A group of Christmas carolers were brutally beaten by suspected Hindu radicals in India as attacks on Christians and their places of worship continue to increase in the country.
According to Asia News, the incident took place in the village of Tikariya, near the city of Banswara, in the State of Rajasthan. Every year, members of the Church of St. Peter and Paul carry out private Christmas carol services in various homes across the region. This year, the carolers included 20 Christians, including three nuns, women and children.
Last week, about 30 attackers armed with sticks and batons, waited outside and hurled themselves upon the group after the service, while carolers were heading toward the parked cars. The three nuns were spared by the attackers because they were still in the house, and the children were able to escape. However, the remaining carolers were viciously beaten by the attackers, who shouted, "Bharat Mata ki Jai" (Victory to Mother India).
Fr. Stephen Rawat told AsiaNews, "I have no enemies, I was beaten because of my Christian faith."
He added that Hindu radicals - who denounce everything non-Hindu as a threat to their culture and identity - are likely responsible for the attack, as there is a hostel of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), near the scene of the attack "where the ideology [Hindutva] is imparted to young people. It is not improbable that they were behind this attack against Christians. "
The wounded, some badly beaten, were transported to a government hospital. Currently, the church pastor, three women and a man remain hospitalized for observation and medical care.
India is ranked 17th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. The report notes that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily.
"While intolerance has risen, and minorities are constantly attacked, the central government has refused to speak out against the atrocities - thus further encouraging the radical Hindus to step up their actions. The level of impunity has gone up markedly for those who push for a completely Hindu India."
Morning Star News notes that persecution continues to escalate: at least 134 incidents of violence against Christians in India were carried out in the first half of 2016 alone, compared with 147 incidents in all of 2014 and 177 in 2015. Unfortunately, the cases chronicled from Jan. 1 to June 30 were "just a fraction of the violence on the ground."