Christians join religious persecution protests in India

Christians were among thousands of protesters in at least eight cities in India after Hindu extremists stabbed a Muslim teenager to death on a train, reportedly accusing him of eating beef. The consumption of beef is illegal in most states in India, where the majority Hindu religion worships cows.
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DELHI, India (BP) -- Christians have joined thousands in protests across India against mob violence fueled by religious beliefs in the mostly Hindu nation.

The protests, which continue today (July 12), followed the lynching two weeks ago of Junaid Khan, a teenage Muslim boy stabbed to death by men who reportedly accused him of eating beef. The men also attacked Khan's three brothers, throwing all of them off a train as they returned from a shopping trip during the annual Eid celebration marking the end of Ramadan.

Most Indian states ban consumption of cows, worshipped by Hindus but a cheap source of protein for others, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains.

Under the rallying cry "Not In My Name," protesters gathered in at least eight cities June 28 through early July, proclaiming the religious liberty guaranteed in India's constitution but considered unenforced. The killings, conducted in the name of Hinduism and patriotism including "cow devotion," were "not in my name," protesters proclaimed.

Christians, only 2.8 percent of India's 1.3 billion people, were among banner bearers, United Christian Forum president Michael Williams told the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCANEWS).

"A small group in India believe that every Indian should follow a particular culture and lifestyle dictated by them," UNANEWS quoted Williams June 30. "It cannot exist. Not in my name and not in my constitution. … You are not protecting the constitution by killing innocents."

Police arrested four men for Khan's murder and identified the chief suspect in the killing, UNANEWS reported. Two of the suspects were local government employees, according to news reports.

Public lynching by "cow protectors" protesting the consumption, smuggling or slaughter of cows has increased across India under the leadership of Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UNANEWS reported.

India has changed, National Commission for Minorities Chairman Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi said July 10 on News 18 India. While he condemned the actions of cow protectors, he also condemned the beef industry.

"The people who are working in the beef industry or cow meat have to understand that there is a change in the country now," Rizvi said, "and they should stay away from such a profession."

The latest Not in My Name anti-persecution event, a vigil, is scheduled today at 7 p.m. in Delhi, decrying the murder of a group of Hindi pilgrims, whom protestors also described as innocent victims. Terrorists attacked the group of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims July 10th in Kashmir, killing at least seven and injuring 19 or more others. The pilgrims were participating in the annual 48-day pilgrimage to the Himilayan cave shrine of Amarnath. The pilgrims were from Kashmir, a mostly Sunni Muslim community with a sizeable Hindu population.

Not in My Name announced the vigil on Facebook, News 18 India said today.

"Gather at Jantar Mantar and stand in vigil against hate and in grief with the families of those killed," the Facebook appeal said. "All lives matter and dead bodies should not become part of a politics that divides people on the basis of religion.

"The seven dead did not deserve to die and it is only when we stand up and demand an end to this politics of hatred that we can prevent the deaths of innocents going on a pilgrimage or returning from Eid shopping."

The Open Doors World Watch List of religious persecution ranked India as the 15th most difficult place for Christians to live in 2017. Open Doors recorded 316 persecution incidents against Indian Christians in the first four months of this year. "In many cases," Open Door said in its report, "the extremists openly declare that Christians have no right to preach or attempt to convert people in a Hindu country."

Southern Baptist pastor Waylon Bailey, who leads First Baptist Church in Covington, La., reported such an incident suffered by a Christian missionary with whom his church partners. On June 25, Bailey said, policemen interrupted a Sunday morning worship service in India.

"[Policemen] scattered all the believers and threatened them not to gather in this place for prayer," Bailey posted July 6 at WaylonBailey.com, sharing an email he received from the missionary. "And they used abusing words to our two evangelists." The officers told the evangelists "not to gather people for prayer or worship" and threatened to charge them with a crime.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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