The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Church frowns on America stand

New Delhi, May 16: The Church is unhappy with the US’ refusal to designate India one of the Countries of Particular Concern with regard to religious freedom despite a spate of violence against minority communities.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India director Donald D’Souza said the Church “did not share the US administration’s decision”, arrived according to its own parameters.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, too, expressed disappointment.

“The commission was deeply disappointed that General (retired) Colin Powell did not designate India, Pakistan, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam (as CPC),” the commission was quoted as saying.

A statutory body, the commission advises the US President, secretary of state and Congress on matters of global religious freedom.

It had written to US secretary of state Colin Powell in September, asking for India to be placed in the category of “egregious religious freedom violators” along with the five others. Such countries could attract US action under its International Religious Freedom Act.

The commission had last year also urged Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage, to take up the matter with Delhi. In its report on Religious Freedom for 2003, the commission said it had met Armitage to discuss the recommendations for CPC.

“We never said there is religious persecution in India, but there has been a number of attacks on Christian institutions,” D’Souza said.

“We expect the government to do more so that minorities can feel safe and secure in the country.”

Expressing unhappiness, All India Christian Council president John Dayal said “we are greatly disappointed”, especially after the Gujarat riots.

Violence against minorities should have come under the ambit of international scrutiny as “our human rights record continues to be terrible”, Dayal said.

The commission said it was “increasingly concerned about abuses of religious freedom in India, including the communal violence and killings that took place in Gujarat last year”.

The panel expressed more concern over religious minorities being periodically subject to severe violence in a democracy. Besides, those responsible were also rarely held to account.

The Global Council of Indian Christians appeared to be driving the point home when it said a Christian prayer group at Kyarakoppa, near Dharwad, in Karnataka was attacked on Wednesday.

According to the council, there has been unrelenting violence and discrimination against and humiliation of Christians in the recent past, especially in Hubli and its neighbourhood. A council statement said the sustained campaign against Christians by various Sangh outfits had made society less tolerant.

The council has now approached the state minorities commission to protect Christians in Karnataka.

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