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Free to Believe

On Monday, February 22nd, Tehmina Arora, Director of Asia Advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke at a Center for Global Justice event. Her talk was entitled, “Free to Believe.” Ms. Arora, discussed issues of religious persecution in the South Asia region.

Forms of Persecution

Free to Believe

Tehmina discussed the various forms of religious persecution througout the region. First she discussed religious persecution in Inida that comes through violent assaults and attacks. This map from MapViolence shows the prevalence of Christian persecution in India. The darker colors signify a large amount of persecution. Tehmina explained that impunity is a large problem in India. Out of the 300 cases that ADF assisted with, the Police only acted on 39.

Increased vulnerability is another religious liberty issue. Tehmina explained that women are often trapped in domestic violence situations within marriages, and in Pakistan minor girls are often obducted, forced into marriage, and “converted.” In Nepal, there are not enough men in the Churches to help the suffering women. Also, in Bangladesh, people target women in refugee camps for abuse.

Another form of persecution is speech that incites violence. Different social media campaigns speak ill about religious communities. These campaigns also spread misinformation. One example is a Muslim restauranteur. A group of people spread misinformation that he was adding sterilization pills to his customer’s food. This harmed him and his business.

Laws That Promote Persecution

Blasphemy Laws

Blasphemy Laws are laws that make it illegal to “blaspheme” a religion. These laws define blasphemy and define punishments for the crime such as life imprisonment or even death. These laws are often vague and used to lodge false accusations against Christians.

Restricted Speech Laws

Another type of law is Restricted Speech Laws. These laws restrict what words individuals can say. For example, a pastor in one country was arrested three times for rebuking COVID-19 in a prayer. The state arrested him and charged a $35 bail. Then they arrested him a second time and charged a $3,500 bail. Finally, the third time they arrested him and charged him another $3,500 bail amount. He suffered all of this because he prayed against COVID-19.

Anti-Conversion Laws

Finally, Anti-Conversion Laws state that an individual cannot convert another individual to their faith. Each state in India has a different Anti-Conversion law. In general, however, the laws all include the same things.

All of the laws seek to prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, another person through “forcible” or “fraudulent” means, or by “allurement” or “inducement.” 

Library of Congress, State Anti-Conversion Laws in India,

Tehmina explained that the definition of “force” includes the “threat of divine displeasure” and not just physical force. The “threat of divine displeasure” is the thought that God could be angry with your actions. Another issue is that the law defines “inducement” as pleasure of any kind. For example, Christians were charged under this law for handing out blankets to the homeless population because they were allegedly “inducing” others to convert to Christianity. Finally, Indian causes have construed the term “fraud” to include some prayers that might not be answered. For example, the state charged a pastor, who prayed for someone’s wife to be healed, under anti-conversion laws.

ADF’s Model

Alliance Defending Freedom implements a three-part model for lasting change:

1. “Seek justice for our clients: we advocate for our clients in courtrooms around the world together with an alliance of thousands of lawyers.”

2. “Target the root causes: we engage at the highest levels of law and governance, securing precedent setting victories that benefit everyone.”

3. “Raise up future leaders: we mobilize the lawyers and leaders of tomorrow to bring about structural, systemic change for future generations.”

Alliance Defending Freedom,

How Can You Help?

Firstly, Tehmina explained that students can help by researching the issues. Start by signing up to be a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. Student Staff members work on projects for various non-profits including ADF, International Justice Mission, and Shared Hope.

Another way to help is to engage in scholarly writing. Start by spending time researching about religious liberty issues. Then write law journal articles about what you learn.

Another way to help is through advocacy. The world is becoming a global community. A little bit of advocacy can go a long way. A great example is the Farmers protests in India. When Rihanna and others in the United States posted online about the issue, there was traction in India. A great way to help is by advocating within your own community.

Finally, you can pray. Prayer is an amazing tool that the Lord has given us. Bring your petitions for the oppressed and downtrodden to Him. In conclusion, you can spend time on your knees to help the oppressed.

Please find more information about the Center for Global Justice here.