Rising Religious Intolerance in India: Challenges for Diversity and Democracy

Farrukh Saif

August 26, 2023

In recent times, India has been grappling with a distressing trend of religious intolerance that poses significant challenges to its diverse cultural and religious fabric. A recent incident in Delhi, where a group identifying as Hindu nationalists disrupted a church service, highlights the urgent need to address this issue. This article delves into the incident, its implications, and the broader context of religious tensions in India.

The Disturbing Incident in Delhi

During a Sunday church service at Siyyon Prarthna Bhawan congregation in Delhi, a group of individuals identifying as Hindu nationalists forcibly entered the premises. This resulted in altercations that led to injuries and damage to property, including Bibles, musical instruments, and furniture within the prayer hall. Videos of the incident circulated widely, depicting the unsettling scenes of disruption.

The group reportedly raised slogans advocating for a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu nation) and hailed Lord Ram. These slogans added to the tensions during the incident and emphasized the underlying ideological motives of the disruptors.

In the aftermath of the incident, Christian members, including children, felt compelled to leave due to safety concerns. The filing of complaints with the police was met with further intimidation, as a group representing organizations such as Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh gathered outside the police station, chanting slogans. The fear-induced exodus and the subsequent intimidation reflect the gravity of the situation.

This incident is not isolated. It is part of a disturbing pattern that has been escalating over the years. The United Christian Forum’s report indicates a significant increase in attacks against Christians since 2014, with reported attacks on churches rising from 147 in 2014 to 599 in the previous year. Shockingly, the first 190 days of 2023 alone witnessed around 400 attacks on churches and Christians, spanning 23 states.

International Implications

As India positions itself as a democratic nation on the global stage, these incidents hold international implications. The upcoming Group of 20 (G20) summit highlights the challenge of maintaining India’s reputation as a diverse and inclusive country. The incidents raise questions about India’s commitment to upholding religious freedom and minority rights.

Addressing religious intolerance requires a comprehensive approach. While legal actions against perpetrators are important, promoting interfaith understanding, tolerance, and respect is equally crucial. Political leaders play a pivotal role in upholding the secular and pluralistic values enshrined in India’s Constitution. Civil society, religious leaders, and international actors also need to engage in dialogue and advocacy to tackle the root causes of such violence.

The incident in Delhi serves as a stark reminder of the challenges posed by religious intolerance in India. The broader trend of attacks against religious minorities underscores the urgency to safeguard the country’s diversity and democracy. By addressing these challenges head-on and fostering an environment of religious harmony, India can ensure that its rich cultural tapestry remains intact.

Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.

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