Indian Christians upset with Prime Minister's conversion comments
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee over the weekend criticized Christian relief agencies and the media's reporting on religious persecution. At a book release party attended by leaders of the Hindu group RSS, Vajpayee began praising Christian social work agencies, then attacked their Christian witness. "Some have a conversion motive," he said, "which is not proper." He also accused the Indian media of devoting too much coverage to the persecution of Christians while ignoring attacks on other groups. Opposition party leaders, Christian organizations, and even newspaper editorial pages are infuriated with the remarks. "How can the prime minister make such a comment?" asked Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi of the Congress Party during a parliamentary session yesterday. "If Vajpayee has facts that Christians are engaged in forceful conversion, then he should put those facts before us." Otherwise, Dasmunshi says, such remarks destroy "the secular religious fabric of India." The All-India Christian Council similarly responded, "One stroke cast a dark shadow of doubt on the entire Christian endeavor in national development. … Remarks such as the Prime Minister's are seen as condoning the hate campaign and the canards, lies and half-truths that are being spread in many parts of the country. They encourage communal and extremist elements."

Ironically, Vajpayee's comments came just three days after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced it was "seriously considering" whether India should be listed as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) regarding religious persecution, saying there are "grave violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated ...

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