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Media Contact: William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia RM-SAsia@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Religious Freedom in India under "Severe Attack"
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has marked one year since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a political coalition led by the Hindu nationalist Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP), took power in India's government. Last year, the NDA won a clear majority in India's general elections, placing BJP and its figurehead, Narendra Modi, at the top of India's federal government. Since this rise to power, Christians and other religious minorities in India have endured a sharp escalation in religiously motivated attacks by radical Hindu nationalist groups, something minority communities feared following BJP's political success last year.
Attesting to the fears of Christians and other religious minorities, human rights observers have documented 43 deaths in over 600 cases of religiously motivated violence, 194 targeting Christians and 406 targeting Muslims. This escalation in religiously motivated violence led the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to label India a "Tier 2" religious freedom violator in its annual report released last month. In that report, USCIRF noted concerns about the operation of Hindu nationalist groups and forced conversion programs, locally known as "Ghar Wapsi," as well as attacks on churches and hate campaigns against religious minorities.
According to a report released by Evangelical Fellowship of India in February this year, "Human Rights and Civil Society groups have documented 147 incidents of religiously motivated attacks in 2014, and at least two people killed for their Christian faith. Reportedly, local police seldom provide protection, refuse to accept complaints, rarely investigate, and in a few cases encourage Christians to move or hide their religion."
Rev. Dr. Wilson Vijay Kumar Singham, moderator of the Independent Churches Union of India, told ICC, "The amount of insecurity on the faces of the minorities has enormously increased in past one year under Modi regime. The Prime Minister's claims and actual delivery of justice by his Government never matched."
Dr. John Dayal, spokesman for the United Christian Forum, added, "The hate campaign [against minorities] is well documented. The Evangelical Fellowship of India and Alliance Defending Freedom recorded 44 separate cases of hate speech by prominent politicians which merit criminal charges against them. But most cases go unreported or unrecorded by police."
Fr. Cedric Prakash S.J., director of PRASHANT, a Centre for Human Rights, Justice, and Peace, told ICC, "Religious Freedom in India has been under severe attack this past year. We have seen systematic and consistent targeting of religious minorities all over the country."
Fr. Prakash observed that, "Although the future is very bleak, there is a way forward. The minorities are united and work together in an inclusive way with all men and women of goodwill in the country. Surely there is hope."
ICC Regional Manager William Stark said, "The past year for Christians and other religious minorities in India has been tough. Religiously motivated violence and intolerance in India have escalated under BJP and Modi's watch, despite their attempts to deny this fact. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship has increased, forced 'reconversion' campaigns have spread, laws that would restrict religious freedom have been proposed, and the delivery of justice to victims from religious minority communities has been denied. For the first nine months in power, Prime Minister Modi and his government remained silent on the issue of religiously motivated violence despite the dramatic escalation that took place under his rule. United States President Barak Obama even publically admonished India twice for the rise in religiously motivated violence over the past year, prompting the prime minister to finally speak out in support of India's religious minorities. India's government must do better. Christians and other religious minorities deserve to be secured after this year of insecurity."
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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