A vacation Bible school in India was forced to suspend its operations on May 1, 2018 after it received threats from suspected Hindu nationalists.

Victory and Light Prayer House in Palavanatham village in Tamil Nadu hosts an annual Vacation Bible School. About 50 children between 4 and 12 years of age attend the church-run program.

Nehemiah Christie from the Synod of Pentecostal Churches lamented the incident, saying vacation Bible school has been conducted in India for more than 50 years. “It is sad to see children being exposed to this level of religious intolerance and intimidation.”

This year, the Bible school was supposed to run from May 1 to 6, but was suspended after two men from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Hindu Munani (Hindu Front) disrupted the program.

John Madhavan, the school’s organizer, recounted how the men trespassed on the property and questioned the children about their caste.The organizers of the vacation Bible school assured the men that the children have the consent of their parents. However, the intruders continued to threaten the children and organizers, and they even stopped everyone from leaving the school, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Nehemiah Christie from the Synod of Pentecostal Churches lamented the incident, saying vacation Bible school has been conducted in India for more than 50 years. “It is sad to see children being exposed to this level of religious intolerance and intimidation.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas expressed concern that religious liberty is being restricted by radical elements. “Even more poignant is the psychological impact such deliberate targeting could have on vulnerable members of society. The child’s right to participate in the religious community life with the consent of parents must be respected by everyone.”

Some residents in Tamil Nadu noted the increased hostility of Hindu nationalists after the death of the former Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa in 2016. Leftist groups seemed to be determined to enforce their ideology in the region.

“Christians are seen as a threat because of the teachings and often Christian teachings are equated with western influence,” said Steven Selvaraj, CSW South Asia team leader, in an interview with Premier.

Selvaraj hopes that the government of India would held leftist groups accountable for their actions. “When the church keeps at what it’s doing – carrying on the message of Christ – they should not be shaken.”

Sources:
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Premier

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