Christians in India Fear for the Future of Religious Freedom
National Elections End in Victory for Hindu Nationalists
5/16/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a political coalition led by the Hindu nationalist Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP), will lead the next government of India. Winning a clear majority, the NDA pushed the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) into a distant second place. Christians and other religious minorities are concerned by the NDA’s landslide victory. While accepting the results of the elections, Christians across India have expressed fear for their future and security living under a government led by Hindu nationalists.
Narendra Modi, currently the Chief Minister of Gujarat and figurehead of BJP, will likely become India’s next Prime Minister. Christian leaders in India fear Modi’s rise to power because of his Hindu nationalist past and his actions, or lack thereof, during the 2002 Gujarat riots which resulted in the deaths of over 1,800 people, mostly Muslims.
Christian leaders expressed their dismay over Modi’s recent remarks which they believe reveal his “ignorance” of attacks on Christians and churches. In a television interview, Modi responded to a question regarding the protection of Christians and their place of worship from attack by saying, “I have never heard of such incidents (attacks) taking place.”
“Modi is feigning ignorance, it does not work for him,” Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council (AICC), and a member of National Integration Council (NIC), Government of India, said in an interview with ICC. “It was in Gujarat region that more than two dozen Churches were destroyed in the Christmas season of 1998. Surely he [Modi] knows what happened in Kandhamal, Orissa and Mangalore, Karnataka and other places in 2007 and 2008 when more than 300 churches and more than 6,000 Christian homes were destroyed by the Hindu radical-led mobs. More than 120 Christian tribal and Dalits were killed.”
“We respect democracy and the voice of the people,” Dr. Dayal continued. “We will have to find out how we can tell the new government [about] our problems and fears, our expectations of a strong secular government, and hold it accountable for its misdeeds whenever it falters in giving [Christians] security and the freedom of faith,” he told ICC.
Other Christian leader are less optimistic about the future of Christianity in India. “Today is a black day in the history of India for Christian minorities,” Mr. C. A. Daniel, President of the National Congress of Indian Christians, told ICC. “Christians are not safe under BJP rule. There will be stringent rules and legislation restricting Christians and the exercise of the freedom of faith.”
“The persecution of Christians will increase under the BJP led government,” Rev. Ronald John told ICC. “Christians already are gripped with fear and concern over the election results. Hindu nationalist groups will take advantage of the situation and use it to attack churches and members of the Christian community.”
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “The victory of the BJP led NDA has many Christians afraid for the future of the freedom of religion in India. Christians across India already face restrictions on exercising their faith freely. Forced conversion laws manipulated to attack Christian pastors and a climate of impunity for perpetrators of violence against Christians has been a hallmark of BJP rule at the state level. This must not be allowed to take hold in India’s national government. Positive action must be taken to ensure the rights of all of India’s citizens, including Christians, are respected and enforced.”