President Trump’s Claims of Religious Freedom in India Not Supported by Evidence
03/02/2020 India (International Christian Concern) – Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump made his first state visit to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two-day affair was marked by visits to several cultural sites and a mega-rally entitled ‘Namaste, Trump’.
However, the visit was also marred by many incidents of anti-minority violence against both India’s Muslim and Christian communities.
As President Trump and Prime Minister Modi visited the Taj Mahal, an ashram used by Gandhi, and the Motera Cricket Stadium, violence between Delhi’s police and individuals protesting the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by the BJP-led government in 2019, claimed the lives of dozens, mostly Muslims. In the days leading up to the state visit, International Christian Concern (ICC) documented at least 12 incidents of Christian persecution, many of them taking place in the very state President Trump was to visit.
Despite this upsurge in religiously motivated violence, President Trump praised Prime Minister Modi on the issue of religious freedom. In statements to the media, President Trump said Prime Minister Modi was “incredible” on religious freedom and that the Prime Minister wants “the people to have religious freedom and very strongly.”
While President Trump’s statements seem to indicate that Prime Minister Modi and his BJP government are supporters of religious freedom, the track record for both the Prime Minister and his government would suggest otherwise.
Since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Modi and the BJP-led government have overseen a regime that has allowed religious intolerance and persecution to skyrocket. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, the number of violent attacks on India’s Christian community have more than doubled, from 147 in 2014 to 328 in 2019.
In addition, BJP politicians regularly use anti-minority and Hindu nationalist rhetoric for political gain. These statements are then used by radical Hindu nationalist organizations to justify attacks on Christians and Muslims across India.
BJP governments at both the federal and state level have also passed controversial laws restricting the religious freedom of India’s minority communities. Several BJP-controlled state governments, including Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, have passed controversial anti-conversion laws aimed at regulating and stopping religious conversions. These laws are then widely abused by radical nationalists to harass Christians or justify assaults.
Building a bi-lateral partnership with India will likely continue to be an important aim of the Trump administration. However, more must be done by the world’s oldest democracy to shed light on the religious freedom shortcomings of the world’s largest democracy.
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