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Published On: Fri, Oct 12th, 2018

ADF briefs EU on religious persecution in India: anti-conversion, blasphemy laws are restricting religious freedom

On 10 October 2018, ADF International co-hosted a briefing for Members of the European Parliament on “Religious Persecution and the Human Rights Project.” The event is part of the international “I’m Human, Right?” campaign, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The briefing was held at the European Parliament and focused on India in particular.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” said Adina Portaru, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Brussels, who chaired the event. “Today, countless individuals suffer from the denial of their rights. In Asia, many are persecuted because of their faith and anti-conversion and blasphemy laws are restricting the right to religious freedom. Research shows that Christians experience harassment in two-thirds of all countries. We cannot accept this. We urge the European Union and all governments to reaffirm the inherent dignity of every human being and to promote and protect the fundamental freedoms of every person without exception.”

Image/CIA

Hostility against minorities in India

Dominic Emmanuel, a journalist and expert on interreligious dialogue in India shared his view on religious minorities: “India is a democracy and a country of contradictions. Article 25 of the Constitution protects freedom of conscience and religion but several states have passed so-called ‘freedom of religion’ laws. This is pure sarcasm as these laws act as anti-conversion legislation. They restrict peoples’ choice to adopt or embrace any other religion than the one they are born into. The anti-Christian attitude is expressed in many ways. For example, Christian priests and nuns who want to visit India are denied visas on religious grounds and people trying to open schools for minorities are harassed and refused permission.”

Dominic Emmanuel continued to describe the strong influence of radical Hindu movements in India who aim to create an India exclusively for Hindus with other groups as second-class citizens. In India, Christians, Muslims, and other religious minorities face the highest levels of discrimination. The most recent Pew Research Center report on restrictions on religion, from 2016, ranked India number one on its list of countries with high social hostility against religious groups.

Eight states in India have anti-conversion laws in effect. Two of these states adopted them in the past year. So-called “Freedom of Religion” acts aim to prevent Hindus from converting to Christianity or Islam. They prohibit conversions that are based on force, fraud, or inducement, but define these terms very broadly. The lack of clarity in these laws means Christians find themselves at the whim of local authorities.

European response required

Alojz Peterle, MEP stressed the responsibility of the European Union when it comes to human rights, “We are thankful that we can have Father Dominic here with us to give us an inside view of the reality of the anti-conversion laws in India. The European Commission has been responsive with the appointment of Ján Figel as Special Envoy for the promotion of the freedom of religion in the world and he has quite a lot to do as freedom of religion is not respected everywhere.”

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