“Meanwhile the government has increasingly repressed critical voices, especially religious minorities and those advocating for them through surveillance, harassment, and prosecution,” Cooper said.
He added that “the State Department’s own corroborative reporting corroborates these worsening conditions, setting in stark relief its failure to name India as a CPC or special watchlist country.”
India is a parliamentary government with a strong Hindu majority. Despite mounting attacks against the religious liberty of Christians, Muslims, and other religious minorities, India remains off the CPC list and is a major trade partner with the U.S.
Anti-conversion laws throughout the country punish Indians who convert from Hindu to other religions or creeds with fines and jail time. According to USCIRF’s 2023 report, Christians and Muslims face constant mob violence and destruction of homes, churches, and property, all of which go unnoticed by the government.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making headlines recently on his global tour in which he visited with many world leaders, including President Joe Biden. While in the United States, the Biden administration extended an extremely rare honor to Modi in which he was invited to give an address to a joint session of Congress.
Susan Hayward, associate director of Harvard Divinity School’s Religion and Public Life Program, who testified during the hearing, remarked that “one thing I would probably suggest is that we don’t invite leaders who are violating religious freedom in their own countries to offer addresses of joint sessions of Congress.”
Smith told CNA that “the anti-conversion laws continue to be a serious problem” and that he has been increasingly hearing about “a crackdown on faith” in the country.
“Modi is not a friend of religious freedom, period,” Smith said. “He hasn’t been his entire life in public service; now he’s got the reins of power and we’re very worried about the Dalits [lower-class Indians], many of whom are Christians who are prejudiced against, many were forced into trafficking because they are abused because of their status.”
“If you look at a religious freedom report on India, everywhere you look there are violations of religious freedom, which is baffling as to why they’re not on the CPC [list],” Smith added.
Christians in Nigeria, meanwhile, continue to face widespread and mounting violence and persecution, Cooper said.
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“In Nigeria, religious freedom conditions remain abysmal, with state and nonstate actors committing particularly severe violations against both Christians and Muslims,” he said.
“While some officials have worked to address widespread religious freedom violations, others actively infringe on the religious freedom rights of Nigerians, including by enforcing ‘blasphemy laws,’” Cooper added.
“Criminal activity and violent armed group incidents impacting religious freedom have continued to worsen. Sadly, Nigeria has become a country steeped in religious freedom violations where people of faith and those of no faith at all increasingly live in fear of harassment, intimidation, and violence.”
Though originally scheduled to testify during the hearing, Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Nigeria’s Makurdi Diocese was unable to make the trip. CNA spoke with Father Remigius Ihyula, coordinator of the diocese’s Justice, Development, and Peace Commission, about the situation on the ground in Nigeria.
Ihyula has been helping to care for the millions of displaced persons in the country. He told CNA that despite claims that the violence in Nigeria is being carried out due to climate change the true reason is religious persecution, perpetrated largely by nomadic Fulani tribesmen.
“Our brothers and sisters in America should know that this is taking place,” Ihyula told CNA. “They machete them, they riddle their bodies with bullets so that others will see and be afraid of even venturing to go close to where they are occupying.”