In its persecution of Christians, India will now force nonprofits to sign commitments to not evangelize or “engage in religious conversion.”
This move on Sunday, which pushes employees of foreign-funded nonprofits into a corner and places amendments to the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The act regulates foreign aid and according to the Times of India, it has given the government permission to freeze bank accounts of non-governmental organizations and also to shut them down.
“These new modifications will reignite fears that NGOs will be selectively targeted and their FCRA registration canceled and their bank accounts frozen,” Global Council of Indian Christians President Sajan K George said. “Every organization whose goals can be interpreted in the broadest sense of sectarian discord, or with accusations of conversion or as a simple ‘violation’ will be included.”
The new restriction is a result of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rise to power in 2014. The Hindu nationalist group has pushed for increased persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
More than 11,000 foreign-funded NGOs have lost their licenses to serve the country, including Christian sponsorship organization Compassion International in 2017. The nonprofit stopped its ministry to over 147,000 children in the country because of the FCRA. The government denied FCRA approval for Compassion with no reason. The New York Times reported, however, the rejection came as a result of “engaging in religious conversion.”
Seven states in India enforce anti-conversion laws, which are often abused by Hindu nationalists to persecute pastors or missionaries.
“In the countryside, open signs of following a faith different to Hinduism (or Islam), will stimulate aggression as it will automatically be linked to evangelism or conversion,” Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors said. “Private meetings for worship activities are not safe. Throughout the country, local intelligence monitors all Christian activity.”
In 2016, the U.S. filed a report condemning the country for religious persecution, as previously reported by Christian Headlines. But India fought back, claiming the country supported other religions.
“Our attention has been drawn to the recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which once again fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society,” spokesman Vikas Swarup said. “India is a vibrant pluralistic society founded on strong democratic principles. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion.”
Anti-conversion laws are also in place in the states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat Uttrakhand.
India ranks as the 10th-worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.
Christian comprise about 4.8 percent of the Indian population.
“Identifying oneself as a Christian can be risky and vicious threats through social media are commonplace,” An Open Doors’ country dossier reads.
According to the dossier, evidence suggests that digital surveillance has been carried about against Christian leaders by Hindu radicals.
“In the countryside, open signs of following a faith different to Hinduism (or Islam), will stimulate aggression as it will automatically be linked to evangelism or conversion,” the dossier reads. “Private meetings for worship activities are not safe. Throughout the country, local intelligence monitors all Christian activity.”