By Joop Koopman
India is a country of more than 1.2 billion people, with Christians accounting for only some 3 percent of the population, including close to 19 million Catholics. Despite its relatively small size, the Indian Church has a disproportionate impact on Indian society through education, its social services and its provision of health care. In recent years, with the ascension to power of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, there has been a rising tide of violent attacks on Christians as well as Muslims. Growing intolerance of faiths considered to be foreign imports adds to the wounds of both Christian and Muslims of low caste background—known as dalits—who are denied government benefits awarded to low-caste Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhist to compensate for centuries of discrimination by the dominant Hindu culture.