India (MNN) — Indian officials reject recent accusations issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In its annual report, the USCIRF accuses India of persecuting religious minorities and trying to force Hinduism as a national identity.
Dr. David Curry leads Open Doors USA, a religious freedom watchdog group. He says USCIRF’s accusation mars India’s reputation and that’s why officials deny the claim. “They’re fighting it because India wants to be a global player in the international business community,” Curry explains.
“They understand that being seen as somebody who’s discriminating against lower class people… that’s a major issue for the world community.”
India ranks as the world’s 10th-worst persecutor of Christians, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. As explained here, all believers in India face persecution:
Driven by a desire to cleanse their country from Islam and Christianity, nationalists do not shy away from using extensive violence to achieve their goals. Converts to Christianity from Hinduism bear the brunt of [persecution] and are constantly under pressure by the state, their community and their families to return to Hinduism (especially via campaigns knows as Ghar wapsi, which means “homecoming”). These Christians are often physically assaulted and sometimes killed.
Secretary Pompeo visits India
USCIRF released its report on Friday just days ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to India. Curry calls it a strategic decision.
“Secretary Pompeo is doing exactly the right thing,” he states. “[The U.S. is] sending the signal that ‘we are aware of what you say you believe; we are aware of the massive number of incidents that are violating international human rights.’ They’re calling them on it.
“It sets a good tone – the proper tone, perhaps – for these talks to come this week.”
Reuters reports that Pompeo and his Indian counterparts will discuss trade and online commerce, as well as India’s recent interactions with Russia and China. According to the Associated Press, it’s part of “a trip aimed at building a global coalition to counter Iran.”
If global leaders really want to see India change how it regards religious freedom, Curry says, they’ll need to take decisive action. “They’re going to need to make religious freedom part of the international agenda. I think we need to pray for that,” he explains.
“I don’t think anything short of massive international pressure will move India on this.”
Ask God to do the ‘impossible’
Global pressure works within India’s honor-shame culture, Curry continues. People (or governments) experience shame when they do not fulfill community expectations. These individuals can turn that shame back into honor, but only by changing their behavior to satisfy the majority group. More about honor-shame cultures here.
In this area, India “needs to be publicly shamed,” Curry says. “I know that’s a shocking idea for people, but…there’s no way that Christians are going be heard within India.
“This is an administration in a country [with] a caste system that oppresses millions and millions of people. [The caste system] puts them in a category and never lets them move out of it. [India’s] culture is not going to allow for a review of this without some international pressure.”
Now that you know, would you pray? Ask the Lord to embolden Indian believers. Pray for wisdom for government leaders outside of India. Pray for those within India to experience total transformation that can only come through Christ.
Header image courtesy of Open Doors USA.