Why I Chose a Hunger-Strike to Highlight Persecution of Indian Christians

This is now the afternoon of the fifth day of my seven-day hunger strike for the persecuted Christians of India. It has been nearly 110 hours since I last ate.

I don’t have a lot of energy, so I’m afraid that this will not be a lengthy and deeply researched commentary about how exactly Indian Christians are being persecuted. I’ve attempted to highlight some of those details in my remarks over previous days of this hunger-strike, and while there is much work still to be done, the mental focus it takes to do it is starting to slip away from me a bit.

Instead, I want to talk briefly about why I chose to go on hunger-strike.

Some well-meaning people, in seeing my action, respond with the misconception that I am hunger-striking in order to prick the conscience of the Modi regime or of the Hindu nationalist vigilantes and somehow influence them to reverse course, stop passing discriminatory legislation, stop staging violent mob attacks, and come to their senses.

That would be nice to see, but let’s be realistic. I understand that the Modi regime and its violent vigilantes don’t spare a passing thought for some random American, living literally on the other side of the world from India, who objects to their evils. Nor would they care any more if I were an Indian staging this hunger-strike in Delhi itself. They have well-proved themselves to be cruel and merciless, with deadened consciences and hearts hardened to the cries of even their own people.

No. My motives for hunger-striking are very different. There are five reasons why I am doing this.

First, I want to demonstrate my solidarity to the persecuted Indian Christian community. Since I began this hunger-strike, I have had hundreds of messages from Indian Christians thanking me, wishing me well, and telling me that this act boosts their morale and gives them the courage to stay the course. I’m not the one living under an oppressive regime — they are the ones. So many Indian Christians have thanked me for speaking on their behalf, which is what I intend to do and, God willing, continue to do. Furthermore, so many Indian Christians are grateful and hopeful to see that at least someone from abroad knows about their suffering. So I am hunger-striking, first and foremost, in solidarity with those Christians facing persecution in India today.

Second, as I regularly work on documenting and attempting to expose human rights violations by the Hindu nationalist movement of the RSS-BJP — against not only Indian Christians but many other religious minority communities in India as well as virtually everyone else who voices dissent and offers peaceful resistance — I want to bring upon my own body some sense of their pain. Living here in America — and being de facto banned from entering India under the Modi regime — it’s easy for me to forget, in this land of luxury, the ongoing suffering of the oppressed people of India. Deliberately refusing food and going hungry for seven days specifically in order to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering in India certainly makes it more difficult to forget their pain.

Third, I want to generally begin to draw attention to the issue of Christian persecution in India through the use, initially, of extreme tactics. There’s a time for everything. Sometimes the time is right to feed myself well so that I can systematically and energetically educate, organize, and agitate. And sometimes there’s a time to do something that simply grabs attention. I believe that time, for these seven days of hunger-strike, is now.

Fourth, whether they see my hunger-strike now or later, I hope to demonstrate to the American Christian clergy and community not only just how much I care about this issue, but also how much they too ought to be caring about it. The American Christian Church is almost entirely silent about the persecution of their brothers and sisters in India. Their silence is largely because they’re ignorant that persecution is even occurring. Going forward, I want them to see that at least one American Christian not only knows about the issue, but judges it to be an issue of such gravity that it’s worth acts of self-denial. Priests? Pastors? Elders? Deacons? Laity? Will you listen?

Fifth, I want to set the stage for implementing my plans to intensely focus my attention on this particular issue for quite some time this year, including especially by reaching out to the American Christian community in the hope that I can help open their eyes and touch their hearts to pay even just a moment’s attention to what’s happening to their brothers and sisters in India. Indian Christians, from everything they’ve told me, need and want someone in America to speak out for them. I intend to do that, at the very least.

Let this be the start of it.

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Friedrich is a freelance journalist and analyst of South Asian affairs. Learn more about him at www.PieterFriedrich.com.

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Pieter Friedrich

Pieter Friedrich

Friedrich is a freelance journalist and analyst of South Asian affairs. Learn more about him at www.PieterFriedrich.com.

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