Christians in India were the targets of 305 violent incidents in the past nine months, according to a new report.
The report, produced by three civil rights groups, concluded that Christians faced persecution in 21 of the country’s 28 states, said the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The fact-finding report was published by United Against Hate, the Association for Protection of Civil Rights, and the United Christian Forum on Oct. 21.
A.C. Michael, national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, said: “This indicates that organized violence against Christians is spreading across the country.”
The report found that the violence peaked in September when there were 69 violent incidents, compared to 50, the next highest figure, in August.
India, the world’s second-most populous country after China, is ranked 10th on the World Watch List for the persecution of Christians compiled by the advocacy group Open Doors.
According to a 2011 census, 79.8% of India’s 1.38 billion population is Hindu, 14.2% Muslim, and 2.3% Christian.
India has the second-largest Catholic population in Asia after the Philippines. There are around 20 million Catholics in the country, comprising Latin Rite Catholics as well as members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) listed India as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade.
“The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” the commission’s 2021 report said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pope Francis to visit India during a meeting at the Vatican in October.
He was the first Indian prime minister to visit the pope at the Vatican since June 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee met with John Paul II during an official visit to Italy.
India and the Holy See established diplomatic relations shortly after India gained independence from Britain in 1948.
Paul VI became the first pope to visit India in 1964, when he attended the International Eucharistic Congress in Mumbai (known then as Bombay).
The last pope to travel to India was John Paul II, who made a trip to New Delhi in 1999.