The US State Department recently published a contentious report on international religious freedom, making claims about India based on misleading and inaccurate data sourced from Christian evangelist groups and radical Islamist organizations. This report, produced by the Office of International Religious Freedom under the State Department, relied heavily on information provided by several organizations, including the Federation of Indian Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), United Christian Forum, Open Doors USA, Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), International Christian Concern, and the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC). Unfortunately, these organizations have been accused of fabricating data related to alleged atrocities against religious minorities in India.
FIACONA, a United States-based organization that has reportedly been instrumental in manufacturing data on atrocities against Indian Christians, is a significant influencer in this narrative. Reports from this organization have frequently been referenced in news articles to suggest a growing marginalization of the Indian Christian community. However, according to Disinfo Lab, an Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) platform on Twitter, the organization’s data is fraught with duplication, fabrication, and inaccuracies, even using three different sets of data on atrocities against Christians in a single report.
In addition to providing flawed data, FIACONA and other similar organizations, such as the Evangelical Fellowship of India, International Christian Concern, Open Doors USA, have been found guilty of data manipulation. They have been seen to reference each other’s reports in a circular manner, which has unfortunately been picked up by the US State Department for its report on religious freedom. The OSINT platform, Disinfo Lab, highlighted numerous instances of ‘data duplication,’ creating an exaggerated sense of victimization.
The data discrepancies include counting single incidents multiple times based on reports by different newspapers. Cases of family disputes, government crackdowns on unlawful conversion practices, and illegal activities by evangelist groups were misrepresented as atrocities against religious minorities. FIACONA was found to have even counted a pastor’s release from jail as an act of atrocity, revealing a clear manipulation of data on alleged atrocities against Indian Christians.
The report also misleadingly counted cases of child sexual abuse by pastors as atrocities against the Christian community. FIACONA released guidelines declaring that any resistance to its efforts to convert others to Christianity would be considered an atrocity. In a 2020 webinar, FIACONA boasted about its success in increasing conversions in India, and paradoxically, also expressed a desire to see India blacklisted, which would negatively affect the country’s international relations.
Other organizations such as ‘Open Doors,’ which placed India on a list of countries known for ‘extreme persecution’ of Christians, have also been accused of falsifying data. They were found to be working closely with Islamist outfits like the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an organization with established links to Pakistan-based terror groups. According to DisInfo Lab, Open Doors’ annual World Watch List relied on questionable data about the Indian Christian population, revealing a clear mismatch between the actual violence against Christians in India and the country’s ranking on the list.
Several other Christian organizations like the Evangelical Fellowship of India were also found to be propagating misleading data about atrocities against Christians in India. These organizations, according to Disinfo Lab, rely on each other to create a network of seemingly corroborating sources that in reality simply reference each other’s manipulated data. Such tactics, along with the Supreme Court’s dismissal of a Public Interest Litigation filed by these organizations alleging increased atrocities on Christians, underline the dubious nature of these claims.
Interestingly, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an organization that has been promoting anti-India propaganda for years, is also implicated in this web of data manipulation. USCIRF has consistently portrayed a false image of India to the world, making unverified claims about religious freedom in India, and often raising alarm about an imminent genocide within the country, without substantial evidence. Created in 1998 by the Clinton administration, USCIRF has been involved in examining religious freedom in India for the past two decades. Despite being a US federal government commission, its consistent interference in India’s internal affairs and misrepresentation of the country’s religious environment are cause for concern.
The Disinfo Lab shed light on the complex network of fabrication and manipulation, revealing how these US-based Christian organizations and their Indian affiliates have been creating dubious data. This fabricated information, often accepted uncritically by the media, is then used by governmental bodies like the USCIRF to criticize India from a US national security perspective. Disinfo Lab has pointed out that the inaccurate data shouldn’t interfere with an objective understanding of the situation, yet the mainstream media has been following these deceptive narratives without proper scrutiny.
Despite these findings, the falsified narratives persist, influencing perceptions and policy-making at international levels. However, the inconsistencies, discrepancies, and biased nature of these reports and the organizations behind them reveal a clear distortion of India’s religious freedom status. These instances highlight the necessity for reliable data and objective narratives in shaping a comprehensive understanding of religious freedom in any country.