Sunday, 8 February 2015

Obama's Religious Freedom

Barak Obama President of the United States had during his recent trip to India given Indians a lecture on upholding religious tolerance. He showed us article 25 of our own constitution. For those of us who thought this was a one off comment he repeated his "concern" in the so called National Prayer Breakfast which was started by a Mormon Evangelist Abraham Vereide. He said "Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji [sic], the person who helped to liberate that nation". He did not single out any one faith at least not explicitly. But if anyone wants to know what he really meant in these two speeches one needs to read this press release(Feb 6, 2015) by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The press release after quoting Obama's two speeches goes on to mention this "The President’s concerns come at a time of increasing abuses against India’s minority religious communities.  Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have assaulted these communities and forced community members to convert.  In just the last three months, five churches were attacked in Delhi; Hindu nationalists reportedly forcibly converted Christians and Muslims; and a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked the majority-Muslim village of Azizpur, Bihar, killing three Muslims and setting about 25 houses on fire.  In addition, on February 5, police detained hundreds of Christians demonstrating against attacks on churches in New Delhi, including John Dayal, a human rights activist, who testified on April 4, 2014 before the Tom Lantos Commission on 'The Plight of Religious Minorities in India.'"

So while Obama has not singled out any religious community this press release by USCIR which is also incidentally headed by a Mormon Katrina Lantos Swett makes it clear what it was all about. American right wing churches which do not want any breaks to be brought about in their evangelist activities, do single out Hindus, who they intend to convert. Any resistance is pre-empted by pointing out incidents some of which may not even be true to weave a story which is used as persecution propaganda. Indians need to be aware of how the west is an active participant in the religious discord in our country. Barak Obama's lecture to India on religious freedom squarely equates it with freedom to evangelize which is the real concern not religious "Bhai Chara".

1) To know about what really happened in Azizpur read this.
2) About the assault and forced conversion by RSS I don't know where this story came from. I presume it refers to the so called 'Ghar Wapsi'. A typical report condemning 'Ghar Wapsi' is here. It says "Clearly, the force involved in conversions across the religious spectrum, need not be physical. It can be psychological, social, and as is often the case, economic."
3) Minority commission of UP report on the 50 so called 'Ghar Wapasi" was covered by India today here. It talks about "lured". Not that luring is in anyway more respectable. But if the commissions recommendation were to be implemented that would put so many evangelists churches in the dock.
4) John Dayal is a more or less discredited figure who appears regularly to testify against India in such forums.

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