WASHINGTON, DC — The United States is having a “difficult” time convincing Hindu-majority India, an American ally, to protect the right of religious minorities, namely Christians and Muslims, to safely practice their faith, a top U.S. ambassador told Breitbart News on Thursday.
A recent U.S. Department of State report on religious freedom found that Christians and Muslims are suffering assaults, some lethal, at the hands of Hindu extremists emboldened by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, considered the world’s largest democracy.
New Delhi rejected the report, which covered anti-religious liberty activities in India last year.
Referring to India’s reaction to the religious freedom report during a press conference at the end of the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, a three-day summit launched by State on Tuesday, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told Breitbart News, “If they’re not happy with our report, which they’re not, then I really think they need to step up and do more in this area and India is the fountain of a number of religions so the idea of tolerance should be really throughout.”
“I’m not going to make any comments really on the nature of Hindu extremism,” he continued. “I’m really focused on asking the government to step up and be more clear-headed and focused and specific to say they’re going to defend their religious minorities.”
Brownback’s comments came in response to Breitbart News asking: “Has India been receptive to U.S. efforts to promote religious freedom and do you think Hindu extremists pose a major threat to Christians and Muslims in India?”
In responding, the top American religious freedom envoy also said, “It’s been difficult. There is a lot of communal violence taking place there. I get regular reports out of India of violence towards … religious minorities, particularly against Christians and Muslims. It’s in our religious freedom report.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “went to India, gosh, it wasn’t a week after we issued that report and the Indian government wasn’t happy about our International Religious Freedom Report and he said ‘well, then stop these things from happening,’” he added. “Here is the largest democracy in the world in India and not near enough of these cases have been brought to justice.”
Brownback went on to say that a lawyer from the non-governmental organization (NGO) Alliance Defending Freedom in India (ADFI), which tracks attacks against Christians, told U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence that “she has documented over 90 cases of violence” in recent months, but authorities “only” brought “18 cases” against the perpetrators.
Pence delivered a speech during the ministerial summit at State on Thursday.
Brownback acknowledged that he ensured that a man in his home state of Kansas who shot and killed a Hindu man was brought to justice by law enforcement.
“These things when they happen, it does matter how the government responds,” he told Breitbart News. “And you need to respond aggressively and say ‘we will not tolerate this’ and ‘we’re going to prosecute this to the full extent of the law,’ and that’s … what we want to see the Indian government do in these cases and they should do it.”
In its annual Report on International Religious Freedom issued in June, the State Department blasted the Hindu nationalist BJP, India’s ruling party, for inciting hatred against Muslims and Christians.
The State Department report revealed:
There were reports by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government. Some senior officials of the Hindu-majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made inflammatory speeches against minority communities.
There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytize.
Although the South China Morning Post reported last month that Muslims had borne the brunt of hate crimes in India, State revealed that Hindu nationalists have also attacked Christians.
Citing ADFI, the State report determined that government “authorities pursued charges against members of the minority Christian community in several states under religious conversion laws,” adding:
ADFI reported members of Hindu nationalist groups attacked Christian leaders and their ministries, mainly in rural communities, under the pretext the Christians were practicing forced conversions, and 15 churches were closed due to concerns about ensuring the security of the churches.
In April 2018, Bharat Singh – a BJP Member of Parliament from Uttar Pradesh, home to the largest concentration of attacks against followers of Christ in India – said, “Christian missionaries are a threat to the unity and integrity” of the country.
The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI-RLC) documented 325 cases of violence and attacks against Christians and churches during , compared with 351 in 2017 and 247 in 2016. Its 2018 report tracked incidents in which Christians were targeted for violence, intimidation, or harassment, and noted over 40 percent of the documented incidents occurred in Uttar Pradesh.
Open Doors has designated India one of the worst places for Christian persecution in recent years, particularly after the BJP took power.
The NGO, which tracks the mistreatment of Christ followers across the world, described the BJP’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election in May as an “absolute tragedy” for Christian minorities in India.
Citing a 2011 national census, the State Department estimates out of India’s total population of 1.3 billion, “Hindus constitute 79.8 percent of the population, Muslims 14.2 percent, Christians 2.3 percent, and Sikhs 1.7 percent.”