While India’s diverse religions don’t have much, if anything, in common, religious leaders from half a dozen major faiths in the country have joined forces to condemn the rise in violence against minority religions. The group includes Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain and even Hindus who are taking a stand against pervasive violence committed by religious fanatics against innocent believers who simply want to practice their faith and beliefs in peace.
India has a multi-religious history where people of all faiths have lived and worked together in relative peace for long periods of time. Even so, Hinduism has been the dominant religion in the country for centuries and many activists have promoted the view that only Hindus can be patriotic Indian citizens. This view has become more entrenched after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India in 2014.
Prime Minister Modi who is a member of the devoutly Hindu BJP political party, has a history of being outspoken against other faiths besides Hinduism, leading to an increase in Christian persecution throughout the country. India now ranks as the eleventh most repressive regime on earth, ahead of many other nations that are well-known for mistreating their Christian population; these countries include not only Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan but also most nations in North Africa as well as communist China.
Given the fact that religious persecution is on the rise and intolerant views of other faiths is becoming more commonplace, it is amazing to see the solidarity expressed by these six leaders of very diverse religious faiths. The joint statement signed by these six individuals clearly states that every single citizen of India should have the right to choose their beliefs, marry who they want without fear of reprisals, decide on what they eat and freely practice their faith however they please.
At the same time, the statement took aim at devout Hindus who impose restrictions on what lower-caste, socially poor Dalits can and cannot do. As the individuals who signed the statement made clear, religion should never be used as an excuse to incite violence against anyone and the rights of the poor should be upheld at all times.
It is not only religious leaders who are coming to realize that freedom of religion must become a reality in India if there is to be lasting peace and prosperity. A group of intellectuals in the northeastern city of Kolkata recently organized a demonstration against the communal violence that is on the rise in that large city.
The demonstration was also attended by a number of left-leaning political parties; however, none of these parties raised a party flag out of respect for the diverse nature of the rally. While the state leader of the BJP party derided the intellectuals as being out of touch with the masses and their concerns, it is heartening to see that educated Indians are taking a stand against religious violence.
Unfortunately, it is very possible that the religious violence in India will get worse before it gets better. It is currently election season and many political parties and individual politicians are using religion to rile up their followers. Open Doors and many Christian and human rights organizations have continually documented many types of persecution against Christian believers and especially Christian leaders who are sharing their faith with others. Catholic churches were vandalized and attacked on Easter Sunday in a number of cities, including an area that is known for peaceful co-existence with other religions.
While Christians naturally do not agree with fundamental beliefs of other religions, the fact is that religious tolerance is a cornerstone of religious liberty. Countries that do not allow religious freedom tend to not only persecute Christians but also other members of minority religions, be they Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i or some other faith. It is therefore heartening to see that people of very different faiths are coming together to proclaim that persecution based on religious beliefs has no place in today’s society.
Christians would do well to pray that more leaders of all different faiths will embrace and promote freedom of religion. It is also vitally important to continually pray for fellow believers throughout the Indian sub-continent, that they will stand strong in the face of persecution and that God will not only protect and comfort them but also empower them to continue to share their faith with others.
~ Christian Patriot Daily