Thursday, June 7, 2007



A troubling indication of a rising tide of intolerance towards Christians in India is a new law enacted in the state of Himachal Pradesh in February of 2007. The new law ostensibly bans all forced religious conversions to Christianity. It is most shocking because the state has so few Christians. Only about one-tenth of one percent of the 6 million inhabitants are Christians. Nationally 82 percent of the inhabitants are Hindus; 13 percent are Muslim. Only about 3 percent of the nation of India is Christian.

Himachal Pradesh has less than 8 thousand Christian, but it is the fifth state to pass such a law. Ironically the new law is entitled “The Freedom of Religion Law”. When Sonia Gandhi, the Congressional leader, stood up and spoke out against the anticonversion laws, she was condemned as Christian, and a foreigner, and someone who should not be running a Hindu country.

Christian missionaries have been reviled as “alleluia wallahs” by Hindu nationalists. They fear that the Christian missionaries are threatening India’s Hindu identity. These concerns have been used to justify a number of violent attacks against missionaries.
The new law requires anyone wishing to change religions to notify the District Magistrate not later than 30 days prior to converting. Failure to do so can result in a fine or imprisonment or both. Confinement for as long as two years is authorized.


The multiplication of these anticonversion laws is causing concern around the world. The US State Department report on human rights practices in March expressed concern over the attempts by sate and local governments to limit religious freedom On May 2nd a pastor in Jaipur, Rajasthan was brutally beaten for converting a Hindu to Christianity. On May 9 the evening TV news broadcast showed a clip of two missionaries being paraded through the streets of Kolhapur in Maharashtra.

The Freedom of Religion Law makes it a crime for anyone to convert another person by force or “inducement” or other fraudulent means. “Inducement” is defined as the offer of any gift or gratification, either in cash or in kind or grant of any benefit either pecuniary or otherwise. Opponents of the law point out that the law is overly broad and can even prohibit the giving of food at a banquet or reception following religious services.

Despite the obvious suppression of religious freedom the new law will have, one cannot overlook the political implications. Political expediency often fills the void left by weak reasoning or lack of evidence. Hindu nationalists are teaching that India is a Hindu nation and that Christians and Muslims are outsiders. This has proved to be a powerful vote-getting platform.

1 comment:

ichbinalj said...

Hindu to open Senate with prayer.
On Thursday, 12 July 2007 a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, by the name of Rajan Zed is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. Zed tells the Las Vegas Sun that in his prayer he will likely include references to ancient Hindu scriptures, including Rig Veda, Upanishards, and Bhagavard-Gita. Historians believe it will be the first Hindu prayer ever read at the Senate since it was formed in 1789.

WallBuilders president David Barton is questioning why the U.S. government is seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god. Barton points out that since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto "One Nation Under God."
In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods," the Christian historian explains. "And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator -- that's not one that fits here because we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion."
Barton says given the fact that Hindus are a tiny constituency of the American public, he questions the motivation of Senate leaders. "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," he observes. "You look at India, you look at Nepal -- there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries."

And while Barton acknowledges there is not constitutional problem with a Hindu prayer in the Senate, he wonders about the political side of it. "One definitely wonders about the pragmatic side of it," he says. "What is the message, and why is the message needed? And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?"

Barton says he knows of at least seven cases where Christians have lost their bid to express their own faith in a public prayer.

Zed is reportedly the first Hindu to deliver opening prayers in an American state legislature, having done so in both the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate earlier this year. He has stated that Thursday's prayer will be "universal in approach," despite being drawn from Hindu religious texts.