Church Opposes CAA: A case of hypocrisy – Harshil Mehta

Church in India

Harshil MehtaIt seems that Christian institutions in India don’t sympathise with the problems faced by Christians living in Islamic states, especially Pakistan. – Harshil Mehta

Before the Coronavirus pandemic struck India, the government was facing the heat on roads for bringing the Citizenship Amendment Act, which fast tracks citizenship for persecuted minorities of the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

This step of the government has faced opposition not only from political parties and student activists, but even from the Church in India.

In February 2020, Church of Goa appealed to people to mobilise support for anti-CAA protests. Previously, the Archbishop of the Goa had released a statement which had appealed to the government to revoke the act.

Not only this, the Roman Catholic Church of Gujarat had issued a statement against CAA and said that it leaves one “particular community” out. Churches in Nagaland have also opposed the CAA.

This, even as Christians in India’s neighbourhood continue to face persecution.

It seems that Christian institutions in India don’t sympathise with the problems faced by Christians living in the Islamic states, especially Pakistan.

The most concerning problem faced by the Pakistani Christian community is the forced conversions to Islam.

In September 2019, 14-year old Pakistani Christian girl Huma Yousuf was kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam by her abductor Abdul Jabbar, according to her parents. Their lawyer argued in court that the marriage was not valid under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act because her age was under 18.

But in February 2020, the court ruled that she was “mature” and her marriage was valid because she had her “first period”.

Conditions of minorities, including Christians, are extremely horrific in Pakistan. In 2014, the Movement for Solidarity and Peace had prepared a report on forced conversions in Pakistan by marriage, kidnapping or abduction.

The report stated that 700 Christian girls—and 300 Hindu girls too—were being abducted and converted to Islam every year.

Christians in Pakistan are marginalised politically too. They do not have adequate representation in the mainstream political parties of Pakistan and the institutions of the Islamic Republic. Same is the case for other minorities, Christians too can’t hold the post of the prime minister or president of the country.

In October 2019, Naveed Jeeva, Christian lawmaker from the Pakistan Peoples Party, brought the bill which amended Articles 41 and 91 so that non-Muslims can hold those higher posts. But the parliament, dominated by Muslims, blocked the bill.

The Roman Catholic Church of Gujarat’s claim that one community has been “left out” of CAA seems hilarious in this backdrop.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom annual report of 2012 said that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are repeatedly used against Christians.

It noted that, “The country’s blasphemy laws, used predominantly in Punjab but also nationwide, target members of religious minority communities and dissenting Muslims and this frequently results in imprisonment. The USCIRF is aware of at least 16 individuals on death row and 20 more serving life sentences.”

The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in the year 2010 over this allegation, made headlines around the world. She now lives in Canada as Islamists in Pakistan have threatened to kill her.

Christians also face discrimination in Pakistani society.

Earlier this month, Saleem Masih, a Pakistani Christian farm-labourer, was beaten to death. The man’s crime was that he took bath in a Muslim-owned tube-well.

On the 16 August 2019, a well-known Pakistani Christian activist, Chaudhary Azghar, was murdered by two Muslim men. Just three days before this, Nisar James, another Christian activist, was brutally beaten and killed by Muslims.

Christian institutions in India, it seems, are blind to these hardships faced by Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.

The Church will do good by supporting CAA, which will ensure that Christians and other religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan enjoy the dignity and liberties which Indian religious minorities do. – Swarajya, 30 march 2020

Harshil Mehta is an electrical engineer, writer and historical researcher in Ahmedabad.

Christian protest in Pakistan


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