India's religious freedom bill is just a "cleverly disguised" law against religious conversion that could only cause division instead of unity, according to Good Shepherd Church moderating bishop and All India Christian Council president Joseph D'Souza.
The prominent Indian bishop's statement came after the state of Jharkhand passed a religious freedom bill which he said was only a "cleverly disguised anti-conversion law." Although seven other states had already done the same, Bishop D'Souza warned that the measure would cast a negative light on India's international image, Christian Today relayed.
"A majoritarian political appeasement and religious homogeneity, which the anti-conversion laws promote, is a step toward division, not unity," said Bishop D'Souza in The Washington Times. "These bills increase local misuse of the law and attacks on Christians and churches by extremists. They sully the image of India globally."
In addition, Bishop D'Souza said India's anti-conversion laws actually target Christians. While he pondered if the people behind the laws were only suspicious of Christianity because of fears that religion could cause division in the country, he said Christians actually do not tolerate forced or fake conversions and even encouraged people to freely decide on their faith.
According to persecution watchdog group Open Doors, the number of attacks against Christians hit a record-breaking 410 within the first six months of 2017. Last year, the total number of such attacks was only 441, The Christian Broadcasting Network reported.
Speaking to Open Doors, one partner said some perpetrators of anti-Christian attacks were spurred on by the government's failure to intervene or bring them to justice. Of the total number of attacks, 84 were violent assaults and 32 would have ended in deaths had medical aid not been administered promptly.
There are some Christians who do not experience physical attacks, but Open Doors said there are many who are forced to flee their homes to ensure their safety. Most of the perpetrators of these attacks are Hindu extremists, and Indian leaders are reportedly growing less tolerant of Christianity and other religions.