A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe July 22 as Martyrdom Day to pay tribute to Christians killed for the sake of their faith.
Shibu Thomas, who initiated the day through his ecumenical forum 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.com July 24.
He said July 22 was set as it marked the first anniversary of the rape and murder of a 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 pro-the 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.
“The country is going through a very difficult phase where practicing and propagating the Christian faith is a serious challenge now,” Thomas said.
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.