ISSN 2330-717X

India: Tribal Christians Denied Food Over Their Faith

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By Bijay Kumar Minj

(UCA News) — Sixteen Christian families in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh have been denied access to food, water and other basic necessities due to refusing to abandon their religion.

Some 100 Christians from these families are facing a social boycott by tribal villagers for refusing to follow the Sarna tribal religion.

“The problem started last September when Christian family members refused to follow the Sarna religion, but things were sorted out in November when the district court intervened,” said Pastor Moses Logan, president of the Chhattisgarh State Christian Welfare Society.

“The local administration and even the government are aware of the persecution of Christian families, but they are not worried about the problem. It is very unfortunate that even after the case was solved by the court and people agreed to live peacefully, they have failed to abide by the law.

“When the problem started last year, our forum wrote a letter to the state chief minister, followed by a case in the local court, and everything was amicably solved, but now it looks like the same problem has arisen again. We will not leave our people to suffer in the name of their faith and will work towards their welfare.”

A group opposed to indigenous people following Christianity vandalized 16 houses of tribal Christians in three villages — Kakrabeda, Singanpur and Tiliyabeda — in Bastar region last September.

They used wooden sticks and poles to partially destroy the thatched roofs and walls of mud houses. The attack came after the Christians refused to join the rituals and prayers of the indigenous Sarna religion, the tribal creed that worships nature. They also assaulted women and children, with many running into the forest to save their lives.

Some 66 Christians from 10 families were driven out of Kakrabeda village but 30 Christians from six families from Singanpur and Tiliyabeda returned to their villages after the court order on Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, a local Christian told International Christian Concern (ICC), a persecution watchdog, that Hindu nationalists have denied these families access to food rations and the village’s main source of income.

The ICC report said that during the attack the radical group also took away the ration cards from the Christian families so that they would not be able to purchase government-subsidized food.

“We are paying a heavy price for following Jesus. We are even accused of practicing a foreign faith and leaving their age-old tribal tradition,” Bhima Sodi told ICC. “The boycott by the villagers affects our livelihoods and we are even facing the challenges of physical abuse.” 

Many critics say that after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, attacks on minorities have seen an increase.

Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.

Chhattisgarh is India’s most densely Hindu state with 98.3 percent of its 23 million people being Hindu. Muslims account for 1 percent, while Christians, mostly tribal people, account for 0.7 percent.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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