Are Christians Really Persecuted in India

source: Rationalist International, Bulletin # 43 (27 July 2000)

ARE
CHRISTIANS REALLY PERSECUTED IN INDIA?

?

The
veracity of the tales of the Christian persecution in India has
become a cause of dispute among different Christian churches in
India.

Sometime back it
was left to the Indian Rationalists to set the record straight
regarding the alleged persecution of Christians in India. We presented
our considered view in articles and interviews (and in more than
one issue of this bulletin) that most of the cases which hit national
and international headlines were either misleading like the famous
case of one raped Christian nun among thousands of women and children
in India, who become rape victims without any public notice, or
they are concocted and faked. In many highlighted cases the media
would give a small correction after some days, that, for example,
not only the murder victim was a Christian, but also the murderers
-which make them simple criminal cases without any communal relevance.

The National Minority
Commission of India under the chairmanship of Justice Mohammed
Shamim has meantime systematically investigated reported cases
of Christian persecution. The commission’s Christian member John
Joseph? spoke to Sanal Edamaruku about the results and gave
information about the background of the international campaign.

“The recent
wide-spread campaign in the West that the Christians are persecuted
in India is nothing short of colorful lies, half-truths or highly
exaggerated stories unleashed by Indian Christian NGOs and missionary
groups to mobilize Christian donor agencies to open their wallets,”
said John Joseph in the exclusive interview which appeared in
Kerala Sabdam, a widely circulated news weekly of Kerala,?
where a considerable Christian population lives. It triggered
a series of public reactions. Several Christian groups and leaders
who do not make a living from the financial support from western
donor agencies came out openly against the campaign of the Christian
NGOs. Christian persecution in India is a favorite theme for many
western churches including the Roman Catholic Church, which invest
huge sums of money and efforts in India for promoting religious
conversions.

John Joseph argued
that out of the huge number of crimes?happening in India,
a large country of a billion population, systematically cases
are picked up in which? a Christian priest?or church
are involved. They are isolated from their background and presented
as stories of persecution, by vested interests. Those cases are
to be handled by the police and the law and order machinery of
the government. Presenting such isolated cases as Christian persecution
is not in the interest of even Christians. The inflow of money
from the West to the Christian organizations has increased considerably
since the beginning of this campaign.

With the systematic
campaign of the churches, missionary groups and Christian NGOs
about persecution of Christians in India, the Christian community
is under the grip of fear and suspicion. John Joseph also expressed
apprehensions that a section of the Christians motivated by the
stories of “persecution” may resort to militancy. There
are reports from some areas that efforts are already on to form
Christian militant outfits with? financial and technical
assistance from outside the country. Missionary groups promoting
militancy? are cunningly planning to bag dollars showing
martyrs. Bloodshed may be a sad outcome of this development, he
warned.

John Joseph, Christian
representative in the three-member National Minority Commission,
is a devout Christian and son of one of the founders of the Pentecostal
movement in India.

Meantime the metropolitan
(equivalent to archbishop) of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church,
Joseph Mar Gregorios, also spoke to Sanal Edamaruku in an exclusive
interview and asserted that he did not believe that Christians
are persecuted in India. The Jacobite Syrian church has nearly
two million members in India and is one of the oldest churches
in India. It has a long tradition of friendly co-existence and
mutual support with Hindus. The Catholic church, seeing the United
Christian Front in the persecution question? cracking and
breaking, reacted sharply?to the public position taken by
the Jacobite Syrian bishop. The official spokesperson of the Catholic
church, in an angry statement, ridiculed the Jacobite Syrian?church
as a sect and fringe group with limited following.

There is resistance
at several parts of India against the aggressive conversion drive
of evangelical groups and the Catholic church. There are also
isolated cases of violent response from local communities against
the Christian groups using poverty and unemployment to influence
conversion. Recently there was a series of minor bomb blasts,
which damaged some churches in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states.
Police inquiries revealed that a Muslim cult having connections
in Pakistan has been behind these blasts. There are allegations
that Pakistan, in order to weaken India and to tarnish its image
internationally, is behind these bomb blasts. There are also reports
about public demonstrations in Pakistan alleging that Christians
are persecuted in India.

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