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ICC Note:

The issues of Christian persecution and religious freedom took a backseat during a two day summit between President Obama of the U.S. and Prime Minister Modi of India. Before the Prime Minister’s visit, many groups, including U.S. congressmen called upon President Obama to discuss the issue of religious freedom with the Prime Minister. Now with the two day summit in the rear view, it seems the two leaders did not follow these calls despite the fact that India has seen a dramatic escalation in religiously motivated violence and over 600 attacks on religious minorities have been perpetrated in the first 100 days of the Prime Ministers administration. 

10/6/2014 India (Christian Post) – An Indian couple who married only five days ago had their marriage annulled by police after pressure from Hindu nationalists.

The couple, Joseph Pawar and Ayushi Wani, were arrested in Gujarat after complaints that Pawar, a Christian, had lured his Hindu bride into marriage.

This latest incident adds to the pressure on Narendra Modi, the new prime minister of India, who is accused in a new report of remaining silent about the increased violence towards Christians and other religious minorities.

In the report, issued in New Delhi on Sept. 27, a group of Indian religious leaders accused Modi of remaining mute in the face of 600 incidents targeting religious minorities since his landslide election victory in May.

At the same time on the other side of the world, during Modi’s five-day visit to the United States, neither he nor his hosts said a word about evidence indicating growing sectarian hostility at the hands of nationalist Hindus, whose political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, swept Modi into national power.

The Sept. 30 meeting between Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama — the first summit involving the leader of one of the world’s oldest democracies, and the leader of the largest — did not produce any public mention of religious freedom of any sort.

Diplomatic silence on the subject perhaps was to be expected. The U.S. had denied Modi a visa in 2005 when he was chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, where, in 2002, Hindu riots killed more than 1,200 people, mostly Muslims but also Christians. As Modi has led the BJP to control of the national government this year, Hindu violence against minorities, including Christians, has spiked.

Now prime minister of a country that claims one-sixth of the world’s population, Modi was not subjected to any official public reminder of the sectarian violence to which he was connected, or the rebuff America had dealt him nearly 10 years ago.  The words religion, religious, and Christian did not appear among the nearly 6,900 words that made up the leaders’ joint statement, their public individual remarks, the US-India joint strategic vision statement, or Modi’s speech three days earlier to the United Nations General Assembly.

Others were not concerned with diplomacy. Outside New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sept. 28, protesters made a point of connecting Modi to the Gujarat violence, and accused him of supporting the murder of Christians, Muslims and even Hindus in India. Inside the arena, more than 18,000 people, mostly Indian expats living in America, gave Modi a rock-star reception to a speech he made in Hindi.

On the day of Modi’s arrival in the U.S., Sept. 26, a group called the Coalition Against Genocide released a letter, signed by 11 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, that urged Obama to “discuss religious inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India.” Referencing Modi’s connection to the 2002 violence, the letter said Modi “can play a constructive role by criticizing extremists and opening a dialogue in the country about violence aimed at religious minorities.”

None of the 11 House members released any public statement about the letter or their support of it. One of the 11, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is content to let the letter speak for itself, his press spokesman said.

The letter recalls Modi’s post-election address to India, in which he said “a government has only one religion – India first.”

“This statement is promising,” the joint letter said. “However, given the reported increase in violence against Christians and Muslims, the reality on the ground in India’s communities indicates that this promise must be followed by action.”

If the subject of religious freedom was raised during the private sessions between Obama and Modi, neither mentioned it in the subsequent public statements.

“During a private dinner we spent most of our time talking about the economy,” Obama said. The closest the two came to publicly referencing religious freedom was a mention in the joint statement about the “shared values, people-to-people ties, and pluralistic traditions” of India and the United States. And, in the strategic partnership vision statement was the acknowledgement that “our strategic partnership rests on our shared mission to provide equal opportunity for our people through democracy and freedom.”

“The first 100 days of the new regime have, however, seen the rising pitch of a crescendo of hate speech against Muslims and Christians. Their identity derided, their patriotism scoffed at, their citizenship questioned, their faith mocked.”

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