The Hindu nationalist government of India “solidified the environment of hate and intolerance toward religious minorities” while Nepal “legitimizes police and judicial harassment of pastors and Christians.”
These are some of the charges submitted by the World Evangelical Alliance to the United Nations Human Rights Council that is meeting in Geneva for its 47th session until July 15.
The evangelical body, which represents 600 million evangelical Christians around the world, denounced the spread of “false information about Christians in India and Nepal.”
In its report titled “Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression” noted that “ideological and identity-based disinformation” is being promoted by Hindu nationalist groups in India and Nepal.
The Protestant group said the “disinformation” campaign aims to harm “religious minority groups, particularly local Christians.”
The report submitted to the UN cited “dozens of incidents” in India where “fake news” were spread to marginalize religious minorities, including “entrenched rumors that Muslims were ‘intentionally’ infecting Hindus with the COVID-19 virus through a range of behaviors.”
The report, which appeared on Evangelical Focus, also noted that efforts made by Christian organizations were attacked by Hindutva activists who said conversions were made through prayers.
These claims were refuted by the Christian organizations.
The report said that “instead of actively combating disinformation, the government of India, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, have further solidified the environment of hate and intolerance toward religious minorities.”
Human rights groups and religious liberty watchdogs have documented escalation of violence, hate speech, and disinformation in recent years, said the report of the World Evangelical Alliance.
“Of 327 incidents of violence against Christian minority documented in 2020 by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, at least nine involved organized hate campaigns,” read part of the report.
It said “disinformation, coupled with the Indian government complicity, has a detrimental effect on the right to freedom of expression of religious minority groups in India.”
In Nepal, Christians are increasingly harassed, said the report, adding that the country’s new Penal Code, which took effect in 2017, “legitimizes police and judicial harassment of pastors and Christians.”
“The government of Nepal seems unwilling to intervene against the spread of misinformation via digital technology, which further stigmatizes the Christian minority, and threatens the Christians’ ability to freely and safely speak up,” said the report.
The report said that in India and Nepal “disinformation on social media is used to further stigmatize” Christians and other minorities
The report sent to the Human Rights Council added that “in India and in Nepal, the governments’ response to disinformation has been inaction, disregard, and even complicity”.
The World Evangelical Alliance called on Nepal and India “to take active steps to address disinformation that is targeted at religious minority groups.”
“Governments have the responsibility to enable and ensure a context that is conducive for religious minorities to feel emboldened to speak up and express themselves without fear,” said the evangelical alliance in its report to the UN.