Christians are the third-largest religious group in India with about 27.8 million followers who constitute about 2.3 % per cent of the population as per the 2011 census.
According to Pew Research Center
- Among Indians, 0.4% of adults are Hindu converts to Christianity. Christian converts in India are mostly former Hindus and are disproportionately located in the South, while some are also located in the East. Most converts say they belong to lower castes – that is, they identify with Scheduled Castes (sometimes known as Dalits), Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Classes. Most converts also come from poor backgrounds – i.e., they report recently struggling to pay for food or other necessities.
- There is no clear majority denomination among Indian Christians. While many Indian Christians identify as Catholic (37%), a variety of other denominations are present in India. For example, 13% of Indian Christians are Baptists, 7% identify with the Church of North India and another 7% identify with the Church of South India.
- Three-quarters of Indian Christians (76%) say religion is very important in their lives, and Indian Christians engage in a variety of traditional beliefs and practices. Nearly all Indian Christians (98%) say they believe in God, and Christians in India are more likely than most other religious communities to say they pray daily (77%). Most Indian Christians also attend church weekly (55%), and an overwhelming share gives money to a church (89%). At the same time, even though 78% of Indian Christians say they read or listen to the Bible at least weekly, smaller shares say they hold several traditional beliefs rooted in the Bible, including belief in Judgment Day (49%) and miracles (48%).
- Substantial shares of Indian Christians follow religious practices and beliefs not traditionally associated with Christianity. Most Indian Christians say they believe in karma (54%), which is not rooted in the Christian religion. And many Indian Christians also believe in reincarnation (29%) and that the Ganges River has the power to purify (32%), both of which are core teachings in Hinduism. It is also somewhat common for Indian Christians to observe customs tied to other religions, like celebrating Diwali (31%) or wearing a forehead marking called a bindi (22%), most often worn by Hindu, Buddhist and Jain women.
- Indian Christians disproportionally identify with lower castes (74%), including 57% with Scheduled Castes (SC) or Scheduled Tribes (ST). India’s caste system is a social hierarchy that can dictate class and social life, including whom a person can marry. Today, regardless of their religion, Indians nearly universally identify with a caste category. Among Christians, 33% identify as SC, while 24% identify as ST. And Christians are somewhat more likely than the Indian population overall to say there is widespread caste discrimination in India. For example, among Indians overall, 20% say there is widespread discrimination against SCs in India, compared with 31% among Christians who say the same. A smaller share of Christians (18%) say there is a lot of discrimination against Christians in India, and even fewer say they have personally faced recent discrimination based on their caste (11%) or religion (10%).
- Lower-caste Indian Christians are much more likely than upper-caste (also called General Category) Christians to hold both Christian and non-Christian beliefs. Indian Christians who belong to SCs, STs and other lower castes tend to believe in angels and demons at significantly higher rates than upper-caste Christians. Roughly half of lower-caste Christians (51%) believe in demons or evil spirits, while just 12% of higher-caste Christians hold this belief. Lower-caste Christians also are more likely than General Category Christians to believe in spiritual forces not generally associated with Christianity, like karma (58% vs. 44%) and the evil eye (33% vs. 12%).
- Overall, Indian Christians are less prone to religious segregation than some other groups. For instance, Christians are less likely than other religious groups to say that stopping interreligious marriage is “very important.” Among Christians, 37% say stopping the interreligious marriage of Christian women is very important, while 35% say the same about Christian men. In contrast, roughly two-thirds of Hindus and an even greater share of Muslims say it is crucial to stop such marriages by men and women in their respective communities. In addition, fewer Christians (22%) than Hindus (47%) and Muslims (45%) say all of their close friends share their religion. In part, these attitudes may reflect Christians’ regional concentration in the South, where opposition to interreligious marriage is generally less widespread and religious segregation overall is less pronounced.
- Politically, Christians favour the opposing Indian National Congress (INC) over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is often described as promoting a Hindu nationalist ideology. A plurality of Christian voters (30%) say they voted for the INC in the 2019 parliamentary elections, which roughly matches the shares of Muslims and Sikhs who voted for the INC. Just one-in-ten Indian Christian voters say they voted for the BJP in 2019, the lowest share among all of India’s major religious groups. Once again, the voting patterns of Christians in India mirror the political preferences of Southern Indians more generally. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP received its lowest vote share in the South, including among Hindus; many people in the South, including Christians, voted for regional parties.
Also Read: Muslims may equal the number of Christians by 2050
To express their solidarity with the Christians in India, a group of civil servants from All India and Central Services who claim to be non-political, neutral, impartial and have faith in the Constitution of India which they served till recently have written an open letter to the Prime Minister.
“We write to you today because we are deeply perturbed by the continued harassment, through speech and criminal action, of minority groups in the country by persons associated with your government, your party, organisations connected to it, and by mischief makers from amongst the public. While we are concerned about the hate crimes and speeches against all minorities, we write to you today about the steadily increasing ugly words and actions against a small religious minority, the Christians. Our Constitution clearly spells out that all citizens, irrespective of religion, are equal and have equal rights, but we are compelled to protest to you against the increasing incidents of outright discrimination against Christians occurring in recent times,” the letter reads.
According to the former bureaucrats, Christians constitute but 2.3 per cent of India’s population, and this percentage has remained more or less the same since the census of 1951. Yet, in the minds of some, this minuscule number poses a threat to the 80% of the population that is Hindu! The principal allegation against Christians is one of the forcible conversions, and because of this accusation, they have been subjected to attacks – verbal, physical, and psychological, against both their persons and against their institutions. It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there are elements amongst us who may feel that the denigration of others enhances themselves.
“It is an acknowledged fact that the role of Christians towards building our nation has been immense. The participation and leadership of Christians in the civil services as well as in the armed forces stand testimony to the community’s national commitment,” the letter added.
According to former civil servants, Christians in India are particularly active in education, health and social reform in remote and inaccessible areas and serving the most deprived sections, namely the Dalits and tribal peoples irrespective of their beliefs or faiths.
Christianity is associated with values like discipline, sacrifice and service. During the pandemic more than one thousand Christian – run hospitals provided treatment to needy patients. Not a single Christian institution in the field of education or health restricts its benefits to Christians alone and thirty per cent of India’s nurses are Christians, the letter reads.
According to the 93 signatories, Christians have been high performers in almost every field, but still, they are being accused of forcible conversion and subjected to physical violence. For instance Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy who was closely working with the Adivasis, Dalits and other underprivileged in Jharkhand, was driven to death. Churches and homes of tribal and Dalit Christians were destroyed, graveyards vandalised, and educational and health institutions attacked. Similar such attacks also happened in Chhattisgarh, Assam, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, the former Civil servants alleged.
The signatories added that more than a thousand tribal Christians were banished from their villages in Narayanpur and Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh in August 2022, because they refused to convert to Hinduism. Again, on January 2, 2023, a mob of fifty people barged into a church in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district and vandalised it, even attacking the SP and other police officers. The people arrested for this mayhem included a BJP leader.
Once again a group of hoodlums owing allegiance to a Hindu radical outfit attacked teachers from a Catholic school whom they mistook for trying to convert people to Christianity in January 2023. A few back a sadhu exhorted people attending a ‘dharma sansad’ at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to slaughter Muslims and Christians.
According to the signatories, India has been the home to Christianity since the first century CE, long before its introduction in other parts of the world that are predominantly Christian today. In spite of this Christians and other minorities, are made to feel like strangers in their own country, and guilty for following their faiths – with the tacit approval of political or law enforcement authorities.
“It is the duty of the State to safeguard the secular character of our country, to protect every citizen, and ensure the enjoyment of his or her fundamental rights, regardless of religion. But it is doing little to protect religious minorities. As Prime Minister of our country, and all of its people including Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities, and as a leading member of the BJP, we ask you to speak out against these outrageous acts, and to ensure that the police and other officials prevent such incidents from recurring. Christians, today, and, all other minorities, need to be reassured that they are no fewer citizens of India than their Hindu brethren,” the former civil servants added.
“Hate speech has serious consequences. And the arc is swinging visibly from anti-Muslim to anti-Christian, not in one gory riot but in a series of provocations like church vandalism, defiling of statues, beating up worshippers, the bogey of conversions, and public calls for genocide from the nation’s capital. These together with the various anti-conversion laws intimidate and create a climate of fear among Christians and marginalize them. This may not be the case in the north-east, with its well-organised Christian communities, but exhibits itself repeatedly in the rest of the country to achieve partisan political gains,” the former civil servants asserted in their open letter to the Prime Minister.
“All violence can be stopped immediately with just a word from the top leaders of the BJP, the Union government and each state government. As former civil servants, we also know that silence will beget only more violence. Christians, like all Indians now, need to be assured of equal and unbiased treatment by the executive and before the law. It is imperative that you, Mr Prime Minister, give them this reassurance” they pleaded.
The 93 signatories who claimed to be part of a Constitutional Conduct Group included the following:
|1.||Salahuddin Ahmad||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|2.||S.P. Ambrose||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI|
|3.||Anand Arni||RAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|4.||G. Balachandhran||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|5.||Vappala Balachandran||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|6.||Gopalan Balagopal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|7.||Chandrashekar Balakrishnan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Coal, GoI|
|8.||Sushant Baliga||Engineering Services (Retd.)||Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI|
|9.||Rana Banerji||RAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|10.||T.K. Banerji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Union Public Service Commission|
|11.||Sharad Behar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|12.||Aurobindo Behera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha|
|13.||Madhu Bhaduri||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Portugal|
|14.||Meeran C Borwankar||IPS (Retd.)||Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI|
|15.||Ravi Budhiraja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI|
|16.||Sundar Burra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|17.||R. Chandramohan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi|
|18.||Rachel Chatterjee||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh|
|19.||Kalyani Chaudhuri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|20.||Gurjit Singh Cheema||IAS (Retd.)||Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab|
|21.||F.T.R. Colaso||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir|
|22.||Anna Dani||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|23.||Surjit K. Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand|
|24.||Vibha Puri Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI|
|25.||P.R. Dasgupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI|
|26.||Nitin Desai||Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|27.||M.G. Devasahayam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana|
|28.||Sushil Dubey||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Sweden|
|29.||A.S. Dulat||IPS (Retd.)||Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI|
|30.||K.P. Fabian||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Italy|
|31.||Prabhu Ghate||IAS (Retd.)||Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI|
|32.||Gourisankar Ghosh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI|
|33.||Suresh K. Goel||IFS (Retd.)||Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI|
|34.||S.K. Guha||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI|
|35.||H.S. Gujral||IFoS (Retd.)||Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab|
|36.||Meena Gupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI|
|37.||Wajahat Habibullah||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner|
|38.||Siraj Hussain||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI|
|39.||Najeeb Jung||IAS (Retd.)||Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi|
|40.||Vinod C. Khanna||IFS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI|
|41.||Sudhir Kumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal|
|42.||Subodh Lal||IPoS (Resigned)||Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI|
|43.||Harsh Mander||IAS (Retd.)||Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|44.||Amitabh Mathur||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|45.||Aditi Mehta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|46.||Sonalini Mirchandani||IFS (Resigned)||GoI|
|47.||Malay Mishra||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Hungary|
|48.||Sunil Mitra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|49.||Avinash Mohananey||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim|
|50.||Deb Mukharji||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal|
|51.||Shiv Shankar Mukherjee||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom|
|52.||Gautam Mukhopadhaya||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Myanmar|
|53.||Surendra Nath||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|54.||P. Joy Oommen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh|
|55.||Amitabha Pande||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI|
|56.||Maxwell Pereira||IPS (Retd.)||Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi|
|57.||G.K. Pillai||IAS (Retd.)||Former Home Secretary, GoI|
|58.||Gurnihal Singh Pirzada||IAS (Resigned)||Former MD, Punjab State Electronic Development & Production Corporation, Govt. of Punjab|
|59.||R. Poornalingam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI|
|60.||Rajesh Prasad||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to the Netherlands|
|61.||R.M. Premkumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|62.||S.Y. Quraishi||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Election Commissioner|
|63.||T.R. Raghunandan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI|
|64.||V.P. Raja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission|
|65.||P.V. Ramesh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Addl. Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh|
|66.||K. Sujatha Rao||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|67.||M.Y. Rao||IAS (Retd.)|
|68.||Satwant Reddy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI|
|69.||Vijaya Latha Reddy||IFS (Retd.)||Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI|
|70.||Julio Ribeiro||IPS (Retd.)||Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania|
|71.||A.K. Samanta||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal|
|72.||Deepak Sanan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh|
|73.||G.V. Venugopala Sarma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha|
|74.||N.C. Saxena||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI|
|75.||A. Selvaraj||IRS (Retd.)||Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI|
|76.||Ardhendu Sen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|77.||Abhijit Sengupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI|
|78.||Aftab Seth||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Japan|
|79.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFoS (Retd.)||Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat|
|80.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia|
|81.||Navrekha Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Indonesia|
|82.||Pravesh Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|83.||Raju Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh|
|84.||Rashmi Shukla Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|85.||Sujatha Singh||IFS (Retd.)||Former Foreign Secretary, GoI|
|86.||Tara Ajai Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka|
|87.||Tirlochan Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI|
|88.||A.K. Srivastava||IAS (Retd.)||Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal|
|89.||Parveen Talha||IRS (Retd.)||Former Member, Union Public Service Commission|
|90.||Anup Thakur||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission|
|91.||P.S.S. Thomas||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission|
|92.||Ramani Venkatesan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|93.||Rudi Warjri||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica|