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More Christians in India face threats as anti-conversion law expands

Sat 12 May 2018
By Tola Mbakwe

More Christians in India who share their faith face a jail sentence of up to five years due to the expansion of an anti-conversion law.

Uttarakhand has become the seventh state in India to adopt the law, according to Christian charity Release International, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide.

The new law requires clergy who lead a person to Christ to give one month’s notice before doing so, which will spark a police investigation into the proposed conversion. Also, individuals wanting to change their religion must first get permission from the state government.

 

“These so-called ‘Freedom of Religion’ laws have exactly the opposite effect,” said Paul Robinson from Release International. “They are intended to limit the freedom of individuals to change their faith, and the freedom of Christians to share their faith. These laws are the result of a hard-line Hindu backlash to prevent the spread of Christianity in India.”

The charity said it’s seen a rise in the number of attacks against Christians and the churches in India. The attacks coincide with the rise of extreme Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalists believe that to be Indian is to be Hindu, and will not tolerate other faiths.

Militants have beaten, threatened and killed church workers. They have tried to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. They have also bombed, torched, vandalised and demolished churches and Christian schools, and disrupted services and prayer meetings.

Anti-conversion laws are now in force in Uttarakhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand. Similar laws are pending in Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh. There have also been moves to impose anti-conversion legislation that would be binding across the whole nation.

Release International is working with its partners in India to provide legal aid and advocacy for persecuted Christians, give Bibles and train pastors.

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