Instead of Christmas being a season of joy and glad tidings, it became a time of horror and persecution for some of India’s Christians.
According to the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), there were at least 18 confirmed assaults against Christians in recent weeks.
“Both the frequency of the attacks and their intensity has increased in the past few years,” Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the EFI and the national director of the RLC, told Morning Star News.
One of the most severe attacks occurred during a Christmas gathering on Dec. 23 in Kowad village, Kolhapur District in Maharashtra state.
Seven worshippers were sent to the hospital after 20 Hindu extremists charged inside New Life Fellowship Church with makeshift weapons and began attacking people.
“They barged into the worship hall and began to throw big stones and empty beer bottles at the worshippers,” Milton Norenj, coordinator of the New Life Fellowship Jadhinglaj told Morning Star News.
Norenj said the men were screaming, “Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji,” a phrase that means victor to the Hindu goddess Bhawani and the Hindu King Shivaji.
Pastor Bhimsen Ganpati Chavan, 36, said there were about 40 Christians present when the attack took place. Many were left injured and required stitches or surgery to recover.
“I have been living here since the year 2000,” Pastor Chavan told Morning Star News. “We have faced some opposition before, but never an attack of this kind.”
He said the attack lasted five to seven minutes until the terrorists left.
Local media report that police arrested several people and filed charges against the attackers.
This attack is just one of many against Christians and confirmed fears that India is becoming increasingly dangerous for believers.
CBN News previously reported that attacks against Christians have been on the rise in southern India.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom, in the first nine months of the year the Indian southern states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala have reported at least 60 cases of attacks against Christians. In contrast, 36 attacks against Christians were seen in the first nine months of 2017.
Earlier this year, members of the US Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to oppose the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by members of his own party.
Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) political party, which is notorious for promoting Hindu nationalism and working against those who spread any religion other than Hinduism in the country.
In July, one of India’s parliament members, Dinesh Kashyap, said a tribal people known as “Advasis” should be barred from government aid if they convert from Hinduism. Kashyap is a member of the BJP party.
Despite the growing persecution of Christians, Pastor Joseph D’Souza, who works tirelessly for human rights in India, told CBN News said God is still at work in India.
“Persecution has never stopped the growth of the church. In fact, when we are attacked, when we are persecuted, we become stronger,” he said. “They’re standing strong and they’re not recounting.”