President Obama was in New Delhi, India, last week to celebrate India’s Republic Day. During his visit, he spoke to an audience of mostly younger people, and said the following in his remarks, “I realize that the sight of an American president as your chief guest on Republic Day would have once seemed unimaginable. But my visit reflects the possibilities of a new moment.” He then observed that he was the first American president to participate in India’s Republic Day, and then boasted, “And I’m the first American president to come to your country twice!”
The president went on to speak about injustice in the United States and how he has been the victim of injustice in his own personal life. According to media reports, in his short address, he referred to himself only 118 times. He declared that while he and Mrs. Obama have been strengthened by their Christian faith, he also observed, “But there have been times where my faith has been questioned — by people who don’t know me — or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing.” (Mangling Hamlet only a bit, I say, “Alas, poor Barack, I knew him well!) Mr. Obama then added that “too often religion has been used to tap into those darker impulses as opposed to the light of God,” and cited the lone-wolf attack several years ago on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. He declared to his audience that “every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.” There is, of course, a deeply perverse irony in that it is his Administration that is suing Roman Catholic nuns to force them to comply with Obamacare’s birth control mandate.
Mr. Obama also talked about inequality in both India and the United States. I have visited India, but economic inequality between the two nations is hardly comparable. In India, three of five people live on less than $2 per day. Tens of millions never go into any building for any reason; they are born, live, and die on the streets. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, India accounts for approximately 60 percent of the world’s residents without toilets. India’s 50 percent open-defecation rate is more than twice the rate of Pakistan, and is much greater than the 3 percent and 1 percent rates in Bangladesh and China, respectively.
During his speech, Mr. Obama complained, “Even as America has blessed us with extraordinary opportunities, there were moments in my life where I’ve been treated differently because of the color of my skin.” I don’t know whether many so-called Dalits were present to hear Mr. Obama’s speech. Under the Hindu caste system, Dalits are regarded as “untouchable,” and are fit only for the most menial work. However, missiologists estimate that 70 to 80 percent of the millions of Christians in India are Dalits. But if they did hear Mr. Obama’s speech, I am sure that they could relate totally to being treated differently because of the color of their skin and the condition of their birth. It is only sad to me that Mr. Obama did not say one word about the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in India, Dalit or not, who suffer great persecution. Although Mr. and Mrs. Obama have, he said, been strengthened by their Christian faith, a word of encouragement to Christians in India could have been a blessing to them.