Rev. Rakesh Paul, Pr. Pawan, Rev. Finny Samuel, Jharkhand, State Coordinator, Persecution Relief, Founder, Persecution Relief, Shri. Hemant Soren, Leader of Opposition, Jharkhand State, Pr. Tomson Thomas, India Coordinator, Persecution Relief.
20 February 2018
Mr. Hemant Soren
Leader of Opposition
Jharkhand Legislative Assembly
Dear Hemant Soren ji,
Sub: Christian Persecution in Jharkhand
Persecution Relief is an organisation involved in helping the persecuted Christians, as an extended hand and a bridge for the Government.
As we celebrate 70 years of Indian Independence, never has the Church in India and Christians across the length and breadth of India, faced a worrisome season like the current one. Incidents of violence against Christians are widespread across India.
Jharkhand used to be an example of religious freedom and tolerance. However, under the current Chief Minister of the State Government, religious persecution against minorities (predominantly Christians and Muslims) is escalating. The so-called ‘freedom of religion’ Act, also known as anti-conversion laws, makes it a criminal offense to change one’s religion from their existing faith to another faith.
The Anti-Conversion Bill has unfortunately positioned the Government as the arbiter of truth or religious correctness, as they empower officials to enforce particular religious views against individuals, minorities, and dissenters. The Law has in fact the opposite effect. They encourage extremists to enforce their notions of truth on others, often through force, thereby worsening religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence, which is frequently used to silence critics or democratic rivals under the guise of enforcing religious piety. Incidents of ideologically motivated violence are mounting.
The Church in Jharkhand and the Christian community, continue to suffer from religious fundamentalists, for the sake of their service and witness to Jesus Christ. We are concerned at the intensity of the targeted and communal violence directed against Christians, almost on a pan India basis. The State governments have been dismissive of the Christian complaints, both by political non-State actors and other elements.
The complicity and impunity with which the Police and the Judiciary continue to act is outrageous. Whenever a complaint is lodged, the police fail to arrest even a single person in connection with that incident, in spite of repeated appeals from the victim and both the local and national human rights agencies themselves. This has been the norm in the last 3 years where Christians are coerced by government agencies to withdraw the case and accept a compromise with the attackers, or agree to the demand of leaving the village or pay a fine to practice their faith or give a written undertaking that they would not conduct worship services in their homes.
The state of Jharkhand has recorded 26 incidents of violence and hostility in 2017 – only cases that were brought to our attention. The Christian community has suffered physical attacks, desecration of churches, harassment and intimidation. In many cases, the local police refused to file an incident report. Christians are now routinely forbidden to worship and gather in their churches.
Jharkhand is a state where despite different faiths and religions, tribals, non-tribals and Dalits and other people, have been living at peace with each other.
However, with the passing of the Anti-Conversion bill by the Chief Minister, the landscape of Jharkhand is changing dramatically. The Chief Minister came out with a full front-page advertisement allegedly quoting Mahatma Gandhi, vilifying the Christian Community. The ‘hate-filled’ advertisement accuses the Christian Missionaries of converting poor Dalits and Tribals (Vanvasi’s, a term, we think Mahatma Gandhi never used for Tribals), whom the quote describes as innocent and ignorant. The Tribals and Dalits are described as “simple and mute as cows”. The Chief Minister must not spread his ideological hatred of the minorities.
Our recommendation to the Government of Jharkhand:
The Anti-Conversion bill must be repealed
A Legislation addressing “hate crimes” must be passed to safeguard the rights of all religious minorities
All State and Central Police force as well as Judiciary must be provided training by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Human Rights and Religious Freedom
We need robust judicial process to prevent, pursue and redress all violent acts against religious and tribal minorities and Dalits
The Indian government needs to publicly rebuke government officials and religious leaders who make derogatory statements about religious communities
Members of the ruling party having ties to Hindu nationalist groups implicated in religious freedom violations, must completely stop using religiously divisive language to inflame tensions, and call for additional laws that would restrict religious freedom
Amend the law on Construction of Churches in Jharkhand
As the Leader of the Opposition, we request you to raise our concerns with the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Legislative Assembly and the Central Government. It is time for our leadership to go beyond platitudes and promises and to ensure that every Jharkhand citizen lives without fear, in a peaceful, tolerant and prosperous Jharkhand.
Christians oppose forced conversions. At the same time, it stands by its rights to ‘preach, practice and propagate’ its faith as per Articles 25-28 of the Constitution. Economic development devoid of human rights obligations cannot be condoned. The recognition of the equal dignity of each person, the guarantee of religious freedom, and the protection against arbitrary discrimination are the soil in which free and just societies can flourish. We need to make these arguments heard.
Jharkhandis and Jharkhand deserves better. We hope that you will stand for the truth, to do everything in the power of your office, to protect the thousands of Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Despite these challenging and bleak times, we believe that Jharkhand can rise up to be a strong vibrant democracy, for life, for family, for religious freedom. For all of this and more to come, we give God the glory and continue praying for the Government and Opposition.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely, in Christ,
2018 Persecution Relief News
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