20 February 2020
The International Religious Freedom Roundtable, which operates out of Washington D.C., submitted a multi-faith letter addressed to President Trump, prior to his trip to India, highlighting the religious persecution in India and urging him to raise this issue with Prime Minister Modi of India.
In the multi-faith letter, the argument was made that actors of religious persecution in India are afforded government immunity which further emboldens state and non-state extremists to continue their discriminatory and abusive actions towards non-Hindus.
In addition a worrying number of states in India are imposing “anti-conversion” legislation, which the government of India claims are “important safeguards against coercion and inducement to convert or reconvert from one religion to another in a multi-religious society.” In practice however, such laws have been disproportionately applied to arrest Christians for peacefully practicing their right to worship. Extremist Hindu mobs use these laws as reasons to beat Christians and destroy churches, falsely accusing them of “forcibly converting individuals.”
Another set of laws that has stoked violence towards non-Hindus are anti-cow slaughter laws. They embolden and invigorate Hindu nationalists to track down, harm, and in many instances, kill individuals over simple rumors that they have killed cows for beef.
Further, in October of 2019, US Pastor Bryan Nerren of Tennessee, was arrested at a northeastern Indian airport, where his passport was confiscated and he was repeatedly interrogated for possessing funding that would be going to the minority Christian communities. He was arrested on the grounds that he failed to declare such funds to the government. United States Senators Alexander and Blackburn are currently working on his case and advocating for his swift and safe return to his family in the United States.