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Defending Persecuted Christians in India at the U.N.

By CeCe Heil1591971749805

Christians within India are increasingly becoming the target of brutal persecution. And at the ACLJ, we’ve witnessed first-hand the escalation in targeted persecution of these Christians.

For seven months, we fought for the freedom of our client, a Christian pastor – an American citizen – Pastor Bryan Nerren, who was wrongfully arrested and detained in India for his Christian faith. Thankfully, after our tireless effort, he was freed to come back home to his family in America last month.

After his release, Pastor Nerren was able to share directly with our ACLJ members just how targeted this persecution of Christians in India really is. He said: “One of the customs guys made it simple to understand. He said, we have been ordered by the Central Government to crush Christianity, to stop you Americans from bringing money here, and to eliminate Christianity. And we’re going to do that.”

This is why we are continuing to mobilize our global resources to take action for the persecuted Church in India.

Through our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice, we just filed a written submission before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expressing concern over the persecution of Christians in India.

We told Pastor Nerren's story, how as a Christian pastor and U.S. citizen he was wrongfully imprisoned when carrying funds to support a conference and expenses for the trip.

Pastor Nerren is a Christian Pastor in Tennessee. He is a loving husband, father, and grandfather, who also has a compassionate heart for others. He heads up the non-profit ministry Asian Children’s Education Fellowship, which has been training Sunday School teachers in India and Nepal for 17 years. In a recent trip to attend conferences in India and Nepal on October 5, 2019, Pastor Nerren was targeted and arrested as he stepped off the plane in Bagdogra, India.

After his family contacted the ACLJ late last year, we immediately went to work on his case and now Pastor Nerren is free. After more than seven months of wrongful detention, Pastor Nerren was finally freed to return home to the United States. As we explained to the U.N.:

Thankfully, just [last] month after concerted diplomatic efforts, the court finally released Pastor Nerren’s passport and lifted the travel ban, and he was allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States. However, this case has highlighted the growing issues in India of the increased targeting of Christians with the goal of eradicating Christianity from India.

Pastor Nerren’s case highlights the persecution many Christians within India face on a daily basis, and we detailed this to the U.N. Human Rights Council:

For example, in March 2020, about 30 Christians distributing aid to the poor “were confronted by members of the Hindu Munnani extremist group.” A crowd gathered, and the Christians were threatened and verbally abused “in extremely foul language.”  While they were being threatened, the Christians were also surrounded and unable to leave. “The Christians attempted to call the police for help, but were informed by the Hindu Munnani that a case had already been filed against the Christians.” According to reports, “when the police arrived [they took the Christians] into custody.” One Christian stated: “[The Police] spoke ill about Christianity and slapped us as we stood there in the police station helplessly,” and according to reports, the “Inspector of Police Senthil Vinayagam spoke abusively to the Christians in an attempt to incite [them]. However, when this did not work, the police released the Christians with a warning not to return to Anumandai village.”

As we stated in our report, India has now been ranked among the top ten worst places in the world for Christians:

In its 2020 report, a human rights group listed India as the 10th worst place in the world for Christians to live.  This ranking is primarily because of Hindu nationalism, “which advocates for the belief that India belongs to Hindus and people of other faiths should find somewhere else to live, work, and worship.”  In addition, “[s]everal states in India have adopted anti-conversion laws, and the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it clear that it wants to impose these laws nationwide.”  As a result, “converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities.”

Given the current state of affairs, we urged the UNHRC to take immediate action and work with India to protect religious freedom for all of its citizens.

It is imperative that the U.N. take swift action and work with the government of India to ensure that the targeting of Christians in India cease, and that they be allowed to peacefully live out their religious beliefs without fear of civil or government action against them. No one should have to live under the fear of being abused, imprisoned, or even killed simply because of their faith.

This is why we respectfully request that this Council work with government of India in order to enact change and protect the religious freedom of all people within India.

While we are thankful that Pastor Nerren is back home in America, our work defending persecuted Christians in India is far from over. Join us as we continue to fight on behalf of persecuted Christians all around the world.

This article was co-authored by ACLJ Deputy Director of Government Affairs and Foreign Policy Analyst Paul Archuleta.

UPDATE 06.16.2020: The ACLJ just delivered a critical oral intervention at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland through our European affiliate office, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ)l, in an effort to draw the world’s attention to India’s mounting persecution of Christians, and remind the international body of its obligation to defend the human rights of all people.

According to the Vienna Declaration, States and the international community are urged “to protect the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.”

Well, over 80% of India’s population practices Hinduism, while Christianity is practiced by only 2%. A human rights watchdog recently ranked India as the 10th worst place in the world for Christians to live. This ranking is primarily because of Hindu nationalism, “which advocates for the belief that India belongs to Hindus and people of other faiths should find somewhere else to live . . . .”

During our presentation we shared the chilling message that Christian Pastor Bryan Nerren – an American citizen who we represented after he was arrested and detained in India for seven months because of his faith – relayed from an Indian customs official, stating they’d been ordered by the Central Government to “crush Christianity.”

Such a directive would place India in clear violation of its U.N. charter. It’s imperative that the international community put maximum pressure on India to halt this directive and to protect its Christian citizens before it’s too late.

You can watch our presentation at the U.N. below.

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