In view of the persecutions the church is faced with, at least 10 pastors with their families were arrested as they worshipped in church services across the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh last Sunday.
In addition to the detained persons, police are said to have also arrested three more believers on Monday and threatened another pastor in the State in an effort to get him to stop holding services.
The Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, Mervyn Thomas said in a statement that “Recent events in Uttar Pradesh are deeply worrying and indicative of a concerning increase in religious intolerance in India.”
“The arbitrary arrests by the police go against the rule of law and we call on the government of India to ensure the release of all pastors currently held in detention, and to work to protect the right to freedom of religion of belief for all Indians, as guaranteed by the Constitution of India and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party.” He added
According to CSW, Pastor Bahavan Ram and his church in Kariyabar were disrupted during their Sunday services by police after Hindu nationalist groups claimed to that Bahavan was converting people.
In some states in India, forcibly converting someone through coercion or allurement is considered a crime and forcible conversion laws are used in Hindu to launch criminal complaints against Christian leaders.
But in Ram’s case and that of the churchgoers in Kariyabar, the police were not able to find any proof to support the accusation of forcible conversion and no arrests were made in that case.
A mob also stormed the Assembly of Believers Church in Shastri Nagar Kanpur and threatened the pastor with “severe consequences” if the church didn’t stop holding its Sunday services.
The CSW’s recent report highlighted an estimate of 23 pastors and family members arrested or detained randomly between August 20 and September 18.
Meanwhile, Asia News, the official press agency of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, reported last week that three Pentecostal pastors in Uttar Pradesh were among 271 people arrested for crimes such as “fraud, defiling places of worship, and prejudice against national integration.”
The pastors are under investigation for accusations that they extorted conversions from Hindus by spreading false information about Hinduism.
“In Uttar Pradesh Hindu radicals have fabricated unfounded accusations against innocent Pentecostal Christians,” Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told the Catholic news outlet.
According to the 2018 world watch list produced by Open Doors USA, India ranks as the 11th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution
“Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, Christianity in India is in more danger than ever before,” An Open Doors fact sheet states. “These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity and employ violence to this end. Usually, converts to Christianity experience the worst persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism.”
By: Oluwaseyi Jeje