U.S. speaks out about anti-Christian violence in India

By August 14, 2009

USA (MNN) — Violence against Christians in India is finally getting the attention of a United States government agency. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report criticized the Indian government's "inadequate" response to growing religious hatred, saying attacks and violent riots are on the rise.

USCIRF released a harsh assessment of India's ability and interest in protecting Christian and Muslim minorities from organized attacks.

According to the 14-page report, there are plenty of laws in place, but police and government officials often do little to enforce them.

"Although the infrastructure for investigating and prosecuting cases of religiously-motivated violence or harassment exists in India, the capacity of the legal system is severely limited and is utilized inconsistently," said the report.

"These deficiencies have resulted in a culture of impunity that gives members of vulnerable minority communities few assurances of their safety, particularly in areas with a history of communal violence."

The commission said in a statement that it was placing India on its "watch list" for the government's "largely inadequate response in protecting its religious minorities."

The spokesman at the Indian Embassy in Washington said officials are studying the report. India has a population of over a billion people, which represents a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual democracy.

While the country has a free press corps, and nongovernmental organizations are free to criticize local and national administrations, local government have "created an atmosphere of impunity for the killing and harassment of religious minorities.

USCIRF investigators pointed to the violent campaign against Christians in Orissa state last summer where at least 40 people were killed over a period of weeks when church properties and thousands of homes were attacked. Thousands of people were displaced and continue to live in fear for their lives — many are still living in remote areas of the jungle.

Many believe the attacks took place because of the large number of Dalit Hindus turning to Christ and joining churches in the region. Others believe it was an attack based on false accusations.

"It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege," commission Chairman Leonard Leo outlined in the statement.

He said the India chapter of the commission's annual report is being released this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

You can see the full report at http://www.uscirf.gov/

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