Shibu Thomas — August 28, 2020

Fabricated Charges leading to the imprisonment of innocent Christians has become increasingly common and is on a steep upsurge. Since 2018, Persecution Relief recorded 194 cases of false charges and arrests made against Christians of which 57 cases were documented in the first half of 2020 alone.

Arrests based on ‘forced conversion’ is the most widely used allegation by religious radicals. However, with the Christian minority opposing the severe Anti-conversion law, anti-Christian elements have begun to invent new and devious ways to thrust innocent ones into the bottomless pit of the Indian judicial system.

Persecution Relief was alerted about one such incident on the 25th of August 2020, which happened at a village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

*Pr. Ram Prasad was in for a shock of his life when he visited the local Police station to rule out rumors of a complaint being filed against him. “There were talks within the community that a fellow villager had made a police complaint against me” said Pr. Ram Prasad, in conversation with Persecution Relief.

“When I inquired with the Police, they made some astonishing revelations. *Bhola Nath, an 83-year-old man had filed a complaint stating that his family has been living in fear as I have been harassing the women in his house, taking the idols from his home and throwing them into the river, verbally abusing and threatening the family” said Pr. Ram.

“I do not know why they have suddenly done this” he said, discussing about the “outrageous” allegations that have been made against him. The Pastor told Persecution Relief that the same family had requested him to pray over their daughter-in- law who was suffering from a serious illness.

I prayed over her. She, her husband- *Babu Nath and family then put their faith in Jesus Christ. However, the other brother, his family and Bhola Nath-the father of the two brothers continued with their prior religious beliefs.

Persecution Relief spoke to the *Alok Nath- the son of Babu Nath concerning the incident. “Although we live on the same property, our houses are separate. My grandfather lives with my uncle and his family but continuously keeps a watch on who visits our home. They are against our Christian faith.”

Speaking to Persecution Relief, *Hari, a local shop keeper who is also a part of Pr. Ram’s Church said, “Bhola Nath is telling people in the community that our Pastor has broken up his family. This is untrue. Our Pastor has been a Christian for the past 15 years and is faithfully serving the Church in our community.”

“I went to their home after they invited me there. We live in the same village and know each other for a long time and I have never caused them any inconvenience. I have no idea why Bhola Nath has put me into trouble” said the Pastor.

It is no joke for a Christian to prove his innocence to widely biased authorities, especially in a country that is known for its religious intolerance. Finding a lawyer who is willing to fight an unpredictable and one-sided battle is tedious, let alone paying his fees. The process is often long and grueling, sometimes taking years to clear.

This prejudiced attitude towards the Christian minority is gradually but steadily gaining ground. Popularized promises made by influential politicians of India being ‘ethnically cleansed’ by 2021 are being widely welcomed and propagated by the religious majority.

These religiously motivated attacks may seem insignificant at the moment, yet is an important piece of a puzzle- the picture which we may behold only once it’s too late.

Between January to July 2020, Persecution Relief has documented 9 religiously motivated hate crimes that have led to death, of which 2 involve rape. From January 2016 to June 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 2067 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India of which 293 cases were recorded in the first half of 2020 alone.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, ‘Countries of Particular Concern’(CPC) in its 2020 report. The US State Department ranked India’s persecution severity at “Tier 2” along with Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past seven years, India has risen from No. 31 to No. 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch List, ranking just behind Iran in persecution severity.

Shibu Thomas is founder of Persecution Relief

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