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ICC Note:

Christianity is under threat in India’s central regions. Earlier this month, Hindu extremists were successful in passing restrictions in dozens of villages banning Christian worship activities. According the the extremists, Christians are forcefully converting people to Christianity in these villages. This accusation has allowed the extremists to use a law meant to preserve the tribal culture of these villages to all but outright ban Christianity as a religion. Please pray that the restrictions passed by these village councils are overturned and that Christians are once again able to practice their faith openly in India. 

7/31/2014 India (The Global Dispatch) – Religious minorities in central India face a new threat as Hindu extremists have been successful in more than a dozen village councils in passing restrictions on religions other than Hinduism. Christian prayer, in particular, has been targeted and made a crime.

The laws, passed under the guise of stopping false conversions, made Christian prayer, services, and “propaganda” illegal, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported.

“The situation is becoming worse. The anti-Christian propaganda is becoming stronger,” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told World Watch Monitor on July 15. Chhattisgarh is one of India’s 29 states, in the heart of the country.

Pannalal said the village of Belar, in Chhattisgarh’s southeast district of Bastar, convened a Gram Sabha, or village assembly, on July 6 and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities.

The Times of India reports that more than 50 village councils have banned all non-Hindu missionaries quoting one resolution which stated that “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.”

The state government of Chhattisgarh, where the tribal Bastar villages are located, has not moved to intervene on the rules, but plans to wait and see what happens, according to the Times.

“These meetings are held under the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act,” or Village Council System Act, Pannalal said. He said the councils erroneously believe the act provides a legitimate legal foundation upon which to ban minority religious practice.

“Hindu fundamentalists are using this provision to take the people for a ride to enforce their agenda,” he said. “Their strategy is to use the influential gram sabhas to adopt such controversial resolutions to mislead the locals to believe that banning non-Hindus is well within the law.”

Rev. Aneesh Andrews, Methodist district superintendent for the region, told World Watch Monitor that after the resolutions are passed, poor Christian families in some villages have been denied government rations of staples such as wheat, rice and sugar, and access to village water sources such as tube wells and common ponds.

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