An artist dressed as demon king Ravana stands outside a temple during a symbolic ritual for the annual Hindu festival of Dussehra in Allahabad on Sept 13. (Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)
The following is the full text of an open letter that Shibu Thomas, founder-director of India-based Christian agency Persecution Relief, wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, internet entrepreneur and co-founder of social media giant Facebook:
Very few have the privilege, convenience and power to give the masses a voice like you do. Facebook has triumphed not only over print media but also social networks including the likes of Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
Back in 2004, you probably never imagined you would be where you are today. I believe the creation of Facebook was envisioned with all good intentions to connect the world, breaking all human barriers and promoting unity.
However, with the passing of time came the distortion of vision. Facebook is now in a position to be a catalyst in the systematic dismantling of humanity. It has become a handy and effective tool for the enemies of peace.
India, which is supposed to be the world’s largest democracy and a secular state, is reeling under the cruel curse of religious intolerance. Religious minorities are facing intensifying persecution owing to the propagation of religious nationalism.
No other social network can be compared with Facebook in terms of influence and vastness. Such calibre must be used to build and encourage, not break and discourage. Highlighting issues faced by religious minorities is one of the most beneficial ways to express solidarity with them.
Persecution Relief is one such organization that provides comprehensive support to persecuted Christians in India. From January 2016 to August 2020, we have served and recorded over 2,100 cases of hate crimes against Christians in India. With over 50,000 churches and numerous Christian entities partnering with us from across the world, we are the largest advocate for Christians living in India.
From observing the latest trends, we conclude that most efforts to bridge the gulf between religious communities in India are gradually proving to be futile. What is even more alarming is the dangerous influence Facebook is having on a nation of 1.3 billion people.
Facebook has played a key role in endorsing communal harmony in other nations. However, in India, your organization seems to be doing just the opposite. This observation is rather disturbing and raises many questions.
My personal experience with Facebook has been bittersweet too. Since our first post on Facebook, our page has reached more than three million people without any form of propaganda. To tell you the truth, Facebook has been very instrumental in helping us sensitize the world about Christian persecution in India.
Unfortunately, I have been witnessing several challenges with Facebook lately. My page was blocked for months despite many grievances being aired to your support team. I also have a difficult time uploading posts if the content is related to minorities, Christianity, persecution, etc. On many occasions, I have also been blocked.
The content that we post is tailored to bridge the gap across the growing gulf. Our organization specifically believes in “serving persecuted” and “loving persecutors.” We do not make hate speeches or propagate violence. Instead we promote forgiveness towards those who hate us on account of our Christian faith.
Much speculation came to light recently concerning Facebook India’s interference in India’s electoral democracy and the pro-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bias of its India policy chief, Ankhi Das. In communications to Facebook staffers, she said punishing violations by politicians from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party could “hurt the company’s business interests in the country.”
How do you react when such inconsiderate acts concerning your social network see the light of day? Would you still retain people that pose a threat to a nation’s secular and democratic fabric? Or would you prefer being known as an entity that unifies a diverse nation.
My sincere hope is that Facebook is not bending its own rules to appease Mr. Modi’s party and its 33 million-strong market in India. If that were true, then I would like to quote you here: “I think there’s a comfort in knowing and having confidence that there are things bigger than you.”
If you keep muffling the voices of persecuted minorities in India, then Facebook will not have a long way to go. Owing to your Jewish upbringing, you can be certain that there is a God who is much bigger than you. He is the defender of the defenseless and is famous for raising up great kings and bringing them down as well.
Dear Mark, have you progressively deviated from your vision? As a social media giant, you have designated teams to care for your business in every country. Over time, many elements could have contributed towards the deviation of your vision. I understand that it is easier said than done.
Ultimately, you are the boss and Facebook is your baby. Would you just sit and watch someone destroy your family and lead your children astray? Definitely not. Who would understand this better than a family-oriented person like you? Providing comprehensive care to your family is of prime importance.
The future of India looks grim and Facebook is being widely used to inject hatred and spread communal violence within the country. I am sure you are aware of this and disappointed by it too. In spite of the many appeals being made, you have not made any comments concerning this grave issue.
I urge you to take a stand and pledge to support minorities and their well-being. It is high time. I would like to quote you again: “It’s why I have so much faith in democracy overall, it’s why I care so much about giving people a voice.” Yes, you can be their voice!
I highly recommend that you appoint capable and unbiased representatives from among religious minorities to assist the team at Facebook India and to encourage transparency in decisions concerning the same. A panel consisting of people from religious minorities must be instated to make policies and counter matters that threaten communal harmony.
I would also appreciate if you could take some time out of your busy schedule to discuss with me how Facebook could be a catalyst in promoting religious tolerance in India. I would be more than willing to fly out and meet you. The truth must not be hidden, the truth must not be suppressed — this is my humble appeal to you.
May you and your family be a blessing to all nations.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.