In recent years, the religious minorities in the country have been persecuted for their faith.
Pastor Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), described the challenges that the minorities are facing in the country in an interview for the podcast Didomi.
“Democracy is being challenged to a greater degree” in India, he said.
The freedom of expression, human rights and freedom of religion, especially for minorities like Christians and Muslims, are under continuous threat, according to Pastor Lal.
Many states in India are coming up with anti-conversion laws that criminalize conversion. Some of the laws are “titled Freedom of Religion Acts, but they actually restrict freedom of religion,” he said.
“They are very strict, put into question every conversion per se, they see every conversion with suspicion until it is proved that is genuine, and the burden of proof lies on the one who has been accused,” he explained.
EFI’s Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) started publishing the Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians report twice a year from the late 1990’s.
It began “in the late 1990s, when the whole conversion propaganda against the church in India started. Since then, we have advocated for religious freedom, documenting cases of atrocities against religious minorities,” said the EFI general secretary.
“At the beginning, the cases we reported were around 100-150. Since 2014, cases have been rising, reaching 366 in 2019 and 327 in 2020. Just in the first month of 2021, we have already recorded 29,” he detailed.
According to Pastor Lal, the violence against religious minorities “comes from a political ideology called Hindutva, which is not to be confused with Hinduism, because Hinduism is a religion, and Hindutva strives for political control and it is based on exclusion.”
“It has connections with the Nazis. The heads of this ideology are currently in power in India. It started in the 1920s. However, I have no doubt that the ideology of Hindutva will eventually fail, because it is essentially against the character of India,” he said.
“The world knows that Muslims have been targeted in India, but there is little understanding about how Christians are being targeted,” Pastor Lal lamented.
“I hope and pray for more understanding from the international community, that they will be aware of the persecution and they will use their voice to ask the Indian government to take steps to protect the religious minorities, Christians included.”
But even in the midst of persecution, “the church in India continues to give, and Covid-19 has been an opportunity to show love, compassion and the values of the Kingdom,” said the EFI general secretary.
“I do not know of any local church or denomination that has not gone out to provide relief to its neighbouring community. We are not going to stop, we do this because we love Christ and we also love our people”, Pastor Lal concluded.