Religious minorities in India see freedoms erode

India (MNN) – In India, religious minorities are seeing their freedoms slowly erode. The northeastern state of Jharkhand recently became the ninth state to pass anti-conversion laws, which are often used to suppress any religion other than Hinduism.

(Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World)

“I think in the little over three years that we’ve had this government in place, we’ve certainly seen those states that have the anti-conversion laws get stronger in trying to implement those laws,” says John Pudaite with Bibles For The World, an organization that works with indigenous nationals in India to distribute Bibles and provide education. “They’re getting more galvanized. They feel they have the support of the central government behind them.”

India is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-wing Hindu nationalist group. Reports from after the March 2017 election say physical violence against Christians have risen 40 percent since 2016, while murders of Christians have doubled.

“In some states, we’ve heard that now they are requiring, if someone wants to change their religion, they first have to go down to the equivalent of a district magistrate, a judge, and file paperwork stating their intent to convert from one religion to another,” Pudaite says.

“We’ve also seen a movement by some of the Hindu nationalist groups, that they’re trying to pay people to come back to Hinduism. They’re paying for Christians to come back, for Muslims to come back to Hinduism.”

Pudaite says Bibles For The World has many workers on the ground in the northeastern provinces of Assam and Manipur, neither of which have a Christian majority. He says the governments there are looking to implement these anti-conversion laws, which would affect Bibles For The World’s ministry.

“We’re watching that very, very carefully because we have a lot of churches, a lot of schools, a lot of outreach with the unreached peoples in those states going on now,” Pudaite says.

(Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World)

“Both of those states now have a state government, elected government, that’s from the same party as the Hindu nationalist party at the center. So I think that’s part of why they’re getting kind of a push from the powers that be, the authorities in New Delhi.”

It’s a tense and uncertain time for religious minorities in India. Pudaite asks that you keep them in your prayers, specifically those in a position to make a difference.

“I think in these two states specifically, we need to pray for the Christians who are in government,” Pudaite says. “There are elected leaders who are Christians. [Pray] that they will be bold in both of those states, and also in the entire region, that they will stand up for their faith and say, ‘No, we cannot have this. This is not really constitutional.’”

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