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By ICC's India Correspondent
International Christian Concern
"India, being [a] secular democracy, everyone needs to respect each other's beliefs and practices," a dejected rural pastor stated recently in an interview with International Christian Concern (ICC). Despite this, India's Christians are nervous due to Prime Minister Modi's void promises of protection from persecution and are now calling on him to back his promises with real action.
Since Prime Minister Modi's election, fear and insecurity among India's Christian community have increased due to ongoing assaults on Christians and their places of worship. These assaults continue to happen despite Prime Minister Modi's vows to protect religious freedom in India.
Dr. John Dayal, national spokesperson of the United Christian Forum, said, "The [most desperate] victims are Muslims and Christians, the two religious minorities that have always been the target of the RSS and the BJP. The RSS cadres have in recent months targeted these two communities [with their] infamous 'Ghar Wapsi' program which is actually the conversion of people into Hinduism by force and then promising them government subsidies and jobs."
A Rural Pastor's Perspective
In India's south, the state of Telangana has become one of the toughest places for Christians over the last year. Pastor Aharon, a rural pastor from Mahabubnagar District within Telangana, is one of the victims of the ongoing increase in religious intolerance and persecution that has left many Christians like him in a state of distress and concern.
Pastor Aharon told ICC that every Sunday it is a challenge for him to conduct worship at a village called Masupally. According to Pastor Aharon, before last May there was never a problem. But when Prime Minister Modi won the general election, the trouble began for Pastor Aharon and the Christian community of Masupally.
Youth belonging to local Hindu radical group named Hindu Vahini wait for Pastor Aharon at the entrance of the village every Sunday. Pastor Aharon, who lives in a neighboring village, regularly visited Masupally to lead Sunday worship for approximately ten Christian families. Pastor Aharon told ICC, "The situation is such that I cannot give a guarantee that I will go back to my family when I go to conduct worship in Masupally. On more than one occasion, the members of Hindu Vahini, threatened to kill me if I continue to hold prayers in the village. They surround me and they use abusive language and manhandled me. They have warned me not to come back."
When asked about his thoughts on Prime Minster Modi's promises to protect religious freedom, Pastor Aharon questioned the sincerity of Prime Minister Modi's promises. "India, being [a] secular democracy, everyone needs to respect each other's beliefs and practices, but what is happening in my village is contrary to the fundamental rights our constitution guarantees for every citizen."
India's Christians Call for Real Action
Dr. Dayal, said that, "India should therefore be held accountable to international treaties on human rights and freedom of religion and belief. There should also be a monitoring of the funding of Hindu extremist organizations as is done in the case of Islamic [extremists] and other groups."
Reverend Ronald John, Chairman of Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee, asserted that, "There has been double standard and a bias when it comes to filing cases on the perpetrators dealing with attacks on religious minorities. We demand both union and state government to ensure impartial actions both by administration and police."
Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, highlighted the need for government action to protect Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities in India amid the rise in attacks by Hindu radicals. Cardinal Toppo said in a media interview, "The government has not come out to protect and defend. The Prime Minister has only once spoken in defense of the constitution and he promised to protect the Christians and other minorities. But that was only a promise."
Those suffering from religious extremism and intolerance continue to endure persecution as the assurances of Modi and his government remain words without deeds. The Christian community of India appeals to Prime Minister Modi to take real action to ensure the freedom of faith and equality for all before the law. It is hoped that the cries of these vulnerable Christians will be heard.
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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