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May 21, 2006

Church attacked and pastor arrested in Madhya Pradesh (http://www.aiccindia.org)

Hindu extremists vandalised an independent church in Gauri Nadi village, about 12 km from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh on 15 May 2006. The mob assaulted a church member and lodged a police complaint against a pastor for “forcibly converting” Hindus.

About 50 members of Dharam Jagran Sena threw stones at Anant Jeevan Marg Church after the Sunday worship was over. After throwing stones, the mob entered the church and destroyed furniture and equipment, shouting anti-Christian slogans and accusing the church of illegal conversions.

The attackers beat up Dinanath Tiwari (35), a new believer whose wife was recently healed of cancer after Christians prayed for her. The attackers said Tiwari should not have converted to Christianity. Tiwari received injuries on his face, hands and knee. He was taken to a government hospital for first aid.

The mob also roughed up Pastor Munnu Kujur, who repeatedly denied that his church was forcibly converting people. The Hindu extremists threatened to throw acid on Kujur’s face and bomb his church if he did not stop converting Hindus to Christianity.

Following the attack, the mob took away all the copies of the Bible kept in the church as “evidence” that the church was indulging in illegal conversions by distributing them. They then took Pastor Kujur in their vehicle to nearby Barela police station to lodge a formal complaint against him.

When they reached the police station, the police promptly arrested Kujur on charges of illegal conversion under the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Freedom of Religion Act and put him in a cell.

Church members and Christian leaders soon reached the police station and lodged a counter-complaint against the attackers, with Tiwari as the main complainant. The complaint named four of the attackers – Yogesh Agarwal, Sudhir Agarwal, Kedar Namdev and Indra Bhan – who had earlier attacked a house church belonging to the Assemblies of God and lodged a complaint against seven church members in a similar fashion on 7 April 2006.

The Barela police station did not release Pastor Kujur until a lawyer from the Christian Legal Association of India (CLAI) called Sub-Inspector Vaishnav and asked for evidence against the accused. When the police officer said he was waiting for Christians to come and sign a bail bond, local Christians came in large numbers and signed the bond for Pastor Kujur.

The pattern of extremists attacking a church and then lodging a complaint to get Christians arrested on charges of “illegal conversion” has become common, a source said.

He said at least 15 such incidents had taken place since the beginning of the year in Jabalpur alone.

He also said despite several assurances from Superintendent of Police Srinivas Rao and District Collector Sanjay Dubey, the incidence of attacks and false charges against Christians continued to increase.