Don Shenk – Director – Gospel Tide Broadcasting Association | STPC Coalition Partner | Feb. 21, 2020
It is a well-known and accepted fact that the overwhelming majority of people in India identify as Hindu. However, throughout most of India’s history since independence the country has demonstrated great tolerance of other religions and today officially presents itself as a secular country that allows religious freedom. (https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/constitution-india/constitution-india-full-text.)
Unfortunately, under the current administration, the government of India has been increasingly expressing the intent of transiting the country into a Hindu nation. It may be debated whether this is motivated by Hinduism or Hindutva; whether the current BJP dominated government is driven by a desire to preserve cultural identity or by religious zeal, but it cannot be denied that this movement is contributing to an intensification in persecution of those who identify themselves with any other religion beside Hinduism and related animistic tribal belief systems.
Christianity is one religion that has faced significant opposition in certain states of India, especially those such as Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Uttarakhand, where anti-conversion legislation has been enacted. These anti-conversion laws are ostensibly touted as measures to protect people, especially uneducated tribal groups, from unfair influence or questionable proselytizing methods. However, legitimate Christian ministries and churches in India who engage in genuine, loving, compassionate outreaches and community services as simple as; sewing classes to assist underprivileged women towards economic empowerment; mobile clinics to provide simple health care services and instruction in basic hygiene; literacy classes to enable uneducated rural people to read and write, and a host of other social services, find themselves under attack from radical Hindu factions who view these activities as proselytism in the form of exploitative inducements. The true intent of the law has been turned upside down by these radical Hindu groups who unfairly use the anti-conversion bills to justify violence against Christians and destruction of church properties. This is further exacerbated by the fact that an extremely high number of the elected leaders and law enforcement officials in authority in local, state, and federal government entities are either members of radical Hindu sects or sympathetic to their cause. Additionally, the current government continues their campaign rhetoric to make India a Hindu nation and has stated clear intent to draft and implement a nationwide anti- conversion bill.
All these factors combined create a very volatile situation and perilous environment for Christian believers attempting to live out their faith according to their constitutionally guaranteed rights. The Indian government may not directly engage in the persecution of Christians in India, but their openly pro-Hindu stance and tolerance of violence against Christians implies consent to the persecutors. Without accountability, police are emboldened not to enforce the constitutional law when they are called to respond to disturbances and violence against Christians and have even been observed beating and arresting the Christians who they should be protecting. In the same way, community members of radical Hindu wings are encouraged to fearlessly transgress the law and commit criminal offences against Christians, knowing they will not be arrested or prosecuted.
The primary purpose of addressing religious persecution in India is not to pressure India to allow external mission organizations to engage in proselytism throughout India, but is instead to join the global Christian Church in petitioning the government of India to preserve and guarantee the rights of indigenous Christ followers to openly and freely live out and express their faith without fear of reprisal. We will not be held guiltless if we silently stand by and watch our brothers and sisters in India suffer oppression and even martyrdom for their faith without raising our voices and taking action on their behalf.
Originally published in Christian Persecution News, Feb. 21, 2020.