Christian delegation meets chairman of National Commission for Minorities, urges action on violence concerns

Burnt Bibles from the attacks on Christians in Manipur. (Photo: Open Doors)

A five-member delegation from the United Christian Forum (UCF) met with the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on September 21 in New Delhi to present their concerns regarding the persecution of Christians. 

As a response to the NCM's nearly six-month-old request for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's engagement, the organisation has encouraged the UCF delegation to create a thorough report on violence against Christians. 

The UCF group that met with Iqbal Singh Lalpura, the chairman of the NCM, also comprised Dr. Michael Williams, National President, Dr. John Dayal, the spokesman of the UCF and of the All India Catholic Union, Mr. A C Michael, National Coordinator, and Tehmina Arora and Siju Thomas, executive members. 

After the meeting, the UCF also issued a news statement in which it was revealed that NCM had called the gathering in response to a letter sent to the Indian prime minister after his earlier this year Easter Sunday visit to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on April 9. 

“In the meeting, NCM heard us fully and assured us to take action. Also they have asked us to submit more details of the issues we have raised in the letter to the prime minister, which they hope to conduct study within a month and put up a report to him,” said the UCF press note. 

The UCF, one of the organisations that monitor incidents of violence against Christians in India, contends that attacks have surged following the enactment of anti-conversion laws in 11 out of India's 28 states, most of which are governed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

The UCF press note also points out that the delegation raised the matter of recent incidents that occurred closer to Delhi in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the Buddhist member of the NCM, who also oversees Christian affairs in the absence of a Christian member within the body, offered to promptly investigate them. 

“The PM's response, in accordance with his usual style, originates from the lowest level of the official structure, specifically within the recently reorganised minority affairs ministry. This restructuring has resulted in the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) operating without Christian representation, with a Buddhist member now overseeing Christian affairs,” noted Dayal while speaking to Christian Today.

The UCF note claims that they were assured by the Chair of the NCM that the pending appointment of a Christian member of the NCM will be done quickly. 

The UCF press note also specified that Lalpura told the delegation that the “minority Commission will work together in addressing cases of persecution of citizens from the Christian faith.” The Chairman of the NCM also reportedly asked for “a joint team to tour some of the areas where such communal issues are regularly occurring.” 

“It is worth noting,” Dayal says, “that the NCM lacks its own investigating agency. The chair has proposed that Christians take the initial steps, after which the police will conduct further investigations. However, the plan doesn't clarify how data regarding communal violence will be gathered, especially in cases where government agencies may not maintain such records.” 

While the UCF press note maintains a hopeful tone, Dayal, himself a veteran human rights activist and a member of the delegation, shares a more realistic perspective. “Overall, it's good that there's an ongoing conversation about these issues, although it's understandable if one doesn't set their hopes very high given these circumstances,” he concluded.