to action.
Many Christians fear the enactment of the anti-conversion law will continue to increase the aggressiveness of the radicals in Karnataka. They believe the new law will provide radicals with legal cover to attack churches and harass pastors.
“I am not worried about the anti-conversion law,” Pastor Manjunath told ICC. “I don’t force anybody to convert. However, the anti-Christian thugs will misuse the law to promote violence.”
Like so many others in Karnataka, Pastor Manjunath was physically assaulted as he led a Christmas celebration in Hosadurga on Dec. 28. After the attack, Pastor Manjunath was taken to the local police station where he was further harassed by police officers who told him not to lead any more Christian prayer in Hosadurga.
As Indian Christians look forward to 2022, many fear the violence witnessed over the Christmas season will continue to escalate across the country. According to the United Christian Forum (UCF), 2021 was the most violent year on record for India’s Christians. UCF documented 486 violent attacks on Christians, many taking place in the last three months of the year. Please keep India’s Christians in prayer throughout 2022.
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