Christians stage peace rally in Varanasi against forced church closures

Christian Churches in Uttar Pradesh organised the event. In Varanasi, the holy city of Hinduism, and its district, right-wing Hindus have forced several churches to close, instigated by brahmins afraid that “scheduled castes and other backward communities will be converted".

Varanasi (AsiaNews) – Christian Churches in eastern Uttar Pradesh gathered on Saturday in Varanasi, the holy city of Hinduism, for a great "peace rally" because of Christian persecution,” said Rev David. This problem affects especially the District of Varanasi where right-wing Hindus have forced “hundreds of house churches to close,”.

Rev Nehemiah Christie, an activist with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an India-wide Christian network, noted that the rally “was successful.”

Christians “came out to speak up against the oppression and violence” with “more than 1,100 people attending the peace rally on 1st December” against anti-Christian persecution.

Those present rallied for peace, expressing solidarity with the persecuted churches. They also demanded “from the government that church services be allowed to start” again and that Article 25 of the Constitution on freedom of religion be upheld.

The meeting was important because Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a guru, has expressed notoriously negative views of Christians and other religious minorities.

In the past he has criticised Mother Teresa of Kolkata and in November he decided to ban Muslims from praying in the Taj Mahal mosque.

Varanasi "is the spiritual and religious capital of India,” said Rev David. Unfortunately, “Most of the cases of persecution have taken place around the district of Varanasi.”

“In the main city of Varanasi one of the very old Methodist churches was also attacked by right wing Hindus.”

For the clergyman, “Churches are being attacked because high caste Brahmins think that the all scheduled castes and other backward communities will be converted. They look at it as a threat. Because then they cannot take advantage of these communities.”

According to Christian NGOs monitoring anti-Christian persecution in India, Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest number of anti-Christian incidents, 48 out of a total of 95 in the last three months.

More generally, hate crimes against minorities and Dalits have increased in India over the past three years, including rape and lynching, all this done in the name of religion.