Category Archives: Christian

Report finds rising anti-Christian violence in India

An Indian Christian prays in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, on Dec. 9, 2018.
An Indian Christian prays in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, on Dec. 9, 2018. | lakshmipathilucky via Shutterstock.

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.

Asia Bibi wants to be a voice for persecuted Christians around the world

Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi/ Blanca Ruiz/ACI Prensa

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman once sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan but eventually freed, now wants to be a voice for Christians around the world.

Bibi, who addressed the International Religious Freedom Summit on Wednesday via a video message from Canada, expressed her gratitude for people who worked to secure her release from prison, and thanked God for her release. 

“From the bottom of my heart I am very thankful to the Lord, who has rescued me from my sufferings and difficulties,” said Bibi in an address that was translated into English. “He has given me a fresh start and the opportunity to start a new life with my family.” 

Now safe in Canada, Bibi said that she “wants to be a voice for Christian people, Christians in prison, and in difficulties.” 

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death, following an incident in 2009.

Bibi said that while working in a field, another person saw her drinking water from a cup previously used by Muslims, and informed her it was improper for a Christian to use that cup. An argument ensued, and Bibi was reported to a Muslim cleric five days later for her supposed blasphemy. Bibi and her family were the only Christians residing in the area, and had faced pressure to convert to Islam.

She was sentenced to death by hanging for alleged blasphemy. Pakistan’s penal code criminalizes speech that insults or defiles the state religion of Islam, but it is often used against religious minorities and many accusations are reportedly false. Pakistan has among the strictest blasphemy laws in the world, as one of only four countries with the death penalty for blasphemy. 

Bibi immediately appealed her death sentence, but the Lahore High Court upheld her conviction in 2014. She then appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, and was acquitted in 2018. She was then granted refugee status in Canada and moved there in May 2019 with her family. 

“When I was in prison, I was very worried about my children and husband,” said Bibi. “I was not aware where they were and whether they were safe or not.” 

“At the same time, I had a hope in the Lord,” said Bibi. “Thanks to all of the brothers and sisters who prayed and fasted. Because of their prayers, I am now free.”

Bibi explained that her “Christian brothers and sisters worked very hard for my freedom,” and said that she is “very thankful to everyone from the bottom of my heart.” 

“Let us join hands and stand together so we can be a voice for our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering, and help them out of their situations,” she said. “Like the Lord did for me.”

At the beginning of the video, Bibi described what her life was like in Pakistan prior to her arrest and blasphemy conviction. She said that some of her happiest memories from her village in Pakistan were celebrating Easter and Christmas with her family. 

Pakistan enforced its blasphemy laws 184 times from January 2014 through December 2018, the highest number of any country in the world, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2020, there were reportedly 30 Christians jailed on blasphemy charges in Pakistan, including seven on death row. The country has not yet executed anyone for blasphemy