Joseph D’Souza

/Joseph D’Souza

The Hill | Protesting women in India are uniting Muslims, Hindus and religious minorities


Since Dec. 15, hundreds of Muslim women have been camping at a crossroads near New Delhi known as Shaheen Bagh. They have braved the frigid winter temperatures, the coldest in more than a century, to protest a law they believe discriminates against them as a minority in Hindu-majority India. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed on Dec. 12, grants citizenship to refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan but excludes Muslims. The law has triggered massive demonstrations across the country, many of them led by university students, but the protest in Shaheen Bagh has caught everyone’s attention because it has become a unifying rally led by women in a fragmented society. The Shaheen Bagh protest remarkably has attracted Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other religious minorities. These women represent nearly 600 million Indian women who believe in the democratic foundations of free speech, liberty, equality and religious freedom — ideals that seem to have come under threat by the citizenship law. On Jan. 12, tens of thousands of people flooded this crossroads, and multi-faith religious services were held there in solidarity. The protest has inspired other women across India, who have started similar demonstrations in Kanpur, Allahabad and Patna. But is the government paying attention? The Shaheen Bagh protest reminds us that it is impossible to turn India’s religiously pluralistic society into a one-faith nation, which many believe is the subtle motivation behind the bill. Those protesting are fighting for the long history of India as a religiously diverse nation. The protest was initiated by a diverse group of Muslim women, from septuagenarians to young mothers cradling their children. Some of them wear hijabs; others don’t. And some are college-educated, while primary school is the highest educational attainment [...]

The Hill | Protesting women in India are uniting Muslims, Hindus and religious minorities2020-01-21T17:51:34+00:00

Fox News | Religious Freedom in 2020: Three Key Challenges and How to Fight Back


2019 was a seminal year for the cause of religious freedom. In July, the U.S. State Department held its second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The ministerial convened more than 1,100 civil society and religious leaders and foreign delegations, making it the largest event dedicated to religious freedom in the world. This was followed by the United Nations designating — for the first time in its 74-year history — a day in August to commemorate the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. Then in September, President Trump made history by becoming the first American president to host an event dedicated to religious freedom at the U.N. General Assembly. Thanks to these developments and to the efforts of leaders such as President Trump and Pope Francis, who this year became the first pontiff to visit the Arabian peninsula, more nations are paying attention to this issue and making commitments to protect religious freedom. Yet, even as there is much to celebrate, there’s still work left to be done. Roughly three-fourths of the world’s population lives in countries with high or very high levels of government restrictions and social hostilities on religion, according to Pew Research Center. Here are some of the biggest challenges 2020 will pose to religious freedom and what we can do to address them: Historical Revisionism This is happening in Muslim-majority Turkey, where the government is trying to convert the Hagia Sophia — a historic Greek Orthodox church that dates back to the 6th century — from its current status as a museum into a mosque. A recent court ruling ordering a 1,000-year-old church in Istanbul wit a similar status to be converted into a mosque has raised concerns [...]

Fox News | Religious Freedom in 2020: Three Key Challenges and How to Fight Back2019-12-30T15:35:56+00:00

Newsmax | Extrajudicial Killings by Cops Will not Solve India’s Rape Crisis


The recent extrajudicial killings of four men who were accused of the rape and murder of a woman in India should not be celebrated as justice. On the contrary, they are a dire warning of how law and order can breakdown when a democratic society fails to address its most serious social problems. In this case, India’s inability to curb the prevalence of sexual violence against women has resulted in not only the denial of justice for a victim of rape and murder, but also the denial of due process for four Indian citizens, who however guilty they may be of the crime still have constitutional rights. Now, I cannot blame people — especially Indian women — for being outraged by the crime these men are believed to have committed. As a resident of Hyderabad, where the charred remains of the victim were found, I commiserate with the sense of fury many of my fellow citizens experienced when the details of the case came to light: how the men saw the woman, a veterinarian in her mid-twenties, park her scooter near an empty toll plaza and punctured one of the vehicle's tires so she would be stranded when she returned to the parking lot; how she called her sister and asked her to stay on the phone because she was afraid; and how the men lured her with the pretext of fixing her scooter before forcibly taking her to an abandoned building, where they brutally assaulted her. People across India identified with the plight of the victim and the pain of her family. This young woman could have been anyone’s daughter, wife, or mother. The crime, so reminiscent of the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old [...]

Newsmax | Extrajudicial Killings by Cops Will not Solve India’s Rape Crisis2019-12-17T15:22:07+00:00

Newsmax | It’s Time to Grant Women Equal Spiritual Rights


For nearly 30 years, women of menstruating age in India have been banned from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. That may change soon when India’s Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of the ban. Enacted by Kerala’s high court in 1991, the ban prevents women of menstruating age — 10 to 50 years — from entering the temple. According to tradition, the temple houses the shrine of Lord Ayyappa, a Hindu deity celebrated for his celibacy, and the presence of women of menstruating age would defile it. The ban was lifted last year after the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the worship rights of women, but the ruling was immediately challenged by dozens of review petitions, and the state’s government is still forbidding entry to women. Whenever women have attempted to worship at the temple, they have been met by police and protesters. I have written before about Sabarimala and its significance to the spiritual rights of Indian women. Sabarimala is the second-largest pilgrimage destination in the world, after Mecca in Saudi Arabia. More than 30 million Hindu pilgrims visit the temple annually. The sad truth is the Sabarimala temple is but one story in the greater narrative of women’s struggle for their spiritual rights. Throughout history and to this day, women across all major world religions have been denied equal access to worship sites and barred from leadership positions they are qualified to fill. For example, in many mosques women are segregated from the main prayer services and even denied entry. In India, women’s right to enter mosques is also being reviewed by the Supreme Court. In France and America some women have taken matters into their own hands and founded their own mosques, [...]

Newsmax | It’s Time to Grant Women Equal Spiritual Rights2019-12-19T16:42:35+00:00

Newsmax | Recent Supreme Court Decision in India Can Teach Religious Coexistence


Religious tensions in India, particularly between Hindus and Muslims, have been fraught over the past few years. So when the Supreme Court recently awarded Hindus the contested holy site in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, where the Babri Masjid mosque stood for 500 years, fears that religious violence would erupt were palpable in India. When a Hindu mob demolished the mosque in 1992, violent riots broke out and thousands of Indians died. Yet the Muslim community’s response to the Supreme Court’s verdict was a refreshing reminder of what kind of democratic society India was meant to be. The Muslim parties involved in the legal dispute said they would comply with the ruling and called for the Muslim community at large to maintain order and not protest. Of course, this doesn’t mean the Islamic community agrees with the court’s decision or believes it’s fair. On the contrary, they have called it “unjust” and some of the litigants announced they would appeal court’s decision, which has been criticized as being based more on faith than facts. The senior Muslim member of parliament stated that while he accepted the Supreme Court’s supremacy in the rule of law, it did not mean the court was infallible. I have written before about the complicated and violent history of the Ayodhya holy site, claimed by both Muslims and Hindus, the latter who believe it is the birthplace of the Hindu deity Lord Ram. Evidence presented to the Supreme Court by the Archaeological Society of India stated that there was a religious structure at the site before a mosque was built, but as many Hindu leaders throughout India would admit, it’s a question of faith as to whether it was the birthplace of a mythical [...]

Newsmax | Recent Supreme Court Decision in India Can Teach Religious Coexistence2019-12-17T15:23:30+00:00

Religion News Service| Sex Scandals Show Why Evangelicals Need to Recover the Sacrament of Confession


Recent news that popular Christian comedian John Crist has been accused of sexual harassment put the spotlight once again on sexual sin within the church. This would not, of course, be the first time a prominent Christian figure has fallen from grace because of a moral failure. With the advent of the #MeToo movement, more stories of sexual abuse and harassment and even rape within the church have come to light. It should break our hearts that the body of Christ has failed to protect the most vulnerable among us and, at times, has even been complicit in covering up for abusers. The good news is that these revelations, as painful as they are, have prompted churches and denominations to do more to protect people in their community who may fall prey to an abuser. Some churches are implementing measures such as background checks for volunteers and installing security cameras. Denominations also are setting up committees and encouraging member churches to treat any instance of sexual abuse as a crime and report it to the authorities instead of dealing with it internally. Yet there remains the issue that these measures are largely reactionary, not preventative. Because how do you hedge against a sin that originates in the human heart? As the New Testament’s Letter of James reads, When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Is there a better approach churches can take to dealing [...]

Religion News Service| Sex Scandals Show Why Evangelicals Need to Recover the Sacrament of Confession2019-11-15T14:08:52+00:00

Press Release: India must now find a way forward toward peace and communal harmony


Most Rev. Joseph D’Souza after Ayodhya Supreme Court decision: India must now find a way forward toward peace and communal harmony Press Release: The KAIROS Company for Dalit Freedom Network  Nov. 10, 2019 HYDERABAD, India — After a marathon hearing which lasted 40 days, the Supreme Court of India has finally decided on the Babri Masjid land dispute. The court will hand over the 2.7 acres of land for the building of a Hindu temple through a trust to be set up by the Indian government. The court’s decision brings to a legal closure a long dispute that has inflamed passions, resulted in violence between Hindus and Muslims and led to the deaths of thousands of people who have been killed because of this religious dispute. Following the court’s decision, the Most Rev. Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council, releases the following statement calling Indians to now find a way forward toward peace and communal harmony: “It is time for Indians to accept the Supreme Court’s decision, however they may feel about it. Those who are aggrieved with the decision need to find the strength to work for peace and communal harmony, while those who feel they have won must also find the humility to accept this judgement with the kind of attitude that respects the Muslim community and their rights in a democratic India. “With the kind of deep-seated religious divisions that currently plague India, it is critical that people of all faiths in India work toward peace, communal harmony and economic development. India can ill afford another long term trauma like the one it has faced over the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the campaign to build the Ram temple at [...]

Press Release: India must now find a way forward toward peace and communal harmony2019-11-12T16:35:38+00:00

For the Children


Meet one of my friends.  She was the kind of child who wondered, “Why is the sky blue? How do birds fly? How do fish breathe?” Now she is a bright and curious teenager and her questions are more complex.  She has a fire inside that makes her want to learn, want to succeed. And she will, because there is a team a people who believe in her, who invest in her, who help her believe that her life and her dignity matter. This is poverty alleviation. This is justice. This is freedom. Watch: The Curious Mind of Reshma

For the Children2019-11-08T21:48:36+00:00

Daily Caller | Baghdadi Is Dead, But The Fight Against Extremism Isn’t Over


The world celebrated when news broke out that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of the Islamic State, was killed during a raid by U.S. special forces on his hideout compound. Baghdadi’s death, and the reported death of his second-in-command ISIS spokesperson Abu Hasan al-Muhajir, is a victory for every freedom-loving person across the world. The Islamic Caliphate he established, which at one point covered a territory as large as Britain, was a threat not only to those it imprisoned and robbed of their lives, homes, dignity and personal freedoms, but to people everywhere who might fall victim to terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS and its affiliates. Yet, even as we celebrate the demise of one of the worst terrorist leaders the world has known, we must remember the fight against extremism is far from over. In fact, we might be at the most dangerous time in the history of extremist movements as they have taken more subtle forms and infiltrated mainstream society. Allow me to explain. Whenever we think of extremism, the first thing that comes to mind is violent extremist groups like terrorist organizations such as ISIS or militant factions such as Hezbollah. Of course, their violent attacks are the most obvious displays of extremist behavior, but we must not confuse tactics for ideology. What is at the heart of every extremist movement — whether religious or secular, or on the hard right or far left — is an overarching mission to establish an authoritarian system of government that denies basic human rights such as freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech and assembly, free enterprise and the right to own personal property, among others. While terrorist groups advance this mission through violence, [...]

Daily Caller | Baghdadi Is Dead, But The Fight Against Extremism Isn’t Over2019-11-08T21:31:00+00:00

Washington Examiner | Can We Trust the Democratic Candidates to Defend Religious Freedom


CNN’s recent town hall on gay and transgender rights was a bit of an eye-opener. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke let slip something the current presidential candidates have worked hard to hide: when put to the test, they do not support religious freedom. When asked whether religious institutions who oppose same-sex marriage should lose their tax-exempt status, O’Rourke’s answer was a straightforward “yes.” “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said. Of course, savvier and more seasoned candidates were better prepared to answer questions of the same nature. Elizabeth Warren’s pithy response about what she would say to a supporter who said his faith taught marriage was between one man and one woman — “Then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.” — became a viral sensation. Yet O’Rourke’s rookie mistake raised the question of what the presidential candidates actually believe when it comes to religious freedom. Despite Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s subsequent decision to distance themselves from O’Rourke’s comment, everything they said at the CNN town hall revealed that for them, religious liberty is, at best, a secondary right in their minds. This way of thinking presents a clear and present danger to people of faith. Take the Catholic charity Little Sisters of the Poor, who have now spent years in court because they refused to comply with an Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptives as part of their health insurance package. It wasn’t enough for them to win a Supreme Court case in 2016 or for the federal government to create an exemption for [...]

Washington Examiner | Can We Trust the Democratic Candidates to Defend Religious Freedom2019-11-04T16:08:27+00:00