Addition puts pressure on government

By August 18, 2009

India (MNN) — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, has added
India to their watch list for a "disturbing increase" in religious violence. 

USCIRF issues their annual report in May each year. However, their India chapter was not granted visas for their trip from the Indian government and therefore was delayed.

The report mentions the anti-Christian and Anit-Muslim riots from both 2008 and 2002 in Orissa and Gujurat. Last year, Kandhamal district in Orissa was the center of weeks of
anti-Christian violence after a Hindu leader was shot dead.  Hindus blamed Christians for the killing. Also, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in riots that took place in Gujurat after a train fire that killed 60 Hindus in 2002.    

There is yet to come a response from the Indian government.  The chair of USCIRF Leonard
Leo said that it was "extremely disappointing" that India has "done so little
to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege." 

Though the situations called for such a response according to Leo, Brent Hample of India Partners believes this is not all bad news. "I think it's a good move. There have been spots that need attention; where Christian communities especially have been targeted for violence and persecution." India Partners works to encourage the people of India to become self-sufficient through sharing resources and cultivating relationships in the name and with the wisdom of Jesus Christ.

Orissa state has been an area of special concern in the past year, according to Hample. He believes that this will be a good thing for the church of India because the U.S.
government is putting some pressure on the Indian government to "take care of their house." USCIRF believes the Obama administration should urge the Indian government to take actions that will promote peace and protect religious freedoms. 

"If India is truly a democratic society that believes in the freedom of religion as it says in its constitution, then they need to really step up the plate and do that. They need
to protect the rights of religious minorities such as Christians, Muslims and Buddhists as well," said Hample.

As far as seeing a trickle-down effect from India's inclusion on the watch list, it will be a waiting game. Hample says it is hard to say what the actually outcome will be. "The local government, the local police are kind of the ones that are left to do their own
thing in their own area. The central government of India is usually not able to have much influence in pockets of India, especially very rural areas that are difficult to get to

If there are changes instituted, there will be effects on India Partners' ministry. "It will definitely have an impact on our partners on the ground because they are the
ones that are actually right there where the problems are happening," said Hample. 

Leo said, "More must be done to ensure future violence does not occur and that perpetrators are held accountable."

India is also included in Open Doors' World Watch list for 2009 and is ranked 22 out of 50 for intensity of persecution of Christians.  

Pray that God will grant wisdom to the officials in both India and the U.S. for positive changes. Pray that this news will be a catalyst for positive change and for more
peace in India among religious minorities.  

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