In India, Hindu nationalists have been open and violent in opposing the church. Several pastors have been murdered, others beaten. Churches and their congregations have been attacked or threatened.
More recently, persecution of Christians has been particularly intense in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states in the south. Pastors of independent churches in rural places – a significant area for church growth – have been a particular target.
Groups such as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also used political means to try to stem the spread of religions such as Christianity. The BJP’s landslide win in the May 2014 general elections raised concerns among Christians and other minority groups that religious persecution might increase.
Seven Indian states have now passed anti-conversion laws – though in two of these they are yet to be implemented. This legislation imposes fines or imprisonment on anyone using force, inducement or ‘any fraudulent means’ to convert another – loosely defined terms wide open to abuse.
Christians say that such laws are being used to curtail church activities, including social programmes. Church leaders are regularly attacked by Hindu extremists and then accused of ‘forcible conversion’ – even in states where such laws are not in place.
In this context Release partners in India seek to serve and support persecuted Christians and to actively spread God’s message of love in the most sensitive and highly persecuted areas of the country. One of the ways our partners do this is by providing bibles to pastors working in these threatened states.