A leading Indian Christian activist has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of failing to protect his community following a string of attacks against churches and the gang-rape of a 71-year-old nun over the weekend.
Father Savari Muthu, spokesman for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese and a national Church organizer, told Reuters that Mr Modi had not taken “concrete action to protect Christians” in the country.
He added: “We have to raise our voice against the atrocities. Christians will not tolerate this humiliation.”
Father Savari is the latest high profile Christian to criticize Modi of failing to ensure religious harmony in a country with a history of inter-faith violence.
Christians held vigils across India on Monday to protest against the rape during an armed assault on a convent in West Bengal, the worst in a series of incidents that followers of the faith say are making them feel unwelcome in their own country.
The nun is currently recovering in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery. She has reportedly called for several men arrested by police on suspicion of the attack to be forgiven.
She was trying to prevent six men from assaulting another woman and robbing the school late on Friday night when she was locked inside a room and raped.
The attack took place just weeks after the leader of the conservative Hindi Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said the charitable work of Mother Teresa had been aimed at converting Hindus into Christianity.
Christian activists say the remarks contributed to a climate where Christians are seen as outsiders, despite a more than 1,500-year presence in India.
“I am not Indian any more, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra,” prominent retired police chief Julio Ribeiro wrote in a column for the Indian Express paper.
The RSS condemned the rape.
“No attack should be tolerated on any woman in India. Be it a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian,” Suresh Joshi, RSS general secretary, told reporters on Sunday.
Opposition lawmakers in the upper house of parliament on Monday said the attack could damage the secular fabric of the country, where about a fifth of 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism. The large majority of those are Muslims.
Since December, half a dozen churches have been vandalised, at the same time as conservative groups have campaigned to convert to Hinduism members of “foreign religions” such as Islam and Christianity.
In February, shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama called for respect for religious freedom in India, Modi broke a long silence on the subject and, speaking at a church event, vowed a crackdown on religious violence.
Father Savari said schools across the country were holding prayer meetings on Monday.
Christians held a silent protest in the streets of Mumbai on Sunday.
Protesters demanded more security for churches and other religious institutions. On Sunday, a Catholic church being built in the northern state of Haryana was vandalised and its cross replaced with a small statue of a Hindu god.