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Media Contact: William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia RM-SAsia@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
India's Government Remains Silent on Issue of Religious Intolerance
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that police in India's capital of New Delhi have arrested hundreds of Christians demonstrating against a recent string of attacks on churches. Christians claim that five churches in New Delhi have been attacked over the past two months as religious intolerance continues to grow in the South Asian nation.
Hundreds of Christians gathered in New Delhi Thursday, Feb. 5, to demand greater protection for Christians and their places of worship. Demonstrators gathered outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral, near the Indian parliament, and planned to march to the residence of the Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Police barricaded the roads leading to the Home Minister's residence in an effort to prevent the protest. Police also imposed an emergency law known as Section 144 which prohibits unlawful assemblies. According to Reuters, about 200 police were stationed outside of the cathedral while several hundred demonstrators were inside.
Mukesh Kumar Meena, a senior officer at the police station where the demonstrators were being held, told the Wall Street Journal that 350 people were detained outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral on suspicion of unlawful assembly. "They had no permission to protest there," Meena told the Wall Street Journal.
John Dayal, a Christian activist, told the Wall Street Journal that he and around 200 other Christians were arrested as they began a peaceful walk toward Home Minister Rajnath Singh's residence to ask him to investigate recent incidents of targeted attacks on church buildings. "Our protest demanded that the government inquire into the violence against Christians because we do not trust the police to investigate properly," Dayal said in a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal.
"All we are asking is, 'What are the police doing? What is the government doing?'" one protester told Reuters. Christians want proper security and safety the protester went on to say.
Church attacks in New Delhi have been on the rise over the past two months. Five churches have been attacked since St. Sebastian's Church in East Delhi was burned on December 1. Traces of kerosene were found and police later confirmed that the fire was a case of intentional arson. Outside of India's capital, religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities has skyrocketed. Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took over India's national government in May 2014, attacks on Christians and their places of worship have escalated dramatically.
ICC's Regional Manager, William Stark, said, "This string of church attacks in New Delhi is just a sampling of what Christians across India are facing. In India's rural areas, church burnings, beatings, social boycotts, and forced conversion attempts have become common place. India's national government has remained bizarrely silent on the issue of religious intolerance, despite the fact that it is affecting millions of its own citizens. Prime Minister Modi has been called on multiple times to publicly speak on this issue, yet he has remained silent. This silence has let down India's religious minorities and only further emboldened India's Hindu radicals. ICC applauds the actions of New Delhi's Christians today as they attempt to encourage their government to protect the rights of all citizens, even if they are a religious minority."
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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