India (MNN) ― The U.S. Department of State's 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom gives India high marks for respecting religious freedom.
Because of the number of cases of anti-Christian violence reported, Open Doors' Carl Moeller disagrees with the findings. The All India Christian Council disputes the report saying the incidence of anti-Christian violence is much higher than available statistics indicate, as most cases are not reported to the police and are ignored by the media.
The report covered the period from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007 and says the government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the Indian National Congress or Congress Party, "generally respected" religious freedom in practice.
However, that doesn't reveal the true state of the Church. Moeller says, "The dialogue between Hindu nationalists and government agencies and religious parties, including Christians, Muslims and others, is a good step, but it certainly is a token step when it comes to bringing real religious freedom and real religious liberty to those places where Hindu nationalists are taking power."
The report on India criticizes "anti-conversion" laws enacted or amended by some state governments, asserting that Congress Party officials in Himachal Pradesh state passed an anti-conversion law that, "similar to other laws of its kind, restricts and regulates religious proselytism."
Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council (AICC) agrees. "I record and prove between 200 and 400 cases of anti-Christian violence a year in my unofficial white paper released annually since 1997, but the actual figure may be from 1,000 to 2,000 such cases a year, perhaps even more."
It appears some religious parties are using their influence to marginalize Christians, says Moeller. "They're creating environments that have less and less ability for Christians to speak, to gather together, to evangelize freely."
From 130 to 150 attacks in a country of 1 billion may not sound like much, but Christian leaders said that not only are attacks under-reported but that targeting of a minority community is alarming. Moreover, the attacks are concentrated in geographic pockets.
What can be done? Moeller says, "Christians need to pray that the democratic process in India would be strengthened, that Christians would be given the proper minority representation at this point, and that the proper rights would be respected."