Hounded, Beaten, Shot What you can do to help persecuted Christians in India.<br>By Jeff M. Sellers
24 Jun 2002
Last August 27, Hindu militants in the village of Mehndikheda, Madhya Pradesh state, chased Christians from a Pentecostal prayer service and destroyed their meeting place. Two weeks later, near Calcutta, Hindu extremists burned Christian books they h
The radicals' fusion of Hinduism with nationalism-Hindutva-has struck primarily at Muslims, but violence against Christians also has surged this year. Attacks on Christians occur weekly, The Washington Times noted on February 25. In one case, militants shot two church workers and a teenage boy; in another, extremists beat two missionaries as they were bicycling home; and a mob of 70 Hindus attacked a group of children attending a catechism class in a church. India has known various religions throughout its history, but extremists of the National Volunteer Movement (RSS, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) advocate a return to ancient days of Hindu glory described in scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita. Eighty percent of India's population adheres to some form of Hinduism, 12.5 percent are Muslim, and 2.4 percent are Christian, according to Operation World. India's constitution calls for full religious freedom. But Nationalists, portraying Christianity as a "foreign religion," have succeeded in passing local legislation that limits Christian activities and conversions in some states. In November 1999, Orissa state-where Hindu extremists killed missionary Graham Stains and his two sons in 1999-passed an order prohibiting religious conversions without the prior permission of local police and district magistrates.
Additionally, 1.2 million schoolchildren are now learning a false version of history that disparages Christianity, according to Zenit News Agency. The national government relies on the support of the RSS and the militant World Hindu Council (VHP, the Vishna Hindu Parishad) and has provided them political patronage. This has enabled the extremists-whose Hindutva ideology asserts that "India is Hindu only"-to rewrite the nation's history. Church leaders in India have pleaded in vain for the government to curtail the violence of Hindu mobs against Christians. In March RSS activists attacked two Catholic priests on their way to a police station to report an attack on a church-run school in Khurda, according to the SAR news agency. The previous day, RSS and VHP extremists pillaged and set fire to a mission station of the Divine Word Society in Sanjeli, Gujarat.