Christian and Muslim leaders in India have expressed their support for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and lawmakers who have urged President Joe Biden to address the issue of shrinking religious freedom in India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit. Prime Minister Modi is on a three-day visit to the United States starting Tuesday, Jun 20.
Addressing Shrinking Religious Freedom in India
The UCA News reported that A. C. Michael, president of the Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi, emphasized the responsibility of the US president to raise concerns about religious freedom. He stated, "As the most powerful leader in the world, the US president has to address the decline in religious freedom since Modi came to power in 2014." Michael is also the national coordinator of the United Christian Forum (UCF), which monitors incidents of violence against Christians in India. The church association's president also highlighted the significant rise in violence against Christians during Modi's tenure. Nearly 300 incidents of violence against Christians have been reported this year. The UCF reported 600 incidents in 2022 and 505 in 2021, illustrating an alarming trend.
Moreover, a letter signed by 75 Democratic senators and members of the House of Representatives expressed their concerns regarding religious intolerance, press freedom, disruption of internet services, and targeting of civil society groups under Modi's leadership. PM Modi's visit includes a prestigious banquet at the White House hosted by President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. Additionally, PM Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to address the US Congress twice.
Controversial Visit of PM Modi to the US
According to The Shillong Times, upon his arrival in Washington, Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the second leg of his US visit by conveying his greetings to the Indian community. The President of the United States, Joe Biden, was joined by his wife, the First Lady, Jill Biden, as they visited the National Science Foundation. Later on, the Bidens hosted a private dinner for their guests. Despite the persistent rain, PM Modi was accorded a ceremonial welcome and guard of honor at the Andrews Air Base in Washington DC. In a tweet, he thanked the Indian community for their warm reception. He also mentioned that the blessings of Indra Devta made his appearance even more special.
However, Aljazeera reported that the Indian Prime Minister's commencing a visit to the United States had sparked controversy. The visit began with Modi hosting a yoga event at the United Nations. It was held on the front lawn of the United Nations in New York City on Wednesday, Jun 14, and has been met with swift condemnation from critics. The allegations against Modi's administration of promoting Hindu nationalism, which has led to the oppression of minorities, weakened democratic values, and disregarded human rights, were overshadowed by another issue. It was also reported that the case diverted the attention from the allegations.
On the other hand, the administration of US President Joe Biden has also faced criticism for this, as he is scheduled to host PM Modi for an official state dinner on Thursday night, Jun 15, which is considered one of the most prestigious honors for visiting officials. The two nations' leaders are scheduled to hold a joint news conference on the same day, and PM Modi is also expected to address a joint session of the United States Congress.