Magazine article The Christian Century

India's Christians See Rise in Attacks against Them

Magazine article The Christian Century

India's Christians See Rise in Attacks against Them

Article excerpt

Each day, children on their way to Mount Carmel School in New Delhi pass through gates under the watch of armed security guards and city police officers after a nearby Catholic convent and school were broken into.

The vandals stole money, tampered with security cameras, and ransacked the principal's office on February 13. The attack was the sixth this year in an ongoing series targeting Christian communities and schools across India.

The attack spurred Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the growing safety concerns of India's Christians, who make up 2.3 to 2.5 percent of the population. Modi immediately asked the Delhi police commissioner to investigate the attacks.

"Government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others overtly or covertly," he said. "Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions."

But even after Modi's address, the attacks continued. In March, an elderly nun was raped in Kolkata, West Bengal, and a Christian school in West Bengal received anonymous threats, according to a Times of India report. In April, St. Mary's Church in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, was vandalized, setting off a wave of protests.

In May, the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited an "increase of harassment and violence" toward India's Christians.

India's Christian schools are largely Hindu. Of Mount Carmel's 2,500 students, for example, 75 percent are Hindu, 17 percent are Christian, and fewer than 2 percent are Muslim. There are some Buddhist students as well. Most of the teachers also are not Christians.

Gauri Viswanathan, a professor in the humanities at Columbia University, has studied the ongoing discourse on conversion in India for decades.

Violence against Christians is not a new phenomenon, she said, pointing out that proselytizing in Christian schools was not as overt as perhaps imagined, even back in the 19th century.

"This is a deep-seated fear," she said. "Even the East India Company would not allow missionaries into India until 1813. Literacy through a Christian lens meant reading and learning English through Milton or other Christian scholars."

Today, the curriculum focuses on academic achievement. Teachers such as Karthika Paul at Mount Carmel say they can instill a sense of values in their students without a religious framework. Paul focuses on producing students who can "overcome evil with good, forgive, and be good citizens with good integrity. …

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