A Christian bishop in India calls on leaders in his country and around the world to speak out against the growing persecution of Christians on the subcontinent.
Reverend Joseph D’Souza, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in India, told Fox News Digital he was concerned about India’s image to the world due to escalating attacks on Christians in the country.
âThe past few months have become an open season for attacks on Christian minorities,â said D’Souza, who is also the founder of Dignity Freedom Network and chairman of the All India Christian Council.
“A strange situation”
Anti-Christian militias have persecuted believers across India in recent months by crossing villages interrupting religious services, burning Christian books and assaulting Christians during worship, according to government documents and interviews reported Wednesday. by The New York Times.
âThese are not isolated events, but this is an ongoing coordination, because state after state similar types of incidents occur,â D’Souza said. He noted how 2021 saw around 300 such attacks on Christians, who make up just 2.3% of the predominantly Hindu country’s population.
“And what is happening now is that the attacks have crossed the line in that they are entering Christian worship services, places of worship, gatherings,” he added.
The surge in attacks from far-right Hindu groups comes as nine Indian states have passed so-called âanti-conversionâ laws, which ostensibly aim to prevent forcible conversion from one religion to another. D’Souza and other critics say the laws violate the freedom of religion guaranteed by India’s constitution.
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On Thursday, the state of Karnataka, located along the country’s southwest coast, became the latest to pass such a law. The Karnataka Religious Freedom Right Protection Bill, 2021, was passed by voice vote in the state legislature, despite large protests and chaotic scenes in the assembly, according to the Times of India.
A congressional leader tore up the paper the legislation was printed on, saying, âTheir focus is only on Christians. Another denounced the bill as “draconian”.
The law prohibits “illegal conversions” from one religion to another by “false declaration, force, seduction, fraudulent means or marriage”, and also requires that anyone seeking to convert to a religion must notify a magistrate.
“It’s a bizarre situation,” said D’Souza, who predicted that the law would lead to much more violence in Karnataka.
A report released on Dec. 13 by the Religious Freedom Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) claimed that the government’s continued discussions on the anti-conversion law have emboldened anti-Christian vigilantes.
“It is clear and evident that an atmosphere of fear and apprehension prevails in the Christian community and its grassroots religious clergy due to systematic targeting through a vicious and malicious campaign of hate,” said the Reverend. Vijayesh Lal, secretary general of EFI, according to Ucanews. .
“Battle in progress”
D’Souza, who noted that forced conversions are seen as anathema in Christianity, sees attacks on Christians as lingering expressions of India’s caste system.
“It is not ultimately about Christians and the Christian community in India,” he said. “It is ultimately about the rights of the lower caste and the untouchables.”
Noting Christianity’s appeal to the socially excluded, he said he saw the attacks as a concerted effort “by an upper-caste Hindu elite who did not want these people to exercise their rights, including the right to believe or not to believe; to stay in the caste system or not to stay in the caste system. “
“And so, on a deeper level, this is the ongoing battle in Indian culture between the majority of the lower castes, women and the upper cast elite who do not want to give up their hold on the masses,” he said. he added.
D’Souza said he called on Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi and Indian Interior Minister to address these issues, noting that religious minorities voted for him because he promised the country development and progress. economic.
âWe don’t think this is progress at the moment,â he said.
‘Without a doubt’
D’Souza, who has traveled extensively and would visit the United States every few months before the pandemic, also discerned that persecution against Christians was increasing globally.
âWithout a doubt and without a doubt, Christians are currently the most persecuted minority in the world,â he said. “It has never been so bad before it is today.”
The Archbishop called the persecution of Christians under Sharia law in Muslim countries such as India’s neighboring Pakistan as particularly “unbelievable.”
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Despite what he described as “a rising voice within democracies around the world against Christian persecution,” D’Souza wants the United States and the West to do more, which he says includes seeing their own heritage in a proper light.
âThe West, which has a Christian heritage, apologizes terribly and needlessly for anything about Christians because of the history of colonialism and everything,â he said, noting that colonialism was over. for half a century. “They must know that they are now in 2021. It’s another world.”
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He praised the Biden administration for taking a stand against the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China. But he encouraged the administration to deal with the plight of persecuted Christians as well.
âThey have to look at the world and say, ‘What are we saying and doing about Christians in the world? And what are we saying and doing about Christians in India?’