Thursday, April 30, 2015

Modi govt slams US panel report on minorities, says it's based on 'limited understanding of India' - Press Trust of India - PTI

Modi govt slams US panel report on minorities, says it's based on 'limited understanding of India'

New Delhi: India on Thursday strongly reacted to a report by a US Congress-established panel claiming that minorities in the country have been subjected to "violent attacks" and "forced conversions" after the Modi government assumed power in 2014, saying it does not take cognisance of such reports.
External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, "Our attention has been drawn to a report of the USCIRF which has passed judgement on religious freedom in India.
PM Narendra Modi. Reuters
PM Narendra Modi. Reuters
"The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its Constitution and its society."
He further said, "We take no cognisance of the report."
In its 2015 annual report, USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) said, "Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)."
The report further said, "In advance of the programme, the Hindu groups sought to raise money for their campaign, noting that it cost nearly 200,000 rupees per Christian and 500,000 rupees per Muslim. After both domestic and international criticism, the day was 'postponed' according to Mohan Bhagwat, an RSS leader."
The panel said Hindu groups also reportedly give monetary incentives to Hindus to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. In early December, hundreds of Muslims reportedly were forcibly "reconverted" to Hinduism in a mass ceremony in Agra.
"Members of the RSS allegedly tricked dozens of Muslims families into attending a meeting by telling them they would be provided financial help, but instead a Hindu religious leader performed a Hindu conversion ceremony; an investigation is underway," it said.
The USCIRF said in September 2014, the Dalit Seventh-day Adventists filed a report in Uttar Pradesh that they were forcibly converted to Hinduism and that their church was converted to a Hindu temple.
It is not known if a police investigation was conducted in the matter.
The nationalist groups also allegedly target Dalits if they are believed to be considering conversion away from Hinduism, it said.
According to the report, at an event honouring Indian Catholic saints in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated publicly, for the first time, that his government "will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence".
This statement is notable given long-standing allegations that, as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi was complicit in anti-Muslim riots in that state, it said.
"Moreover, religious minority communities voice concern that high-ranking BJP members protect or provide support to these groups. In light of these concerns, Prime Minister Modi's statement in support of religious freedom made after the close of the reporting period (discussed more fully below) was a positive development," it said.
The USCIRF said Indian courts are still adjudicating cases stemming from large-scale Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Uttar Pradesh in 2013 and in Gujarat in 2002, Hindu-Christian communal violence in Odisha in 2007-2008, and Hindu-Sikh communal violence in Delhi in 1984.
"NGOs, religious leaders, and human rights activists allege religious bias and corruption in these investigations and adjudications. A one-member special judicial inquiry commission is still investigating the 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh that left dozens, mostly Muslims, dead and tens of thousands, mostly Muslims, displaced.
"Cases stemming from the 2002 Gujarat violence also continue, including a special court case pertaining to the killing of 68 people, including former Congress Party Parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri," it said.
Incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence have reportedly increased for three consecutive years, the panel said in its key findings.
Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan tend to have the greatest number of religiously-motivated attacks and communal violence incidents.
USCIRF asked the Obama Administration to press the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who make derogatory remarks about communities and to boost religious freedom standards in India.
It also said that despite the country's status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, India has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity.
It may be mentioned here that US President Barack Obama had twice made a strong pitch for religious tolerance in India.

Christians are leaving the faith in droves and the trend isn't slowing down - PEW Research

Christians are leaving the faith in droves and the trend isn't slowing down

pope francis
((REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi ) ) Pope Francis reacts as he leads a Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican January 15, 2014.

An extensive study done by the Pew Research Center has yielded some fascinating information regarding the trajectory of world religions over the next four decades. 
As of 2010, Christianity was the dominant world religion with roughly 2.2 billion adherents and Muslim's were second with about 1.6 billion adherents. If current demographic trends continue however, Islam is expected to catch up to Christianity midway through the 21st century.
Religion2((Pew Research Center) )
Furthermore, people are leaving Christianity in droves. About 106 million Christians are expected to switch affiliation from 2010 to 2050 while only about 40 million people are expected to enter Christianity.
The religiously unaffiliated (athiests, agnostics) are expected to see the largest net gains from switching, adding more than 61 million followers. 
Screen Shot 2015 04 28 at 9.45.17 AM
((Pew Research Center) ) Christians are expected to see the largest net losses from religious switching

In North America, the fastest growing religious groups are Muslims and followers of "other religions" (an umbrella category that includes Baha’is, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists and many smaller faiths). Christianity is expected to decline from 78 percent of the overall population in 2010 to 66 percent in 2050.
Here's what the dominant religious groups in the US are by county:
religion usa
((U.S. religious census) ) 
Unaffiliated religions are expected to rise over that same time from 16 percent of the population to 26 percent. By 2050, the United States will have more Muslims (2.1 percent of pop.) than Jews (1.4 percent).
In South America and the Caribbean, Christianity will see a slight dip over the next four decades, from 90 percent in 2010 t0 89 percent in 2050. Over that same time the religiously unaffiliated population will add 45 million followers increasing from 8 percent of the population in 2010 to 9 percent in 2050.
((Pew Research) ) If the current trends continue beyond 2050 - which is a big if considering unforeseen events that can happen over a 40 year span (war, famine, innovation etc.) - then by the year 2070 the world's population of Muslims would roughly equal that of Christians.
Here are other chief findings from the report:
1. Islam will grow faster than any other religion over the next 40 years.
2. The number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians around the world by 2050. 
3. Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
4. The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
5. In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
6. India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
7. In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion