Christians have called on President Obama to raise the concerns of India’s religious minorities during his visit to India from January 25 – 27. President Obama continues to deepen relations between the U.S. and India, but has yet to publicly raise concerns regarding the persecution faced by India’s Christians and Muslims. Since the current government took power in May 2014, attacks on religious minorities have skyrocketed. Many claim that the government, which is formed around a Hindu nationalist party, is tacitly approving of these attacks. Will President Obama speak out for those who are suffering?
1/26/2015 India (ICN) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has called on President Obama to raise the concerns of India’s religious minorities in his bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Modi during his visit to India from 25-27 January.
President Obama’s visit to India is a crucial step forward in US-India relations in recent years, and follows the lifting of a visa ban on Prime Minister Modi ahead of his official visit to the US in September 2014. President Obama will be the chief guest at the Republic Day function on Monday 26 January.
In the eight months since Modi’s BJP party took office, the plight of religious minorities has become increasingly embattled. Systematic, orchestrated and audacious hate speech campaigns by government ministers and leaders of Hindu nationalists groups have provoked violent attacks on religious minorities, particularly the Muslim and Christian communities, which comprise 13.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent of the population respectively. There are concerns that the sanctity of the Indian Constitution, which safeguards the right to practice one’s religion, is being eroded.
In recent months there have been large-scale and coercive ‘ghar wapsi’ or homecoming ceremonies across the country, in which religious minorities are pressured to convert to Hinduism. In December 2014, an estimated 100 Christians in the state of Gujarat and 30 individuals in Kerala were reportedly converted to Hinduism. Another 57 families went through such ceremonies in the tribal region of Bastar, Chhattisgarh. The families were denied food rations, to which they are entitled under the law, unless they renounced their Christian faith. There were also conversions to Hinduism of about 50 impoverished Muslims in Agra in Uttar Pradesh in the same month.
Approximately 22 Catholic schools run by missionaries in the tribal region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh have come under intense pressure by hard-line Hindu groups to erect Hindu deities and for students to stop referring to school principals as ‘Father’. In New Delhi, Muslim and Christian communities and places of worship have been attacked, including four churches between December 2014 and January 2015.