A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe Martyrdom Day on July 22 in memory of Christians who are persecuted and killed for their faith. It was the initiative of Shibu Thomas who through his ecumenical movement, “Persecution Relief” said special prayers were offered in Churches across the country. The observance is "part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life," Thomas told UCANEWS.
Thomas explained that July 22 was chosen as it marked the first anniversary of the rape and murder of a Christian schoolgirl in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh after her family refused to abandon their Christian faith despite several threats. "This was an act of revenge and intimidation, to get her family to renounce their faith, but they are still firm in their faith despite continuing threats," Thomas said. "The day is a moral boost for such persons who suffer for the sake of Christ," he said.
Christian leaders like him say attacks against Christians have increased since 2014 when the right-wing pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in a landslide victory. Fundamentalist Hindu groups, who consider BJP as their political wing, took the election victory as a mandate to step up their action to make India a Hindu-only nation.
Data collected by Persecution Relief shows that in 2016 alone, Hindu extremists destroyed 106 Christian places of worship, most of them belonging to Protestant and neo-Pentecostal groups.
Kandhamal, the worst persecution
In one of the worst persecutions against Christians in Indian history, nearly 100 Christians were killed in the orchestrated riots that Hindu extremists unleashed in Kandhamal district of eastern India’s Odisha state in August, 2008. (Source: UCANEWS)