03/14/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Picture a country where religious freedom is a fundamental right promised to all by its founding fathers. A promise enshrined in the country’s constitution and upheld for decades. Citizens have the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice.
This is a democracy. These are the founding principles of India.
Article 25 gives Indians the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. Religious freedom has been the law of the land for seven decades.
However, a worrying trend of increasing religious intolerance and religiously motivated violence has many concerned that India is tilting away from its founding promise.
Anti-Conversion Laws 101
Fueling much of the violence is an ideology of Hindu nationalism that stands in direct contrast to India’s democratic and secular history.
India’s Christians have seen their religious freedom rights diminished through the use and abuse of anti-conversion laws, officially called Freedom of Religion Acts.
According to these laws, the state regulates religious conversions. Individuals seeking to change their religion must have their conversion approved by the state government after an investigation and waiting period. Fraudulent conversions, often labeled forced conversions, are criminalized.
Abuse of the Act
Hindu nationalists frequently use the specter of fraudulent mass conversions to Christianity to justify anti-conversion laws. According to these nationalists, Christians convert poor Hindus to Christianity en masse by fraudulent means.
Because of the growing religious intolerance and the normalization of religiously motivated violence, many radical Hindu nationalists view all religious conversions to non-Hindu faiths as wrong.
India’s population data does not support this conspiracy of mass conversions to Christianity. In 1951, the first census after India gained independence, Christians made up 2.3% of the population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still make up 2.3% of the population.
To date, no individual has ever been convicted of the crime of forced conversion, even though some anti-conversion laws have existed since the late 1960s. However, the proliferation of anti-conversion laws and the growing threat of religiously motivated violence has left India’s Christians to wonder whether the constitution’s promise of religious freedom is fading.
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