Trump should figure out a deal to protect Christians in India
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As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet with President Trump this week, a question is looming: what will President Trump say about the rise in brutal persecution of Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities in India? Can we expect the President to bring this issue to light, or let it linger in the shadows? 

Having recently returned from India, I witnessed firsthand accounts of pastors imprisoned and churches attacked by mobs of Hindu radicals, not to mention the abysmal saga of Compassion International, wherein the Indian government’s crackdown—on this and other organizations—has led to tens of thousands of children throughout India losing access to medical care, meals and tuition.

As I saw firsthand in India, the ruling party of Prime Minister Modi does not even hide its agenda to drive out Christians by the year 2025. Major news media reports in the country show his key advisors publicly bragging about this injustice perpetrated against the Christian community of India, comprised of an estimated 63 million Indian citizens.

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Of course India wants to be a major player in the world, and in that sense it is even more shocking that they rank No. 15 on the Open Doors World Watch List, which documents the countries with the most egregious track records of violence and persecution of Christians. Others on the list are rogue nations like North Korea and Eritrea, or those with major non-state actors operating within their borders, like Iraq and Syria. 

 

It is widely known and acknowledged that without religious freedom and freedom of conscience, free societies are simply not sustainable. That is why President Trump and his administration cannot afford to miss the opportunity to use our business ties to improve the plight of persecuted minorities around the world. India, Vietnam, China and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries on the Open Doors World Watch List that we must pressure to improve conditions for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities.

But so far, we already have one dismal example of a missed opportunity by the Trump administration in this area. However profitable it may prove for some sectors of the economy, the United States’ recent deal with Saudi Arabia was a massive miss for human rights. Either by oversight, inexperience or lack of fundamental conviction within the staff of the administration, Trump’s meetings in Riyadh centered on a $100 billion deal for weapons and a blossoming future of cooperation with Saudi Arabia. But he never addressed the massive elephant in the room: Saudi Arabia’s position as a persistent violator of human rights, with an especially poor track record on religious freedom.

And that’s not even the worst of it. Saudi Arabia remains a mass exporter of Wahhabism, the most fundamentalist, fanatical, patriarchal, extremist strain of Islam that continues to spill across the Middle East in the form of mass spending by the Saudis in religious outreach, teaching, textbooks and training.

Striking deals with perpetrators of horrific religious persecution—with no accountability measures in place—is not helping our long-term interests in fighting terrorism. Instead, it is haplessly shortsighted. Let us learn from this unfortunate mistake. 

Everything in me wants President Trump to fulfill his promise, as articulated by Vice President Pence just weeks ago in a speech to Christian leaders in Washington, to prioritize international religious freedom as a core aspect of U.S. foreign policy. But if the president’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia is any indication, we can expect a cold, hard focus on business deals and geopolitical balance to overshadow any stated agenda of the administration for the protection of persecuted Christians and religious liberty.

The president’s visit on June 26 with Prime Minister Modi offers an opportunity to address religious freedom openly in negotiations and link the economic goals of a partnering country with our standards of human rights and religious freedom. True moral leadership requires us to address what is among the most critical human rights issues of our day: the ever-growing intolerance of religious expression around the world.

Why? Because freedom of religion is a bedrock of healthy societies. And even more critically, the persecution of Christians and the rise of religious intolerance are often lead indicators of regions and countries tipping into chaos—the outcomes of which have been everything from ethnic cleansings and genocides to mass forced migration and sprawling humanitarian crises.

President Trump has a window of opportunity to mitigate the worsening plight of persecuted Christians and those belonging to other faiths around the world—but that window won’t stay open forever. We are hearing some great words on religious freedom from this administration. Now we need to see some action.

David Curry is the president and CEO of Open Doors USA, a global advocate for persecuted Christians that works in the most restrictive and oppressive countries around the world.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.