Christians celebrate in India and Indonesia despite attacks

by Julia A. Seymour
Posted 12/22/14, 10:45 am

Christians who face persecution around the world will celebrate Christmas knowing they may be targeted for it. In India and Indonesia already this month, religious extremists attacked Christians for caroling and protested against store owners for selling and displaying Christmas decorations.

In secular India many people celebrate Christmas and even many non-Christians take the day off, but Christians still face persecution. A group of Pentecostals caroling earlier this month at the homes of other Christians in India were attacked by Hindu radicals, according to Asia News. William Stark of International Christian Concern (ICC) said in this instance the radicals surrounded the vehicle, smashed the windows, and beat the carolers. One of them, Rev. Bhim Nayak, was beaten unconscious, Asia News reported.

Stark, ICC’s regional manager for South Asia, said Nayak was treated and has been released from the hospital.

At the same time, Hindu nationalists with Dharam Jagran Samiti (DJS) in India were raising funds to reconvert Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism with a large reconversion ceremony on Christmas Day. The Daily Mail India later reported the ceremony was cancelled, but the DJS remained very vocal about its goal to turn India into a fully Hindu country again.

“Our target is to make India a Hindu Rashtra by 2021,” Uttar Pradesh DJS head Rajeshwar Singh told The Daily Mail. “The Muslims and Christians don’t have any right to stay here.” Singh said those people would have to convert or “run away,” according to the Daily Mail.

Stark said the caroling attack and the Hindu nationalists’ campaign were “evidence of them being emboldened” by the shifting politics of India. Christians suffered 600 attacks in just the first 100 days of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) majority rule, he said. Increased persecution has led to protests in India.

Like India, Indonesia is officially a secular nation. But its federal government is struggling to deal with a rising tide of Islamic extremism. Sooyoung Kim of ICC said Christmas is a popular national holiday in Indonesia and many stores decorate and sell Christmas merchandise. But each year some Islamists protest.

On Dec. 15, The Solo Paragon Lifestyle Mall, the Solo Grand Mall, and the Luwes Shop in Kartasura, Central Java were confronted by members of five local Islamist groups who told them they could not wear or display Christmas items, Asia News reported.

Asia News also noted Christmas was banned entirely in the province of Aceh, the only area of Indonesia where Islamists have implemented sharia law. Provincial governments’ growing influence and independence from the national government helped make that possible, Kim said.

Julia A. Seymour

Julia has worked as a writer in the Washington, D.C., area since 2005 and was a fall 2012 participant in a World Journalism Institute mid-career class conducted by WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky in Asheville, N.C. Follow Julia on Twitter @SteakandaBible.

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