Chhattisgarh’s tribal Christian communities continue to live in fear

For tribal Christian communities in India’s Chhattisgarh State, the new year hasn’t really come with hopes of a better or safer future.

On 2 January a Hindu nationalist mob barged into the Vishwa Dipti Christian School campus in Narayanpur district and vandalised a church located within the premises of the school. Videos of the mob repeatedly hitting statues of Jesus and Mary, and scattering furniture surfaced on the internet. Both members of the mob and the churchgoers belonged to local tribes in Narayanpur, the two most prominent of which are the Gond and Muria tribes.

But what grabbed national headlines and went viral on social media was the image of a bleeding senior police official who was attacked by the mob when he tried to intervene. Narayanpur’s Superintendent of Police Sadanand Kumar was soon rushed to the hospital after suffering a serious head injury. Christians in Chhattisgarh have suffered attacks like these for several months with hardly any interest from the media, but it was only when a person of power was injured that anyone paid any attention.

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We must not let the Rohingya people slip to the bottom of the international agenda

On 2 December 2022 a group of approximately 180 Rohingya refugees boarded a boat in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Their intended destination was Malaysia, where many hoped to be reunited with family and loved ones, or to build a better life than the one available to them in the overcrowded, unsanitary and increasingly dangerous camps in Bangladesh.

They never made it.

In a statement issued on 25 December, the United Nations expressed concern that the boat had sank after it went missing in the Andaman Sea. Relatives of those onboard told the Guardian that they had little hope that their family members were still alive, and if confirmed it would bring the number of Rohingya refugees who have died on sea crossings to Malaysia in 2022 close to 400.

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As China, Eritrea, Iran and more extend repression beyond their own borders, we must do better

In November last year, Ken McCallum, the Director General of the UK’s Security Service known as MI5, claimed that his agency had identified “at least ten” potential threats to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime. He added that the Iranian intelligence services “are prepared to take reckless action” against opponents in the West, including by luring individuals to Iran.

Coming at a time of intense civil unrest in Iran following the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for incorrectly wearing her hijab, McCallum’s comments highlighted a concerning issue that applies to several of the countries CSW works on: repressive regimes are becoming increasingly unafraid to reach beyond their borders.

China

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples is China, a global superpower which regularly uses its economic and geopolitical influence to shape decisions in international fora such as the Human Rights Council, and routinely metes out sanctions against Western parliamentarians and others who openly condemn the widespread violations taking place in the country.

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Unregistered and unrecognised: the plight of Vietnam’s Duong Van Minh community

One year ago today, on 12 December 2021, hundreds of persons in medical protective suits and plainclothes, and police, some armed with shields and batons, disrupted the funeral of Duong Van Minh, the ethnic Hmong founder of an eponymous religious community in Northern Vietnam.

The authorities claimed they were there to force people to take COVID-19 tests, despite no infection having been reported in the area.

Police in Tuyen Quang province arrested and beat at least 36 people as they attempted to attend the funeral. Seven more were arrested a day later, on 13 December, when they went to protest the police action. On 15 December, police announced over loudspeakers that five more people had to surrender. These five were subsequently arrested and accused of assaulting officials.

In total, at least 48 people were arrested.

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‘Freedom of expression and the courage to express oneself go hand in hand’ – an interview with John Dayal

Indian human rights activist, senior journalist and former president of the All India Catholic Union John Dayal is this year’s winner of the prestigious annual Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism, awarded to an individual or institution for their outstanding contribution to the press by the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). Dayal has spent over four decades as a champion of minority rights and the right to freedom of religion or belief in India and is a household name within the Indian Christian community.

The award will be conferred by the ICPA on 10 December, Human Rights Day, which follows International Human Rights Defenders Day, during the 27th National Convention of Christian Journalists in Chennai. The ICPA described Dayal as “a prophet of our times who is among India’s foremost voices against human rights violations, particularly on the persecution of religious minorities.”

Last month, CSW spoke to Dayal about his early years as a journalist, the state of freedom of religion and belief in India today, role of the press and more.

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