NEW DELHI/BRUSSELS – Christians, Muslims and other faith groups face rising persecution in India. ADF International asks EU leaders not to “turn a blind eye” to this reality in the lead-up to the 14th annual EU-India Summit. On Friday 6 October, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, will meet with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will also be present.
“No person should live in fear of being killed, tortured, or oppressed because of their religious beliefs. The EU should not sacrifice the human rights it claims to protect for the sake of a free trade agreement,” said Sophia Kuby, Director of EU Advocacy for ADF International, based in Brussels.
“How many more victims of government-condoned violence against Muslims and Christians will the EU tolerate until it puts the issue on the agenda with Prime Minister Modi? As long as the severe and continuing violations of the right to religious freedom do not have an impact on trade agreements, we cannot speak of a coherent EU commitment to human rights. Religious freedom needs to become a precondition to economic cooperation.”
Anti-conversion laws and growing persecution
The summit with India will mark the 55th anniversary since the establishment of EU-India diplomatic relations. While the importance of human rights has been addressed in the past, the situation of religious minorities has worsened under the current government of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the political arm of the nationalistic Hindutva movement. The party has been accused of inciting hatred and riots against Christians and other faith groups.
While the right to religious freedom is protected in India’s constitution, anti-conversion laws exist in seven of the 29 Indian states. According to the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report on India published by the US State Department, there were more than 300 reported incidents of abuse targeting Christians. In the 2015 report, 177 were reported. ADF International’s allied lawyers in India litigate cases including assaults on missionaries, forced conversions, attacks on churches, schools, and private property, as well as the intentional killing of Christians.
Pastors behind bars
“Our allied lawyers in India are currently defending seven pastors at a regional court. They had accompanied 60 children to a Christian summer camp, when the police detained them at the train station. All parents immediately confirmed in front of the local court that they had willingly sent their children to the camp. While the children were allowed to return to their homes after three days of severe questioning by the police, the pastors were held in prison on no legal grounds for three months before they were released on bail. This is only one example of the harassment Christians are facing in India today on a regular basis,” said Sophia Kuby.
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