India has seen a dramatic increase in the persecution of Christians in the last year, to the point that practicing the faith has now become a high-risk activity, according to persecution monitor Open Doors.
Four years ago, India was at No. 31 on Open Doors' World Watch List. But this year, it has shot up to No. 15. In 2016, Christians in the South Asian nation experienced a rise in the number of religiously motivated attacks mostly from Hindu nationalists, The Guardian reports.
From the beginning of 2016 up to Oct. 31, Open Doors said a church was burned or a cleric in India was attacked around 10 times a week. This figure, the persecution watchdog notes, is a threefold increase from 2015's number.
Lisa Pearce of Open Doors UK & Ireland said there is also an increase in Christian persecution attributed to the rising extreme religious nationalism in India. She said these incidents, which often target Christians from lower castes, are sometimes encouraged or "tacitly condoned" by authorities.
"There is a clear pattern of rising religious intolerance across the Indian sub-continent, which affects many millions of Christians," said Pearce."Religious nationalists attempt to forcibly convert people to the dominant faith of their nation, often turning to violence when community discrimination and non-violent oppression do not succeed in imposing their religious beliefs on minority Christians."
During the Christmas season, there were four separate incidents of Christians being attacked by extremist Hindus. These attacks, said Crux, confirm the threats and the increasingly difficult lives that Christians in India are facing.
In one of the incidents, six people sustained injuries after a mob composed of young extremist Hindu nationalists attacked a church for allegedly forcibly converting Hindus. Earlier in December, Christians were beaten up for singing Christmas carols.
Meanwhile, North Korea has maintained its top spot on the 2017 World Watch List for 16 consecutive years now. The persecution in Iraq and Syria has reportedly decreased because of the exodus of Christians from the region to escape the atrocities of the Islamic State.