India has seen over 150 incidents of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution so far in 2024. According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the lives of Christians are under threat in 19 states in India.

A new report from the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCF), an Indian ecumenical organization monitoring Christian persecution, says a total of 161 incidents of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution have been reported so far this year.

ACN says almost 30 percent of the cases occurred in Chhattisgarh, a landlocked state in central India with a population of nearly 30 million people. According to the most recent census, 93.25 percent of the state is Hindu, 2 percent is Muslim, and just 1.92 percent are Christian.

The Catholic organization says Chhattisgarh is notorious for the ostracization of Christians –“including villagers denying their neighbors the right to bury their dead according to Christian rites.”

The state is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also is the ruling party of the national government.

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The UCF report came out in anticipation of the general elections for the lower house in India, which will be held between April 19 and June 1.

The report, sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), highlights that national elections could potentially exacerbate the existing tensions.

UCF appealed to Indian national authorities to ensure the equal protection and rights of all citizens, regardless of their faith.

“We request our leadership to put an end to this violence by taking strict action against perpetrators of all such crimes, and we hope and pray for a peaceful and fair election,” the report says.

“The Christian community in India continues to face targeted violence and hate crimes”, explaining that “the spread of Hindutva philosophy espoused by the Hindutva group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is, to a large extent, a principal cause of this growing persecution against Christians.”

UCF says Hindutva, a right-wing form of Hindu nationalism, is intolerant of other religions or cultures.

“The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], which took power in 2014, subscribes to this ideological approach and its political success has facilitated religio-nationalist rhetoric and action,” the report says.

UCF went on to explain that “India is an example of ‘hybrid persecution’, where both pseudo-legal measures and bloody attacks are perpetrated against Indians with the ‘wrong’ religion,” concluding that “prospects for religious freedom, therefore, continue to appear negative.”

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Regina Lynch, International Executive President of ACN, said India is one of the countries of greatest concern in the organization’s Religious Freedom in the World 2023 report, “with ‘authoritarian government’ and ‘ethno-religious nationalism’ indicated as the main drivers of persecution.”

“ACN is deeply concerned about the latest reports indicating a rise in intolerance and attacks on religious freedom in India, pointing to an increase in the persecution of Christians,” she said.

“We would like to invite our friends and benefactors to pray for India during this turbulent time. Let’s pray that religious minorities, including Christians, may see their human rights respected and upheld during the general elections and in the months and years that will follow,” Lynch said.