India passes citizenship bill with religious requirements

By December 13, 2019

India (MNN) — India has introduced a new law re-determining who qualifies for citizenship. In a way, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) is a legal manifestation of growing sentiment in India that says to be Indian is to be Hindu. Both this law and mindset clash with India’s setup as a supposedly secular government.

Context Around CAB

On Monday, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released a statement raising concerns for India’s citizenship bill. The USCIRF statement also said, “if the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.”

On Wednesday, the CAB passed in the lower house of parliament. Then on Thursday, it passed in the upper house of India’s parliament, too.

BBC News reports that previously, India’s laws prevented illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan from becoming Indian citizens. The CAB changes this while increasing uncomfortable pressures against Muslims in the country.

Country Rejects CAB

Providing more details on the topic is a spokesperson for Voice of the Martyrs, USA, Todd Nettleton.

“Well, this is an interesting law because it grants people from Pakistan, people from Bangladesh, who have come into India, citizenship as long as they are not Muslims, which are the majorities in those countries. And so, it is something that is basing citizenship simply on religion, and so there have been protests,” Nettleton says.

(Photo courtesy of Elle on Unsplash)

Both Muslims and Hindus have taken to streets expressing their disapproval for the new law. Muslims want to know ‘why aren’t Muslims included for citizenship?’ For Hindus, there is frustration that their country is now allowing people to come in from foreign nations and more freely gain citizenship.

“It seems to be a law that sort of came out of nowhere…It came out of Prime Minister Modi and his party, but it doesn’t seem to be something that there was a clamoring for among the general population. It is curious the way it’s been presented and the way it’s been passed,” Nettleton says.

Earlier this year, the world watched as India stripped the Muslim majority Kashmir region of its autonomy. Now, many can’t help but ask, what does the CAB mean for Christians in India?

Currently, Christians are included in the law as a qualifying religion for citizenship. Right now, Nettleton believes it is very possibly the inclusion of Christians and other religious minorities under the CAB is “a PR effort to say, no, this is not a Hindu nationalist law because look, we’re helping the Christians. Look, we’re helping the Sheiks as well”.

Nettleton does not expect this new law to change things for the better for Christians. But only time will tell if the CAB will affect them for the worse.

Pray for Christians in India

(Graphic courtesy of VOM USA)

What the global Church can do, though, is respond with prayer.

“Pray for our brothers and sisters there to be encouraged, to be protected. And pray that they will continue to reach out and not become intimidated, not become silenced even though they understand, ‘you know, our government is against us.’ Pray that they’ll continue to be bold witnesses for Christ,” Nettleton asks.

Nettleton also urges believers to pray for the government of India. Pray for the Prime Minister and other government officials. Finally, Nettleton suggests Christians let their local governments know they are concerned about religious freedoms around the world.

To find more ways to get involved with Voice of the Martyrs, USA, click here.



Header photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Leave a Reply