In India, religious freedom in tatters

By March 25, 2015
(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor/Anto Akkara)

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor/Anto Akkara)

India (MNN) — The 300th day of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration did not pass unnoticed.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says thousands gathered in Delhi for a protest. “It was a march that included Christians, Muslims, Hindus, opposition party members who were part of the previous government there. But the march really was to draw attention to the fact that ‘it’s been 300 days, and look at the religiously motivated attacks!'”

World Watch Monitor noted that the record of attacks, written on protest banners, show that there was more than one attack every two days on a religious minority group since Modi came to power. Nettleton confirms, “They talk about something like 600 religiously-motivated attacks–most of those against Muslims, but more than 150 of them against Christians.” Yet, most of the world never heard about a protest involving thousands of people in Delhi.

Here’s what’s at stake: religious freedoms are falling away while radical Hinduism is on the rise. It’s the casual reference to India’s future that raises alarm bells from inside the highest levels of government. “There are government officials in Modi’s administration who have even referred to India as ‘Hindustan:’ the land of the Hindus, [meaning] this should be Hindu-land, 100% Hindu people,” explains Nettleton.

Given that scenario, he echoes the concern shared by one of the officials that spoke at the march. “[He] said, ‘This is what’s happened in 300 days. Imagine what will happen in five years or ten years or longer, if all of this has just taken 300 days?'”

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

VOM reports spies in churches who monitor Christian activity, and a number of states use anti-conversion laws to inhibit their work. In states where the BJP rules, there are incidents on a near daily basis, where churches and believers’ homes are destroyed, pastors and church members are beaten and sometimes killed. Nettleton says it appears Hindu extremists are acting with impunity. “This government is not going to hold them accountable. They’re not going to charge them, put them in jail for long periods of time. The Christians know ‘We’re targets now. The government is not going to protect us like we’ve counted on in the past.'”

Plus, Nettleton adds, “The atmosphere has changed for Christians (and for Muslims, as well), [conveying that] ‘you’re not welcome here. This is not your place. You’re not really Indian. You’re part of a foreign religion. You’re not really part of us.'”

According to VOM, there are countless cases where Hindu attackers are deliberately left unpunished and Christian victims face accusations and trials. The anti-conversion laws are specifically misused against Christians.

(Photo cred: VOM USA via Facebook)

(Photo credit VOM USA via Facebook)

What it means is Christians find it difficult in some states to share their faith, to distribute Christian materials, or to conduct social work. These kinds of things are usually not prohibited by law, but since Christians can be accused of “hurting religious feelings” or “disturbing peace and order,” discretion and caution have to be incorporated. After hearing what church partners had to say about this, Nettleton realizes they are undaunted. “Their response is: ‘We can’t control the government. We can’t control what they do. We can only control what we do, and we’re going to continue to serve the Lord. We’re going to continue to reach out to our neighbors and our friends and the people of our cities and share the Truth, share the Gospel message.'”

VOM comes alongside the persecuted Church in India, providing support and encouragement to the Gospel workers.   Prayer goes a long way toward the latter, especially when church leaders are saying, “‘We’re going to do what God has called us to do.’ So, their response has been one of not being intimidated and not being discouraged, even though they know they could be coming into a season of suffering.”

Nettleton also urges prayer for protection and wisdom. “We want to pray for that sense of ‘we’re going to follow Christ, no matter what,’ that they will have that encouragement and that spirit of boldness.”

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