“The authorities in India have no regard for the constitution and no regard for the laws,” said Pastor Bryan Nerren, from Tennessee, who was held captive for more than 7 months by the Indian Government under the false charges of possession of undeclared funds when he arrived in India on October 5, 2019 on his way to Nepal. One of the Customs officials informed him also that “I have been ordered by the Central Government to arrest you.”
In other words, the officials were advised from Delhi to concoct a case against him, said Pastor Nerren, while addressing a webinar organized by the Federation of Indian Christian Association of North America (FIACONA) on the deportation of American Christian leaders from India. Besides, his lawyer has been advised as well by officials that “We have been ordered to make a case against your client and that he is here for converting people and we are going to stop American Christians from coming here, and we will make an example of him”. Pastor Nerren also narrated a story of one of the local BJP leaders visiting him and saying these chilling words “we do not help our poor children, and we don’t want you to come here and help the poor children either. God decided that they are poor, and if they die, they die!
Rev. Peter Cook, the Executive Director of the New York Council of Churches, spoke next, talked about his experience in obtaining a valid visa at the New York Consulate to travel to India along with eight other colleagues. We wanted to do some touristic stuff after meeting up with the CSI Bishop in Chennai. Once at the Chennai airport, the immigration officer got suspicious of our address that read ‘Cathedral Way.’ We were then taken to a side room and subjected to a battery of questions on Christianity and our church affiliation and was interrogated for eight hours. We were not even allowed to contact our would-be hosts. Towards the end, one of the officials said to a person in our delegation that “we don’t let Christians into our country”.
Rev. Cook then surmised by saying it may be that of our acts of charity and justice that threaten them or the egalitarian message that we convey challenges their caste system, which discriminates and exploits workers for financial gains. They may also be afraid that we may side with the Dalits’ rights in their political activity or resistance, or Christians may challenge their nationalist agenda based on discrimination and policy violence that is becoming a daily occurrence in India against religious minorities.
John Hutchinson, Field Director of ‘Greentree Global’, lamented that although India proclaims itself to be the biggest democracy in the world, they really do not practice it. He then went on to detail his story of going to India and visiting Khandamahl, Odisha, after the anti-Christian riots there. For that reason, he has been banned from entering India again. He said, “In Odisha during those riots, 100 or so Christians got killed, 200 Churches were burned, 5600 houses were destroyed, Priests got killed, and a Nun gang-raped by Hindutva extremists”.
He further stated that he went there because he felt that it was his duty to meet fellow Christians who were in distress. “The riots were a stain on India,” he added. He reminded that India is a constitutional democracy and a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Article 18 specifically states the right to freedom of Religion. Mr. Hutchinson went on to say, “U.S and India are friends, we have no malice or ill will. We have a mutual relationship in areas of the economy as well as Military and want those relationships to continue”. He also told the story of officials telling them first that Religion had nothing to do with those riots, then another source tells them that if you stop conversions, all attacks would be stopped. He concluded by saying that India is not a Banana Republic to ban people from an allied country.
John Prabhudoss, Chairman of FIACONA, who traveled with John Hutchinson and three others, detailed about his encounter in a meeting with a Hindutva activist who threatened ‘I would make sure that you will not come back to the country again.’ he added that it turned out to be true as he traveled to India a few months later, there was a ‘lookout citation notices’ on him at the Hyderabad airport, and he was deported from the airport. He went on to say that “most of the bureaucrats in India are so hostile to Christians and every single day Christians are being deported from India, however, most of the time they keep these stories of deportation private hoping that one day they would be able go back again. It is unfortunate that American policy makers and leaders are continually being deceived.
Prabhudoss said “if you work for a Christian organization in the U.S. whether you are a Bishop, Pastor, or a Plummer, you will not be given a tourist visa. On the other hand, radical Hindutva leaders on tourist visas to this country visit temples and give fiery speeches often denigrating Christians. There is no doubt that it shows weakness while affecting America’s national interest.
“Therefore, when they do such heinous things to an American citizen, I urge any U.S. administration what they have done to the folks who are here today, there should be accountability and reciprocity.
A case in point is the story of ‘Compassion International’, our failure in that regard today has invited more restrictions on NGOs, Christian charitable organizations in particular. India boasts that America is weaker; they cannot do anything to us. Let us remember that India is going the way of Pakistan, our longstanding policy of appeasement never worked there, and he warned as long as America remains muted, it will be at the cost of America’s national interest.”
Ms. Dorothy Pierce, a team member with Rev. Cook, said that we went to India to have that cross-cultural experience and traveled there in good faith but had a sad experience. Again, it is symptomatic of how certain groups of people there are treated there daily. She hoped that justice, equity, and morals would eventually triumph. Please visit www.fiacona.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.