Christians in India have overturned a government proposal to make Good Friday a normal working day.
In Meghalaya, a state in north-eastern India, Christians account for 75 per cent of the state’s population of three million. Nevertheless, the State's coalition government declared that Good Friday would be a normal ‘working day’. The move was withdrawn after widespread protests from Christians who argued that they were being denied the religious freedom guaranteed to them under the constitution.
“We are happy that the government officials acted promptly and reversed the controversial order,” a senior Christian leader told World Watch Monitor.
The proposal is believed to have come from the Hindu nationalist BJP - which is a partner in the coalition.
Certainly they have a history of attempting to 'ban' Christian festivals. In 2017, the BJP-led federal government chose Good Friday to launch ‘Digital India Day’. In 2016, the BJP-led government in Gujarat in western India, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was forced to retract its bid to make Good Friday a ‘working day’, while in 2015, India’s second-most populous state, Maharashtra, launched Good Governance Day and asked its employees to conduct training programmes on Christmas Day. Both Good Friday and Christmas Day are national holidays in India.
“This episode shows that the BJP will do anything, wherever they are in power,” said P.B.M. Basaiawmoit, former Vice-President of the National Council of Churches in India. “We have to be on the alert.”
Holy Week – a week of attacks
While Christians are celebrating a victory in Meghalaya, elsewhere the Easter week saw a number of brutal attacks against Christians:
- 25 March. BJP religious extremists disrupted a Palm Sunday church service at the Telangana Sheloha Prayer House, Balapur, Rangareddy District, Hyderabad. They threatened the Christians with greater punishment if they didn’t stop worshipping.
- 28 March. A baptism in the Evangelical Churches of India (ECI) church in was disrupted when a group of some 20 Hindu extremists physically assaulted the Christians gathered there. Pastor Jose and two others were badly injured.
- 30 March. In Renta Chintala, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Pastor Maddira Kotireddy was badly injured when extremists attacked him with an axe. He lost several fingers in the attack, and was injured in the stomach, shoulders, face and hands. Pastor Kottireddy is a well-known evangelist and had been warned several times by Hindu extremists not to continue his ministry. He is still in a critical condition.
- 31 March. In Dharmapuri AG Church, Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, Pastor Sundar Singh was leading a fasting prayer service when he was attacked with stones by two attackers. The pastor was injured and had to be admitted to hospital.
- 1 April. When believers gathered for the Easter Sunday service at Bethel Prayer Assembly, Marudur, Coimbatore, a group of Hindu extremists entered the church and threatened the congregation. Pastor Rajesh was beaten severely and suffered a head injury.
Rapid Response teams
These examples are just some of the many hundreds of incidents of violence, abuse and discrimination which Christians face in India on a daily basis. India has risen to number 11 on the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List. Radical Hindu groups are increasingly enjoying impunity when they harass Muslims or Christians.
Open Doors works through church partners to support the church in India to help them to face persecution. It costs just £21 to resource a Rapid Response team of volunteers for a month to give food, medical care and legal assistance, as well as comfort and support, to persecuted believers.
Give to support persecuted Christians in India
- Pray for Christians in India as they face incresasing discrimination
- Give thanks for the overturning of the Government proposal against Good Friday
- Pray for those injured in recent attacks: that they would be healed and their constitutional rights would be upheld.