Christians, Muslims Attacked in India

Religion News Service

In the past two months, at least 30 instances of violent attacks on Christians and Muslims have occurred in the Indian state of Gujarat, according to reports.

One such incident involved Hindu extremists armed with sticks and swords barging into the home of a Methodist minister and warning him to stop preaching Christianity and start worshiping Hindu gods or face being burned alive, Reuters reported Monday.

"I can't go back to my house, we are too frightened," the minister, M.M. Roy, said.

However, Muslims have been the main target of the extremists. Early this summer, after two Hindu girls eloped with Muslim boys from the village of Radhikpur, Muslim homes were attacked. Some 350 Muslims were forced to flee.

Reuters said that activist groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishah and Bajrang Dal, which is associated with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, have become emboldened by the party's rise to power as head of India's coalition government.

Gujarat, which is in western India north of Bombay, is also controlled by the party.

Christians make up less than 3% of Gujarat's population. Muslims account for 13%.

To protect their communities, church groups have organized the United Christian Assn. and have held peaceful protests. Still, Gujarat's Christians remain concerned.

"We don't know what to do when the government is with [the extremists]," said K.G. Verghese, a United Christian member. "There is a lot of fear here."

In 1992, about 700 people died in Gujarat after Hindu extremists destroyed a 16th-century mosque in north India.

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