USCIRF Gets its Comeuppance from Modi Sarkar – I
by Radha Rajan on 09 Mar 2016 9 Comments
Modi Sarkar gladdened the hearts of Hindu nationalists when it refused to give visas to a company of American sewage inspectors called USCIRF which wanted to come to India to inspect the state of religious freedom in Modi’s India. The USCIRF bared its fangs in 2002 when the BJP led by Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power. The opening paragraph of a news report featured on the front page of The Hindu dated 2nd October, 2002, titled “Designate India, Pakistan as countries of particular concern,” reads thus: “The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, designate India, along with others, as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”

 

According to this news report, the USCIRF was reacting to ‘periodic violence’ against the religious minorities of the country, violence which has been on the increase because of the “rise in political influence of groups associated with the Sangh Parivar, a collection of Hindu extremist nationalist organizations that views non-Hindus as foreign to India and hence deserving of attack.”    

 

This was a Freudian slip. “Hindu extremist nationalist organizations” is American verbose for RSS and significantly “nationalist” is pronounced in the same breath as “extremist”. It is a Freudian slip which exposed the open secret that America through the USCIRF and the Vatican were working in tandem to promote the cause of Jesus Christ. These were the exact words of Pope John Paul II when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1995: ....” extreme nationalism does not continue to give rise to new forms of the aberrations of totalitarianism.” The Vatican set the precedent of speaking of nationalism in the same breath as extremism.

 

Modi Sarkar’s crackdown on foreign funds to NGOs, the government’s crackdown on Greenpeace and Ford Foundation has obviously rattled the white Christian world and expectedly, America brandished the USCIRF on India’s face. RSS, BJP and Narendra Modi will always be Military Industrial Complex’s anti-Christ and the USCIRF is just one puny weapon against Hindu India. In a replay of its 2002 report, the USCIRF in 2016 laments:

 

“We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of these visas. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit, Robert P. George, Chairman of USCIRF, a bipartisan body, said.

 

“USCIRF will continue to pursue a visit to India, given the ongoing reports from religious communities, civil society groups, and NGOs that the conditions for religious freedom in India have been deteriorating since 2014,” Mr George said. The annual report of USCIRF documents and categorises countries based on their religious freedom record. In 2015, the report had criticised India and had named BJP and affiliated bodies.

 

“Incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased for three consecutive years. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan tend to have the greatest number of religiously-motivated attacks and communal violence incidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attributed the initial increase to religiously-divisive campaigning in advance of the country’s 2014 general election. Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP),” the report had said. http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/no-indian-visas-for-us-religious-freedom-commission/article8312915.ece

 

The U.S was understandably incensed. Modi’s Hindu India was refusing to genuflect before all things American and rejection was bitter medicine. After all, the Italian Roman Catholic Sonia Gandhi led UPA had taken the unprecedented step of inviting the USCIRF to visit Gujarat and Orissa to write officious reports on religious freedom. The Vatican’s Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran was issued a visa to come to Mumbai for an inter-religious dialogue (whatever that means) in June 2009. The Gujarati padre Cedric Prakash was so emboldened by Sonia Gandhi’s ascendance in Indian politics that he dared to make the foolish claim that Narendra Modi must win the approval of western nations (read US) to become Prime Minister of India, and that the USCIRF visit has been welcomed by Gujaratis in America who want the US State Department to remove Modi from their anti-Christ list and give him a visa to the US!

 

To be told now by Modi Sarkar that they were not welcome brought the USCIRF sand castle down with a whine.

 

In 2002 when I read the USCIRF report my first impulse was to consign it to the trash can. And I would have, had this been the ranting of some American Southern Baptist group or some disgruntled Christian or Marxist NGO in one of their periodic diatribes against the RSS and the rising religious and political consciousness of the Hindus of this country; or the ranting of the Generic Church funded anti-Hindu human rights industry.

 

But this was the ranting of a statutory body of the US government, a Commission that was constituted by law, a Commission (which is however allegedly non-governmental), whose members work closely with the American State Department. The Commission is headed by the Ambassador-at Large and he is the Special Adviser to the US President and to the US Secretary of State on International Religious Freedom. And so, the very least that a native of a developing third world nation, whose country has been stood in the dock by this “damning indictment” can do, when faced by the impertinence of foreign busybodies, is to respond to this nonsense with a modicum of seriousness.

 

The USCIRF Hit-list

 

In the first three years of its existence, from 1998 to 2001, the entire focus of the Commission is on China, Vietnam, Laos, Sudan and Burma. And these countries continue to remain on the hit list of this Commission not only because these countries are ruled either by Communist governments or by the military junta as in the case of Burma, but more interestingly, these countries have a marked antipathy towards Christianity and Christian missionaries. Contrary to the pious statements of this Commission that it is concerned about the lack of freedom of religion in these countries, and that its heart bleeds for the Buddhists and the Falun Gong, it is the refusal to allow Christian missionaries to operate in these countries that has incurred the wrath of this Commission.


The list then expands to include Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and now Pakistan and India. Please note there is a deafening silence on the Good Taliban/Bad Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1998, despite strong protests from women’s groups in the USA about the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan. Of course, this silence has nothing to do with the fact that major American oil and gas companies were talking to the Taliban in the hope that the terrorists would agree to let them build pipelines across Afghanistan to transport oil and gas from the Central Asian republics. The alternative was Iran, but then Iran would have laughed the Americans out of town. So that was ruled out. The US needed Afghanistan and the Taliban came as a package deal.

 

The USCIRF and its rationale

 

The USCIRF was constituted in 1998 because the US had no international agenda at that time to project its superpower status. The WTO had become a reality, the Taliban were around, but the USA needed pipelines across Afghanistan more than it wanted freedom of religion from the Taliban. The Soviet Union had disappeared, the people of Iraq were being subjected to slow and unexciting genocide by US enforced and UN sanctioned total economic blockade and the US had no excitement that real cloak and dagger stuff can give to its national life.

 

Because 9/11 was still three years down the line and the invasion and occupation of Iraq as American pastime entertainment was still in the future, America was spoiling for a fight and so it discovered International Religious Freedom. The US passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 and soon after it also constituted the Commission for IRF by law. The rationale for the Act is best expressed by the Act itself – SEC. 2. FINDINGS; POLICY.

 

(a) FINDINGS - Congress makes the following findings:

 

(1) The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States. Many of our Nation's founders fled religious persecution abroad, cherishing in their hearts and minds the ideal of religious freedom. They established in law, as a fundamental right and as a pillar of our Nation, the right to freedom of religion. From its birth to this day, the United States has prized this legacy of religious freedom and honoured this heritage by standing for religious freedom and offering refuge to those suffering religious persecution.

 

I will come to this hilarious self-description of “pillar of our nation” in just a while, but it will be interesting to see what triggered this pious decision to monitor international religious freedom in the rest of the world. There are two major causes for the US’ sudden love for religious freedom.

 

First – Religion was coming back in a big way in the former Soviet Union and in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, in Georgia and Armenia the Church was once again becoming a force and an influence to contend with. While all these republics were Christian, none of them acknowledge the supremacy of the Vatican. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia are Eastern Orthodox while in Armenia, the Armenian Apostolic Church is in communion with Eastern Orthodox Church and Georgia too while Catholic, was not Roman Catholic.

 

They all had their own national churches and the Hierarchy too was national. These republics refused to allow the Vatican, American and European churches, Catholic and Protestant, to open shop in their territories. Indeed, the climate was distinctly hostile to the expansionist designs of the Vatican and the American and European churches in the vulnerable soil of these fledgling nation-states. This of course incensed the US and the Vatican.

 

Second – rapidly declining numbers of their flock in the West had the Vatican and the American and European churches looking for new territories to conquer, new peoples to evangelise and convert. They all turned their attention on Asia. On Easter’s eve in 1996, Pope John Paul II led 20,000 Roman Catholics in an Easter vigil at St. Peter’s basilica. “In his homily John Paul II spoke specifically of Asia after having previously denounced discrimination against Catholics in Vietnam and China. He spoke of ‘the great desire of Christ and the Church to meet the populations and cultures of that immense continent, rich in history and noble traditions. You constitute in a certain way the answer of nations to the new evangelization,’ he said.”

 

The Vatican and Asia

 

The Vatican had decided that in the third millennium the Church would plant the cross in Asia and harvest the souls of the non-Christian and non-Muslim peoples of Asia – the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and peoples of other non-proselytizing faiths that originated in India. To this end, a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia was held in April/May of 1998 in the Vatican.

 

The Vietnamese government, as early as in January 1998 had refused permission to its Bishops to attend the Synod. By April, China too had refused permission to the Bishops in China and Taiwan to attend the Synod. On May 14th, a Mass in Saint Peter’s basilica brought to a close the work of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops. According to ‘Fides’ the Vatican news agency, “At the end of his homily, the Holy Father voiced his intention to visit Asia in the near future to present the post-synodal exhortation. This led to excited discussion among the Synod Fathers about possible places for the visit. In the end they suggested a journey with three laps: Bombay, Manila, Hong Kong. Others suggested Jerusalem, Beijing, Calcutta, Ho Chi Minh city, Tokyo or Baghdad.”

 

The intention of the Vatican was clear. It intended for the Pope to make a high profile visit to deliver the post-synodal exhortation in one of the Asian countries – China, Vietnam, India or Japan – countries where the majority of the population is non-Christian - Hindus or Buddhists. China of course and Vietnam too, promptly refused to allow the Pope to come visiting them. In India too there was growing awareness and unease about the intentions of the churches of the world to aggressively convert the Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs to the Christian religion and the Hindus were organizing themselves not only to expose the intentions of the Vatican and the American and European churches, but also to resist, militantly if need be, any and all attempts at religious conversion.

 

The Duplicity of the Vatican and the US

 

One must see the US’ sudden love for international religious freedom against this background – of Asia’s growing hostility to Western trade war through globalization and Christian missionary activities, both of which historically have always acted in tandem. Pope John Paul II succeeded to the Papacy precisely because he was Polish and Poland was the weakest link in the Soviet bloc – Roman Catholics like the people of Croatia and not Eastern Orthodox like Serbia or Russia. The Polish Pope John Paul II succeeded to the Papacy because his mandate was clear – to exert pressure on the weakest link – on Poland and bring about the collapse of communism and consequently the Soviet Union.

 

The calculation being when communism fails, the west can step in with its IMF and the World Bank and capitalism and free market, and when the Soviet Union disappeared it would also signal the end of the already weakened and debilitated Eastern Orthodox Church and the Vatican can step in to open shop. A dream the West and the Vatican had nurtured and pursued unceasingly for more than five decades. They succeeded only partially. Communism failed, the Soviet Union disintegrated, but the Eastern Orthodox Church rose like the phoenix and reacted ferociously to the Vatican and other western churches attempting to open their industry in these territories.

 

One must also see the antipathy of the USA, the West and the Vatican to China, Vietnam, and Serbia in this context. While the USA passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, the seeds of the Act were sown cleverly in 1995 itself, to coincide with the creation of the WTO, when Pope John Paul II was invited to address the UN General Assembly on 5 October 1995, to mark the 50th year of the UN. And he devoted his entire talk to the rights of people to freedom, to human rights, to the rights of nations to come into being and to exist (a call for enabling the fructifying of movements for self-determination, a forewarning of the creation of Croatia, East Timor).

 

It is one of the cleverest, most cunning speeches ever made. Every sentence should be read to mean that he is talking only of Christian interests, Christian political and religious rights. Wherever he appeals for diversity, he is appealing to those nations and peoples who are non-Christian to allow the Christian faith with its missionary agenda, to exist, to grow. And for the first time, the Church, and immediately thereafter American think tanks, begin to make a distinction between ‘patriotism’ which is in their view, positive, and ‘nationalism’ which in their view is negative, because it is synonymous with protectionism and shuts its doors on the face of religious and economic invaders.

 

One of the reasons cited by the US for constituting the USCIRF is: “Though not confined to a particular region or regime, religious persecution is often particularly widespread, systematic, and heinous under totalitarian governments and in countries with militant, politicized religious majorities.”

 

This is an accurate paraphrase of the Pope’s UNGA address in 1995 where he invents his own definition of nationalism and patriotism thus: “We need to clarify the essential difference between an unhealthy form of nationalism, which teaches contempt for other nations or cultures, and patriotism, which is a proper love of one’s country. True patriotism never seeks to advance the well-being of one’s own nation at the expense of others. For in the end, this would harm one’s own nation as well. Doing wrong damages both aggressor and victim. Nationalism, in its most radical form, is thus the antithesis of true patriotism, and today we must ensure that extreme nationalism does not continue to give rise to new forms of the aberrations of totalitarianism.”

 

USCIRF’s  hostile intent in 2002 when the BJP was in power in Delhi and its hostile intent now in 2016, when the BJP is in power again in Delhi must be seen as the Generic Church’s fear and antipathy for nationalism – in this case Hindu nationalism.

 

(To be concluded…)

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