How Important Is Religious Freedom In India For Christians?

By: Katherine Abraham

By: Katherine Abraham

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “religion”? Also, what do you think of religious freedom in India?

Do you know that these are trending issues in the country today? For instance, religion is the subject of discussion in local and international media. Then, religious freedom in India is the theme of some films. PK (2014), for example, features religion-oriented practices and superstitions in the country.

Diversity of Religion in India

Religions in India include Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity. Since ancient times, some of these religious minorities have been coexisting and growing side by side.

Now, Hinduism is the country’s major religion. It accounts for about 80% of the population. Then, Islam is the second-largest one, making up 13% of the society. Other major religions comprise Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%) and Jains (0.4%). 

Can you conclude that there is much religious freedom in India?

Secularism and Religious Freedom in India

religious freedom in India

Don’t worry! We are not going to dive deep into politics. However, it is crucial to understand religious freedom in India from this perspective.

Religious freedom in India endured a long history. Specifically, it has been around since the country obtained independence from the British colony.

The 42nd Amendment of India’s Constitution asserts that India is a secular nation. That is, religion and government are two separate entities.

Specifically, secularism denotes that:

  1. Any religious community does not dominate another. 
  2. Some members do not overlook fellow members of the same religious community. 
  3. The state does not enforce any particular religion nor take away individuals’ religious freedom.

Unfortunately, most politicians and government leaders rejected this idea. It paved the way for communalism to emerge.

Communalism and Religious Freedom in India

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was a political party. It was one of those that aspired for and pushed through communalism.

The party envisioned India as a majoritarian nation-state instead of a multicultural one. Since its electoral victory in 2014, the members have been visibly working to achieve this goal.

Unfortunately, communalism didn’t even work well. Specifically, diversity and religious freedom in India created much tension. It was especially among those in major religious groups. These groups became aggressive, violent, and intolerant of those in the marginal religious groups.

Result of Secularism and Communalism to Religious Freedom in India

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Unfortunately, secularism and communalism resulted in violence. For instance, Christians were the subjects of murder and execution by the dominant groups. Hindus were among the persecutors. 

Now, what happened with the so-called “religious freedom in India?”

During the term of Nehru, communalism designated ideological forces, dividing India into various religious lines. He also saw firsthand how it resulted in a partition. It was especially evident among Muslims. 

For example, the nation split into India and Pakistan in 1947. It did not only break the country’s physical territory but destroyed its civilization as well.

After independence, Nehru observed that Hindu communalism had been the nation’s worst enemy. It was a threat to religious freedom in India. His fears heightened after Nathuram Godse murdered Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Godse was a man associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological wellspring of Hindu nationalism.

Principles of Religious Freedom in India's Constitution

The Preamble of India’s Constitution guarantees liberty of belief, faith, and worship. 

Articles 25-28 give clear guidelines on the execution of religious freedom in India. It states that every citizen has the right to follow the religion he believes in. Besides, it involves an opportunity to spread among everyone without fear of government intervention.

The following are the provisions for religious freedom in India based on the Constitution:

  1. Freedom of conscience and free profession of religion (Article 25)
  2. Freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 26)
  3. Privilege from payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion (Article 27)
  4. Right to attend religious instructions (Article 28)

Some religious minority groups experience the opposite of what is in the country’s Constitution. However, they choose to stand firm on their beliefs. Therefore, there is hope for religious freedom in India.

How Important is Religious Freedom in India?

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1. It restores culture.

Religious freedom in India was initially in its history and culture. Given its variety of religions, democracy was evident in society. This type of government was pluralistic and multiethnic.

Unfortunately, as time went by, there had been conflicts. The differences among its religions brought about discrimination and violence. It resulted in a social and cultural gap.

As such, religious freedom in India is today’s greatest need. It is a way to preserve the country’s original state of culture and history.

2. It is an antidote to violence, discrimination, and forced conversions.

The diversity of religions put India into massive trouble.

Specifically, it resulted in violence. There had been extrajudicial killings. Hindus persecuted religious groups whose beliefs, teachings, and convictions conflicted with theirs. They even allied with the state to dominate the nation.

Hindus attacked the religious minority. Among these minorities, Christians were the most vulnerable. They were the target of much discrimination and hostility. 

Forced conversion is also another problem nowadays. Specifically, some religions try threatening other groups to convert into their faith. Often, they do it in exchange for some incentives such as food, education, shelter, and money.

Therefore, pushing through religious freedom in India is the way towards peace and order.

3. It upholds the law.

The history of religious freedom in India had its flaws. It was not the intention of the law.

The Preamble of India’s Constitution guarantees liberty. It denotes freedom of belief, faith, and worship. Also, it implies that the state will not discriminate, profess, or meddle in any religion. There should be a clear separation between the church and the government.

The articles promote freedom of conscience. Hence, an individual has the right to exercise his faith freely. It connotes freedom for all denominations to manage their religious affairs independently, as well.

In conclusion, maximizing religious freedom in India helps uphold the Constitution. It then results in prosperity.

4. It promises a bright future.

In essence, religion is the pursuit of a good life. It teaches moral values and ethics that shape its believers’ faith. In turn, it makes them good citizens of the community.

Also, religion promotes peace and order. Now, isn’t it ironic when it becomes the catalyst for chaos? 

Yes, there happened to be different beliefs that resulted in diversity. But religious groups are not to fight against each other. Respect is still vital.

Now, what culture are we passing on to the next generation? What kind of environment will they know? 

Of course, we want the next line to inherit peace. Our children deserve a world where it is safe and healthy to live. As such, we should work towards religious freedom in India.

What Do You Think of This Issue?

This topic is controversial as it touches history and politics. Honestly, it can be a point of argumentation and debate.

So, what do you think about the truth behind religious freedom in India? For sure, you have your thoughts regarding this matter. Probably, you also have some related experiences. Let us hear your voice.

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