“2021: Year of Fear for Indian Christians” | Dr. John Dayal Interview

PF: Hi, this is Pieter Friedrich, and today I’m speaking with Dr. John Dayal. Dr. John Dayal, who is 74, is a former newspaper editor, a researcher and author, and one of India’s senior human rights and freedom of faith activists. We are going to be discussing the issue of persecuted Christians in India. So, thank you for joining me, Dr. Dayal. I hope you’re well.

JD: Thank you very much.

PF: Well, we’re going to dive right into this, and, just to start, how would you describe, Dr. Dayal, the current condition of India’s Christians?

JD: I think it’s the worst, the most serious situation we’ve had in almost 10 years, and we worry. I’ve called 2021 the year of fear for the Christian community of India, and indeed, for other minorities — for Muslims, for Dalits, for tribals (Adivasis), and for women. Collectively, it has been horrendous last year, and as the graph grows, I think we are close to the peak.

PF: Now, you say that you call 2021 “the year of fear” for India’s Christians, as well as for many of India’s other minorities. In a recent survey by International Christian Concern, which is a US-based human rights watchdog that tracks persecution of Christians around the world, over 70 percent of Indian Christians who responded said that they are concerned for their personal safety as Christians living in India. Now, how accurate do you think that that is and why do you think these numbers are so high?

JD: Well, no, I would say a hundred percent. Every Christian faces the same threat, because if you step out of the house, the hate campaign has been so severe that, in your locality, in their area, the canton, the province, wherever you live, some lunatic influenced by this hate campaign can come and do you damage. Because that is what targeted hate does.

Targeted hate leads to targeted violence. Not for everyone at the same time, because that would be genocide. That would be like a civil war situation. Like Germany, where you see trainloads of people who are being trundled across to Auschwitz or something. Not that. But every individual faces a threat. From State actors — the police will come and ask you what’s happening, that they’ve come to take you to the police station to make you “safe” from attack. It’s called “custodial security.” Or, as I said, the lunatic in the neighborhood, may come and mash you up, or shoot you, or lance you, or use a sword or something — whatever he has — because he’s been so tutored in hate that he thinks you’re his enemy. You’re his personal enemy.

PF: Now, you say that the lunatic somewhere in the street might come and attack you, might do some violence against you as an Indian Christian. Is this threat that’s being posed, is this just primarily from random lunatics on the street or is there some more organized fashion to it?

JD: No, I use the term “lunatics” because that is the explanation senior Hindu politicians and sometimes the police give when we tell them that we anticipate — that we are afraid of — attacks, targeting by the Sangh Parivar, by the [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and its derivative organizations. And then the police say, “Why are you afraid? These are fringe elements. These are lunatic elements.” And then we ask them, “What do you think? How many lunatics will there be?” Maybe one percent? And then we have to tell them that one percent of India’s large population of 1.3 billion is one whole lot of lunatics on the rampage on the roads. It’s millions and millions and millions, even if it’s just a minor one percent.

PF: So, can you give us a brief overview of some of the recent attacks on Indian Christians, and how widespread are they?

JD: Well, as I was saying in the beginning, we have attacks from the State and we have attacks from the non-State actors. The attacks from the State are Karnataka passing the anti-conversion law. And, in the act of passing the law, the purpose that the Chief Minister gives, that members of his cabinet give, that his political party gives in public speeches on the road, on TV, is that there’s rampant conversion, that Christians are out to demolish your faith, they’re out to hoax you into Christianity, they want to coerce you into Christianity. The environment of hate by the State and its derivative organizations — and then the non-State actors: members of the RSS, members of the Hindu Mahasabha, members of the student’s wing, the women’s wing, the labor wing, the tribal’s wing, the militant wing (Bajrang Dal, for instance).

So, we had Karnataka. We had the FCRA — the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act — passed by the government. It was imposed in an extremely vicious manner. A large number of Christian organizations, NGOs, including Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, they had their FCRA licenses revoked, which means they couldn’t get assistance from anywhere. Mother Teresa’s organization, because it’s so big — the Pope knows it, she was a Nobel Laureate, the United Nations knows her, everybody knows about her….

PF: And the impact that the revocation of the FCRA for Mother Teresa’s organization is what? They provide for some 20–30,000 across India that are ill and ailing? And so in revocation, they’re unable to….

JD: Yeah. That is the one single organization which takes care of orphans. Abandoned infants. Abandoned by their mothers, quite patently, or the mother’s family, on dung heaps, in garbage dumps, in drains. And these nuns go and pick them up and nurture them, and the total number across the country would run into thousands. And they’re there, nurtured at various stages of growth, and then they’re either placed with surrogate mothers, parents, if possible given up for adoption. If not, then they’re shifted to other orphanages where they’re trained to be useful, good adults.

So that is just one organization… They also do another service which possibly no other group does, which is to take care of the dying destitute. In India, as in any other poor country, there are people out on the road. There are parents shut out by their children. There are people who are always on the road. There are people who are living dangerously, under culverts, under bridges, etc. And they grow old. They’re injured by passing cars. They fall prey to viruses, and bacteria, and fall critically ill. They can’t go to hospital.

These nuns go, and pick them up, bring them over. Like Mother Teresa used to do. Clean their wounds, give them a place. If they can’t be cured, there’s palliative care. They die in human dignity, which is what every human being is entitled to. To die in dignity is a fundamental human right, as much as to live in dignity, and to live without fear.

So this is just one organization. Other nuns also do that. Other priests, Protestants, Evangelicals — they all run (I won’t call them charity) social outreach programs. And most of the funding that comes — because Indian large companies do not fund Christian organization, they don’t even fund very many Hindu organizations, they fund the political parties, basically — the internal charity donations for these organizations is zilch. And therefore, to carry out the work, they have to depend on money from the Catholic Church in Rome, or from Germany, or from the Americas, or from Japan, and etc, etc. And the same is true for the Buddhists, for instance, who are also quite [supportive of] the Dalits. And they get their money from Korea, and Japan, and so on and so forth.

And this money comes. Most of it, I would say 90 percent of it, goes into the Indian economy. You buy food. You buy medicine for the people, for the children, and the all you are taking care of. You pay salaries. You pay for services rendered. You pay for everything, from painting the walls to till your garden, your kitchen garden. So most of the money goes into the Indian economy. It is not hoarded away and given for conversion.

And these nuns really are paid — what should I call it? Just enough to survive as a person, you know. Enough to have two or three sets of clothes and food. And they eat mostly the same food that the inmates eat.

So this is it. And this was the situation. When you’re stopping funding, you’re impacting the Indian poor. You’re impacting Indian infants. You’re impacting Indian dying…. Other groups, many other groups which are catering to these sectors have been closed by the government of India.

PF: So, as you were mentioning a couple of minutes ago, and also in context of these FCRA cancellations, you have on one side this State attack on Christianity, on Christians where it’s legislative — you have the FCRA cancellation, you have the anti-conversion laws passed. On the other hand, you have the non-State attacks which are conducted in a violent fashion by these actors like the RSS or affiliated groups. The Hindu Mahasabha. So, just briefly, what is the level of violence in these non-State attacks and do you see an interlinkage — or a connection — between the actions in law and in legislation of the State actors and the violence on the streets of the non-State actors?

JD: Let me begin with the latest non-State hate campaign. In the holy city of Haridwar (which is on the banks of the Ganges, just down the Himalayas), a Hindu group of Sadhus, we call them — religious people, religious workers — held a three-day session where important people, including members connected with the government of India, they came and they talked about a massacre of the minorities. Mainly Muslims and Christians.

“Wipe them out. Don’t spend money on other things. Spend money on procuring guns, and swords, and knives so you can have a genocide. Have a civil war. We call upon the army to join us.” This was the nature of the thing.

Even yesterday, from the management institutes, professors and students have written to the Prime Minister that these hate campaigns have been coming up and you haven’t spoken. The former naval chief, the former air chief, the former army chief — five of them issued a statement saying this is dangerous. This is a call for a civil war. It’s something that a democracy like India cannot afford to have. Not even in fun, and certainly not in reality.

Well, let’s face it. We have 200 million Muslims approximately. We have 30 million Christians. We have another 25–30 million Sikhs. You can’t have calls to wipe out minorities. That is — one shivers to hear of it. The mind is numb in trying to comprehend the enormity of the crime that they’re calling upon the Indian people to commit.

PF: So, Dr. Dayal, what is, in your opinion, different about the situation today as compared to 20 or 40 years ago?

JD: What is different is the intensity, the level, the gravity, the depth of State impunity. The Prime Minister of India and all his cabinet — the heads of the local police forces report to him. Parliament of India — you could say, which because of the enormous majority of the BJP, is effectively just its voice. The minority groups there really have no voice. And the speaker, who is a BJP man, will either dismiss them from the house or just do a vote by voice vote, you can call it. “Those in favor, say aye.” So, a bill which can impact tens of millions of people will be passed in ten seconds, without a discussion.

So, the level of this impunity, and the manner in which it is then transferred to the ground level, to the grassroots, what does it mean in the police thing? When these gangs come to attack a church, for instance, or to surround a group of nuns or clergy, or a small domestic house worship in a hinterland area, in a forest area, the police come with them. A section of the media comes with them. So while they are disturbing — while they are smashing statues of Jesus, and crosses, and burning Bibles — there are people filming it which they will then use in social media to say how brave they were, to recruit more people, and to frighten the minorities even more.

And the police stands by and watches. And, as I said at the beginning of my interview here, sometimes the police will then, instead of arresting those who are guilty, they will arrest the pastor. And to him, they will say, “We are taking you away to save you from the mob.” But he will be locked up, and when the lawyer goes, they will say, “No, no, no, he has committed a crime. He has provoked people. He has insulted Hindu gods. He has done all sorts of other things.” So they’ll find an excuse to jail the pastor, the Christian.

And as you were asking me, what other crimes are there? Anything. Everything. Burning a house church. Burning a full church. Burning a Bible — which is sacrilege and blasphemous in Pakistan. The penalty for that is death. And in India, if that were done to a Sikh holy book or to a Hindu holy book, there would be nothing short of lynching. And these are done — beating up of people, threats to rape, taking them away, snatching them away, scaring them away. All these happen.

And as I said, nobody is safe. The illiterate person is not safe. The literate person is not safe. The youth, the women, the pastor, the priest, the Catholic priest. Nobody, really. Everybody is vulnerable at any given time.

PF: So, what I’m hearing then is that there’s maybe three major things. You have this strong, flourishing environment of State-level impunity for these crimes. You also have combined with this impunity (or perhaps because of this impunity) you have so many of these perpetrators, these attackers, that they show up, and they’re not afraid to openly film these attacks that they themselves are conducting and post these on social media. They’re not scared of being identified in these videos. And then, third, you have the police — if and when they show up, sometimes they even show up with the attackers, and they frequently will end up arresting the victim instead of the perpetrator.

JD: You know, all that. As I said, with the highest in the land — the Prime Minister himself, his language has become so crude. And, as I told you, primary target is Islam and Muslims. And he will say, “By their clothes, you will recognize them.” And in the government advertising, in the party advertising, they’ll always show the Muslim youth as a terrorist. In the scarf of the Palestinians, for instance, you know. They’ll imply that every Muslim is a terrorist — every Christian is either out to defile, or to convert, or to disturb the peace.

And this, then, is the Prime Minister of India. His ministers, at various levels, the crudity level increases. Two years ago, a minister was saying — in India, they say “Goli Maro,” which means that if you see so and so, kill him. Shoot him dead. I mean, this is the language that is used.

And when the police comes, for instance, they’re going to beat you up and use abusive language: “You’re converting people? Don’t you know it is illegal?” And they say that even in states where there is no anti-conversion law. So, the presumption is that there is an anti-conversion law across the country. Apart from these nine or ten states, in the other twenty states also, it exists also ipso facto. If not de jure, if not lawfully, then in the mind of the policeman, in the mind of the Hindu extremist, it exists.

PF: And these anti-conversion laws, you know, as you say, there’s a presumption that it exists across the whole country, but, of course, in reality and in fact, currently it exists in about ten different states. Now, these laws, they’re passed under the pretense of preventing, generally, false or fraudulent conversion or, increasingly, we’re seeing they’re intended to prevent conversion where people are being, as I recall, “misled,” or conversions where people are converting for marriage, or conversions where people are converting for an increasingly wide variety of reasons that starts to veer off into all sorts of other aspects.

But, my question is two-fold, I guess. With these anti-conversion laws. Now, they’re officially, on the face of them, they’re intended to prevent “false” and “fraudulent” conversions. But one, would you argue that they actually are used simply to criminalize all conversion, period. And then two, linked to that, within the Christian context, what would be your position — speaking to me, also as a Christian — about the position of Christianity on forced conversions? Does Christianity desire anybody to be converted without sincerity?

JD: Look, in the theology of my faith, it is a voluntary submission to the will of God. It is a voluntary acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior. If you are an Evangelist or a Pentecostal, the wording may be different. Even if you are a Catholic, you have to say that I accept God, the One God, I accept Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And that is from you. Who can hammer you into saying these words?

And I tell them, when I’m asked this by government people or on State TV, I say: please understand, we are only 3 percent. In any given village, the police officer is a Hindu, the municipal officer is a Hindu, the food officer, the local government officer, everybody is a Hindu. You think any pastor, any priest, any nun, has the guts and the gumption to come here and convert anybody by force? Catch somebody by the neck and baptize them? You think they will lynch him or her on the spot.

The same argument is for, what they say, allurement — fraudulent means. And the definition of fraud is expanded. You run a school? Giving a good education is a fraud. You run a dispensary? Healing them is a fraud. You go out and say, “The child looks very sick. Let me give him or her some vitamin pills or some food.” That is fraud. Every good deed — which the State government has failed to do, which the government of India and its agencies have failed to do — if you do those things, you’re supposed to be converting people by fraudulent means. Now, and, in the case of say, some pastors, if they say, “Jesus saves,” they will say, “you’re saying Jesus saves, you’re implying other gods don’t save and you are then threatening these people with hell or you’re alluring them with heaven.”

Now when these things come in — I mean, one can’t cry and one can’t laugh, because they are so frivolous excuse to persecute. This is what the law is all about. And let me tell you one thing: in various states, these laws have been there for almost fifty years, you could say. The total number of people that have been ever arrested — and I’m not saying they’ve been arraigned, or sentenced, or in jail — would not amount to 500. Maybe would not amount to 100 people. And the people who have actually been sentenced, from the Christian community, for forceful or fraudulent conversion would not be five.

It is only after the re-tweaking of these laws against Muslims in the last two years — when they said, marriage by fraud or converting a Hindu girl by marrying her is also a fraudulent conversion — that a large number of Muslim men and an occasional Christian man have been arrested. Now, you could say, maybe 200 people have been arrested for fraudulent conversion in the act of marriage. Which is also quite frivolous, because even here, I could debate from Hindu courts themselves, that every marriage implies a conversion to the family of the group. You change your name, as a matter of fact.

PF: So, it seems then that these anti-conversion laws, that, in essence, as you mentioned, that very few people have actually been sentenced or convicted, it seems that they basically provide legal cover and justification for simply cracking down on Christianity.

JD: It is criminalizing the practice of religion. Therefore, it also goes against the Constitution of India, where, I am as a Christian, entitled to not only profess my religion, I am entitled to practice it. Put up a cross. Put up a star on Christmas. Have a church meeting on Sundays. Go to a church. Have a procession for Palm Sunday. Those are signs of…. I can wear a cross.

And then, I must tell — as a Christian, I am enjoined to tell my neighbor, God loves him. I am enjoined to propagate the Good News of the Lord. This is constitutionally my right.

PF: So they’re guaranteed by the Constitution of India. They’re legally protected. And then, within my faith, they’re also mandated to me by God that those are things I must do. So, in order to practice my faith, those are things that I must be doing. These acts of charity. Even witnessing. Even proselytizing, in a sense.

JD: Yeah, and again, from the faith itself, I’m enjoined to spread the Good News, but also not to cheat people, not to beat them up, not to commit fraud on them, but just to love them as God loves me and God loves them. And I must tell you this: we’ve been doing this for 2,000 years, in this dialogue of life that we have had with a neighbor. A Muslim neighbor. A Hindu neighbor. A Sikh neighbor. Whoever it was. This was going on for years and years. Until this [militant] organization came up 95 years ago, there was very little hate. There were very few people propagating hate. I mean, kings would come and kings would go — and that would be a very different argument altogether.

But, an organization created to spread hate, to terrorize others who are not like them, this is something that is as recent as 100 years, which is the brith of the RSS. And, in the last 20 years, they have been aggressive, and in the last 7 years, they have been ruling. They are part of the ruling group.

PF: In your experience then, John, interacting with the Christian church outside of India, especially in the US, how aware do you think most Christians abroad and most American Christians are of the issue or even the existence of Christian persecution in India?

JD: I will not call it a state of denial, because that would be unpardonable. I would call it a state of ignorance.

You would think the Catholic Church — which is interconnected, which has extremely fine-tuned communication networks with Rome and through Rome across the [world] dioceses, and parishes, and small Christian communities — that at least the Catholic Church would be aware of what’s happening here, if not on a day-to-day basis, a consolidated monthly basis. That it would be part of their prayer and that the Evangelical church, the Baptist church, the Presbyterian churches, that they would be aware. Maybe a pastor is aware of his Indian counterpart. But, collectively, despite the United States International Religious Freedom Commission and occasional Department of State reports, there is, I would say, at the grassroots, zero awareness.

And my own community, the Indian community there, has not done very much there. I must compliment you. Your work in the last one year has been far more than Indian organizations have been able to do there in their existence. And that also comes from the nature of who the Indian Christian is out in America. Most of them work two jobs. Most of them have a mindset which is very Indian. They save, they do all sorts of things. They are not very community-minded other than the rituals of church. And therefore, for them to forsake their jobs, to unite, to form action groups, to stage hunger-strikes, is something that is a bit of a no-no.

And when I tell them that these people, X at Princeton town and Y, elsewhere, are hounding us; that the HAF, which I’ve faced and encountered during my several visits to the US, is planning this; that so many governors, and senators, and congressmen are, you could almost call them, in the pay of the very well-funded Hindu American Foundation and its sister organizations; they are just not responding to this call.

So, when you do these things, for me it’s an answer to a prayer. And I wish that Indian Christian groups there and their umbrella organizations (whether it’s the East Coast, the West Coast, the Bible Belt, or states bordering Canada) — if there was even an occasional, a yearly, let us say, call by the pastor to his parishioners that, “This is what is happening to your brothers in Christ, to your sisters in Christ in this very large country of India, where the Christians may be only three percent, but there are 30 million practicing Christians.”

PF: Now, with so much persecution in several other countries. Christians, especially in America, we’re very aware, and that’s one of the problems, I think, that leads to this ignorance about what’s happening in India — we’re very aware of persecution in China, and even Pakistan, and, course, in the Middle East under ISIS, and then in Nigeria, and all kinds of places like this, which are places that people in the west, and especially Americans, especially American Christians, tend to be much more aware of as far as the existence of persecution in those regions versus in India. With so much persecution of Christians going on in these other regions, what, if any, reason do you think that there is for Christians to be particularly concerned about what’s happening in India?

JD: It’s very simple. There are two major differences.

One is, for the rest of the world, the monitoring and the awareness of the persecution is tied up with American political, strategic, trade interests. So, China is a communist country, and you monitor everything that happens there. Every minor thing. North Korea you monitor. Islamic States — barring Saudi Arabia. And there’s big persecution of Christians there also. You can’t do many things which you can do in, say, Qatar or even, say, in Dubai, which is also Islamic that way. There are many things in Malaysia where Christians are persecuted quite heavily. In Brunei. You don’t get to hear of them at all.

All that is fine. Please be concerned about them, and please take whatever action by trade or strategic things that you can. We are not them. We are a democracy. Our constitution does not say we are a communist country. Our communist does not say we are an Islamic nation, or a Buddhist nation like Sri Lanka, or a Hindu nation like Nepal. We are not them. We are a democracy. We have a constitution which gives us these rights which you enjoy in the US, which the United Nations enjoins on the whole world. That is the first difference.

The second difference is the intensity and the volume. Pakistan has a perpetual state of State action. It is an Islamic State. Anything anybody does, you can just say, “That Christian was abusing the Prophet or burning the Quran.” And you will immediately be arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. The death sentence may not take place, but you will be there for 20 years. We are not that country. The number of Christians in Pakistan is minuscule. Every year, they live in a state of persecution — they have no Sunday, it’s for Friday off. But, the total number of incidents there in any given month or year is not to be compared with those in India.

We are a very large community. The Muslims are a very large community. We and other minorities, as I told you, suffer from persecution by State agencies through these laws, which are totally pernicious. And because these laws, some of them, have been upheld by the courts, it also means that the last level of support is missing, because the court says, “This is a lawful law, and you are lawfully arrested.” And we cannot then say, “No, this law is against the United Nations Charter.” You cannot say that. They’ll say, “No, no, no. Go home.”

So, when the police is complicit, when the State is involved, the level of judicial protection vanishes, the level of police protection vanishes. And, therefore, you don’t know what is going to happen. For this interview that I am giving you, tomorrow they will say that, “Pieter is close to all sorts of dissident groups in America. When you talk to him, when you talk to a Pakistani journalist, or you talk to an American journalist, or the Department of State, you are being a traitor.” To express the truth, exercise my right, my human right of expression, exercise my particular right as a researcher, as a writer, exercising any of those rights — if I speak outside, they can say that “you’re a traitor, you’re betraying India’s secret.” As if telling you the number of instances of police beating up is a State secret.

Then, fortunately, I don’t have an FCRA. Nobody gives a penny to me from anywhere in the world. So I have no money that they can stop, but if I had, they would have stopped it long ago. They would have stopped it long ago. I live on my savings. So they can’t catch me there. They can’t say, “Pieter was paying you to speak, the US government was paying you to speak, China was paying you to speak.” They can’t tell me that, but they can tell other people that. And that is why they were trying to say to Mother Teresa’s sisters and others, that, “You are getting money from abroad, you are working for conversions, you are working against Indian interests.”

But you can imagine, just the act of crying, of expressing your fears, of speaking for the rest of your brethren — the collective fear. Because I’ve never said, and I won’t say it again, that there are rivers of blood flowing in India. I will not say that Christians are being massacred seven days a week. But they can be at a moment’s notice. And that, I can give you by date, calendar year, that it can happen.

It happened in 1947 at the Partition. It has happened in anti-Muslim pogroms — dozens of them. It happened against the Sikhs in 1984. So, rivers of blood don’t flow, but they can. And that is the assurance that we want from the government of India, from the Supreme Court, and from the President — that they will never allow a river of blood to flow in a village or in the country, despite the poison which has been spread by these activists of the Sangh Parivar.

PF: In exposing this, and standing up, and speaking out in solidarity with the Indian Church, is there anything in particular — now I know that you’ve mentioned that, at the very least, the suggestion that, you know, a yearly call from the pulpit by the pastors just to educate the congregation about the issue — but is there anything else that you think that the average American Christian can or should do to help?

JD: The average Christian — white, black, Asian — living in a prosperous country like the United States, can do the following major things.

They can tell the government of the United States, the Department of State, the Presidency: “Please use your good will with the government of India, and ask them to please ensure constitutional guarantees for all Indians, of which religious minorities are a part, of which Christians are a part.” Because we cannot say, “Protect Christians, but kill Muslims, and allow Hindu women to be raped.” You can’t say. You say, “Please see that human rights, the UN Charter which you have signed, your treaty obligations, are observed.” That, you must have the courage to say that.

You cannot have a situation — and that would be duplicity — where the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom says India is in the dumps as far as religious freedom goes and the Department of State says, “Maybe, maybe not. Let us not touch the subject.” And then the Presidency keeps quiet. The Afro-Indian Vice-President — although she has spoken and could have spoken more — keeps quiet. You cannot have this situation.

The second thing is, India and America are great partners. They’re partners of strategy. India is the biggest buyer, possibly, of weaponry from the US. We also buy technology from the US. In turn, we export brain power, technical staff, engineers, computers.

Please ensure that you have an equitable hiring policy. We have noticed that caste has been imported into the US. We have noticed that recruitment in the IT sector — Information Technology sector, computers, and the internet — is largely upper-caste. That the sort of variety that was expected doesn’t take place. Please ensure that your recruitment policies are not casteist. Do not favor one community, or two communities, or three communities, or disfavor one religion or something. It is not like Indian people going to the Gulf, because most of the Christians, and Muslims, and most of the Indians who go to the Gulf are not businessmen. They are not technicians. They are manual labor. But the people who go to the US are technical staff and their wives then go and work also.

And, the third part would be, to tell the American corporate sector, the large companies — Apple, and everybody else, Coca Cola — please ensure that your subsidiaries, your trade partners in India, observe the Constitution of India in their recruitment policies, in their marketing policies, in their trading policies, in their outreach, in their corporate social responsibility. That they remain equitable. If enough number of Muslims and Christians are hired by all of them, they will internally have a system with checks and balances. And the management would be sensitive to the affairs of India….

Lastly, I would talk to your senators, your congresspeople, in Capitol Hill and in every State Capitol: “Please, watch out where you’re getting your money from. Which Indian group you are getting your money from. Which Indian group you are endorsing in search for their endorsement of you. Are these groups which also finance these killers in India? Are these groups that feed, lawfully or by clandestine channels, these people who carry knives and want to stab all of us? Are your groups which are endorsing you for a state senate or a state congress or the US senate or congress — have they ever been associated with, have they ever been photographed with, have they ever shared a stage with somebody who is connected with the RSS?”

If you find them, please bring them to whatever system you have so that they learn that you cannot finance killers — killer gangs, hate-mongers — in India and win, or try to win the support of people of Indian origin in your state and in your country. And it’s a great country. And I would say, God bless America.

PF: Well, thank you, John, and in wrapping up and in conclusion, I just have a final question. For you, personally, as an activist and as a Christian involved in all of these issues, what is it that gives you hope to move forward and keep moving forward in such difficult circumstances.

JD: You know, as you know, Father John Vallamattom and I were possibly the first two Indians to begin what is called this campaign against persecution, which was in the mid-80s. In the mid-90s, I published the first White Paper of violence against Christians. In 1998, we set up the United Christian Forum for Human Rights with Bishop Alan de Lastic as the chair. He came to America, by the way, in 1999, and he had toured parts of the East Coast, particularly the northern states, and then he went to Canada and back.

So, been there, done that. Cried. Documented. And now the documentation has carried it on. We set up the help-line of the United Christian Forum, of which I’m a founder. And Evangelical Fellowship of India, their Religious Liberty Commission does this work.

We would want to have our voice heard. In turn, we want nothing. I would trust the Lord with my life, as I’ve done all this time. You cannot police me or protect me, other than by your prayers, sitting in New York or Washington or Los Angeles or wherever you’re speaking from at this moment. The government of India should protect me. The police, Indian police, should protect me. The Indian courts should protect me. But of all, as I’ve said, I know that the Holy Spirit protects me. Otherwise, I would not be 74.

PF: Well, Dr. Dayal, thank you for this insightful conversation and thank you for your time. All the best to you, I look forward to speaking with you again, and hope that you stay well.

JD: Thank you very much. Take care.

Pieter Friedrich is a freelance journalist specializing in analysis of South Asian affairs. He is the author of Sikh Caucus: Siege in Delhi, Surrender in Washington and Saffron Fascists: India’s Hindu Nationalist Rulers as well as co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at PieterFriedrich.net.

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