Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

More than 10,000 Christians march against government’s draconian entry visa policy

ICC Note:
It was not enough for the Indian government to deny foreign missionaries visas for ministry work, now the government is shutting down Christian meetings simply on the grounds that there are foreigners present.

by Nirmala Carvalho
AsiaNews (1/25/07) – More than 10,000 Christians from different denominations held a peaceful march in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) to protest against the “draconian” visa policy that is imposed on foreign Christians. They also sent a memorandum to the prime minister explaining their reasons.

For years the Indian government has refused to grant foreign ministers visas for pastoral or evangelisation work in India. Hindu fundamentalists are suspicious of the Church, whom they accuse of proselytising.

Sam Paul, national secretary of the All India Christian Council, told AsiaNews that on several occasions the police shut down important Christian meeting places in Andhra Pradesh for the simple reason that foreign Christians were present. Recently, for instance, in East Godavari district meetings were disrupted in Rajahmundry (November 16-20, 2006), in Kakinada (December 1-2, 2006), and Antarvedipalem (January 10-14, 2007). Another one was closed in Visakhapatnam on November 15-25, 2006.

In a statement released yesterday march organisers said that “foreign Christians are victims of a draconian entry visa policy”. In practice, the police and intelligence services, backed by Hindu fundamentalist groups like the Sangh Parivar, storm prayer meetings or social functions when foreigners are present.

“Officials often prevent such activities from continuing on the grounds that foreigners with tourist visas cannot participate.”

“Such actions violate the Indian constitution and international protocols. Our guests have not come to convert anyone, but only to participate as regular believers. They do not want to forget [their religion] just for being in India.”

Although the visa policy affects Buddhists coming from Tibet, China and Japan to a lesser extent, for the marchers it is a clear case of discrimination against Christians.

In fact, the statement concluded, “Sikhs from the US, Pakistan or Afghanistan can come and move freely in India, taking part in religious events. The same is true for British, European and US citizens of Indian origin.”