India's churches have strongly criticized a special "hearing" on religious freedom in India held in Washington DC last week by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The commission—a government panel established by the U.S. Congress—heard testimony about violence against Christians in both India and Pakistan. It also heard evidence of the alleged failure of governments in both countries to safeguard the rights of religious minorities.
India is mainly Hindu, while Pakistan is overwhelmingly Muslim. However, unlike church leaders in India, some prominent Christians in Pakistan have expressed support for the hearing.
The hearing has been widely publicized in India where it has caused deep resentment. "We are a democratic country, and we have enough secularist forces here [organizations to protect the rights of non-Hindu minorities], including an interreligious platform to assert and protect our rights," said a senior official of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which represents 29 Orthodox and Protestant churches.
Chandran Paul Martin, NCCI's communications secretary, told ENI that "we do not expect the U.S. [to act] as an international court. Will the U.S. accept an Indian hearing on racism there?" He questioned the "propriety" of one nation conducting a hearing on affairs in another nation.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) also criticized the USCIRF, which is a federal government panel established by the U.S. Congress through the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which seeks to promote religious freedom as a goal of U.S. foreign policy.
The nine-member commission is an advisory group to the U.S. executive branch and the U.S. Congress, but has no legislative ...1
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