New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) – It is urgent to protect life, personal security and places of religious worship of Christians in the country: a report entitled "Minorities on the Margins: Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Christian Community in India" was submitted by a network of Civil society organizations, congregations, NGOs to the United Nations. This report is a joint NGO submission by Franciscans International, VIVAT International, Congregations of St. Joseph, Pax Romana, Sisters of Charity Federation, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries and other partners. NGOs are seeking to raise the awareness of the UN Human Rights Council in view of the periodic review for India scheduled to take place in May 2017. The "periodic review" is a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council aimed at monitoring the situation of Human rights for each of the 193 member states of the United Nations.
As Fides learns, this report is the culmination of consultations held in various parts of the country. This report focuses on the status of freedom of religion or belief with respect to the Christian community in India. The Christian Collective report was facilitated by two Catholics, Fr. Ajaya Kumar Singh, priest and human rights activist in Orissa and John Dayal, a journalist.
"The Indian government should be directed to ensure that the life, personal security and places of religious worship of the Christian community are protected from attacks, and attackers prosecuted under criminal law", the report says, and ensure "strict legal action" against all those who deliver hate speech with the intention of inciting violence and hatred against the Christian community.
The report denies alleged proselytism or the exponential growth of Christians in India. According to the Census of India 2011, Hindus constitute 79.8% (966 million), Muslims 14.23% (172 million), Christians 2.3% (27 million), Sikhs 1.72% (20 million), Buddhists 0.7% (8,4 million), Jains 0.37% (4,4 million), and other religions including Parsis and Jews constitute 0.6% (7,9 million) of the 1,2 bilion people in India.
Data - the report notes - shows that there has been no significant change in the proportion of the Christian community to total population in 2011, as compared to the previous Census of 2001.
States with large Christian communities include Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Goa, Kerala, Jharkand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, although Christians live in almost all the states of India.
The Christian community in India is not homogenous and its members owe allegiance to various religious denominations. Many members of tribal and indigenous communities, called "adivasis", who were originally animists, thereafter converted to Christianity as did Dalits or, partially to escape from the clutches of the oppressive and discriminatory caste system under Hinduism. As a result, in the present context, the Christian population comprises of a large proportion of Dalit and tribal Christians .
The report deals with the present political context in India, inntersectional vulnerabilities and deprivations, status of tribal and dalit Christians, status of Christian women, ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (home coming) and the enactment and implementation of anti-Christian conversion laws. The reports enlists series of recommedations, that the UN Council will examine and submit to the Indian government. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 3/5/2017)