A persecution watchdog says 2016 was one of the toughest years in recent history for Christians in India.
International Christian Concern cites 361 attacks against Christians in that country last year, marking a significant increase over the 177 in 2015. ICC says the very conservative estimate of 361 attacks ranges from physical assaults, to the vandalism of churches, to social boycotts against Christians – even to the assault of Christian women.
ICC's William Stark explains that India has had a history of impunity for those committing religiously motivated violence.
"Now what we're seeing coupled with that – with the current government, which is led by the [ruling Bharatiya Janata Party], which is a political party founded on Hindu nationalism – is ... politically divisive rhetoric being spouted out by political leaders," says Stark.
That rhetoric, according to Stark, further encourages people who are already committing attacks on Christian and religious minorities. "So that's why you're definitely seeing a big increase," he adds.
Stark argues that a simple response to the increased attacks in India would greatly help. "The media, the church, and the international community need to call upon India to do a very simple thing: have their leadership condemn incidents of religiously motivated violence," he suggests.
It's bad precedent, he says, when a country's leaders don't condemn acts of violence committed upon specific religious groups.
India is among the nations cited in ICC's "Hall of Shame" report for 2016. That report lists several "noteworthy religious minority events" there, including a lynching, social boycotts, and riots.