Since 1947, when the Republic of India gained its independence, it has gone through many rough patches. Yet with all the ups and downs, the young country gradually grew into its own as a generally stable, secular democracy.
Bold and courageous Indians debated, and toiled, and not only worked — or began working — through many of the country’s social issues, but also helped lift millions upon millions of their fellow citizens out of poverty, vastly boost the economy, and differentiate India from many of South Asia’s far more authoritarian States and their various communal conflicts.
The sea change began in 2014, when the current ruling party in India first came to power. That party is the Bharatiya Janata Party (or BJP), a fairly young party — founded only in 1980 — which is quite different from most political parties with which we are familiar. The BJP, you see, is actually the political wing of an older organization called the RSS and was founded to bring the RSS’s Hindu nationalist philosophy into the political realm.
The RSS is a paramilitary that was founded in 1925, the same year that Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf and founded his own SS. It grew in the years before the Second World War, and its founders not only explicitly praised the fascist movements that were developing in Europe at the same time, but actually traveled there to visit them. They then explicitly pointed to their own organization, the RSS, as a group that they considered to be the Indian equivalent of the European fascist groups.
They also detailed their view that India is, always has been, and always should be a nation reserved solely for Hindus. They believed that only Hindus possessed a “birthright” to Indian citizenship, and, variously, called for stripping non-Hindus of citizenship, ejecting them from the country, or simply eliminating them. They went even a step further, praising — yes, I said praising — Hitler’s treatment of the Jews as a model for the RSS to follow.
Their primary targets were — and are today — Muslims and Christians, whom they, in so many words, termed as “foreign elements,” “internal threats,” and “traitors.”
Why traitors? Because they were Indian citizens who had chosen to follow a different religion than Hinduism — and the RSS believes that only Hindus can be true Indians.
This is the ideology of the paramilitary whose political wing, the BJP, has been in complete control of India since 2014.
For the past eight years of the RSS-BJP regime in India, Muslims have faced an ever increasing persecution that has ramped up to the point that international experts and think tanks are now issuing genocide warnings. Christians, too, have faced growing persecution.
Every year since 2014, the total number of violent incidents reported against Indian Christians has increased, reaching an all-time high in 2021 of 505 attacks.
Now, despite such a high number of incidents, the figures must be properly contextualized to avoid underestimating the true impact on the Indian Christian community.
For one thing, 505 attacks in 2021 represents only documented incidents; a great many more may have gone unreported. For another thing, it’s crucial to remember that the vast majority of documented attacks were mob attacks by, at times, hundreds of people. Most attacks were not against individuals, but rather against entire congregations of dozens, scores, or more, meaning that thousands of people may have been directly victimized. Moreover, such attacks — especially considering how they usually involve impunity for the attackers and arrests for the victims — spread psychological terror which almost certainly impacts tens and tens of thousands, if not millions, of other Indian Christians.
National Indian Christian organizations and leaders have described 2021 as a “year of fear” and the “most violent” that they have experienced.
Last year, International Christian Concern — a DC-based nonprofit — awarded India, its prime minister, and the RSS’s family of Hindu nationalist organizations its ignominious “Persecutor of the Year” award. Voice of the Martyrs, in its most recent reports, categorizes the environment for Indian Christians as “hostile.” And Open Doors USA, a watchdog group monitoring global persecution of Christians, labels the situation as one of “extreme” persecution.
Open Doors also issues annual rankings of countries according to the level of persecution faced by Christians.
In 2013, a year before the BJP came to power, Open Doors ranked India 31st among the top 50 countries in the world where persecution of Christians is most severe. This year — and for the past four years — India has ranked as the 10th most dangerous country in the world in which to be a Christian.
That’s higher than, for instance, China or even Saudi Arabia.
Notably, while there are nine other countries where persecution of Christians does rank higher, India has three distinguishing factors from them all: first, it is the only legitimate, officially secular democracy on the list; second, as the second-most populated country in the world, its population is more than twice that of all the other nine combined; third, it is the only country which is an ally of the United States.
Persecution of Indian Christians is skyrocketing, but we here in America generally remain not only unaware of the severity of the situation, but are all too often — especially as American Christians — totally ignorant of the reality that there is even any persecution occurring at all.
That needs to change. Indian Christians are being backed into a corner. Speaking from personal experience interacting with that community, I can assure you with full authority: they are pleading for the American Church to speak out for them.