US lawmakers hailed for raising religious persecution in India

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75 senators urged US president to discuss shrinking religious freedom in India with visiting Indian PM Narendra Modi

US lawmakers hailed for raising religious persecution in India

The faithful from Delhi archdiocese pray during the feast of Christ the King in New Delhi on Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)

June 21, 2023

Christian and Muslim leaders in India have lauded the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and lawmakers who urged President Joe Biden to discuss shrinking religious freedom in India with visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“As the most powerful leader in the world, the US president has the duty” to raise religious freedom, which has taken a beating since Modi came to power in 2014, A. C. Michael, president of the Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi, told UCA News.

Starting June 20, Modi is on a three-day visit to the US. The high-profile visit includes a banquet at the White House to be hosted by Biden and First Lady Jill Biden and an address to the US Congress to make Modi the first Indian prime minister to address it twice.

A total of 75 Democratic senators and members of the House of Representatives signed a letter on June 20, expressing their concern over religious intolerance, press freedom, disruption of internet services, and targeting of civil society groups under Modi’s rule.

Michael, who is also the national coordinator of the United Christian Forum (UCF), which tracks atrocities against Christians in India, said, “It is a matter of fact that there has been a steady rise in incidents of violence against Christians” under Modi’s watch.

So far this year, nearly 300 incidents of violence against Christians have already been reported in India, the Christian lay leader said.

The New Delhi-based UCF reported 600 incidents of violence in 2022 and 505 in 2021 against Christians in the country, who make up 2.3 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population.

Modi arrived in New York on June 20 for the start of his state visit that will culminate in the capital Washington. Modi has visited the US five times in the past nine years, but this is the first time he has been accorded the full diplomatic protocol of a state visit.

In all the incidents since 2014, the year Modi first came to power in India, there is a systematic pattern of vigilante mobs, backed by Modi’s ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), forcefully disrupting prayer meetings and targeting Christian leaders and their institutions.

Eleven Indian states, most of them ruled by the BJP, have enacted a draconian anti-conversion law which is often used to target Christians.

Many Muslims in India have been publicly flogged after accusing them of disrupting Hindu festivals. Their homes and properties have been demolished without legal authorization. They have also been beaten to death for consuming and trading in beef as the cow is a holy animal under Hinduism.

Muslims make up 14 percent of the population, while Hindus 80 percent.

Muhammad Arif, chairman of the Centre for Harmony and Peace, said that we appreciate the US lawmakers for taking up religious persecution in India, which the Indian government under Modi miserably failed to rein in.

Arif, whose organization is based in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, also ruled by Modi’s BJP, told UCA News, “We pray that their interaction will have a fruitful impact.”

In its annual report published on May 16, the USCIRF asked the State Department to designate India as a “country of particular concern (CPC)” on the status of religious freedom.

The USCIRF has been vocal in its criticism of Modi’s ill-treatment of religious minorities in the country. The US body had even attempted to send a fact-finding mission to India which was blocked by Modi’s government last year.