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ICC Note:

A number of Christian leaders in India’s Madhya Pradesh state remain imprisoned under false forced conversion charged. In May, 10 Christians were arrested and charged with kidnapping and forcefully converting children they were escorting to a Christian summer camp. According to later reports, the parents of the children in question had given the leaders permission to escort their children and were all practicing Christians. Indian authorities have decided to ignore these facts because the children’s parents did not convert according the the state’s strict procedures to determine the validity of religious conversions.

08/23/2017 India (Christian Today) – Three months ago, 10 Indian Christian pastors and their colleagues were arrested and charged with cruelty, kidnapping and forced conversion of children.

Police stopped the group of religious leaders travelling with more than 60 children as they were en route to a summer camp in Madhya Pradesh state on May 23. The pastors’ lawyers insist all parents had consented for their children to take part in the Christian camp.

So why do all 10 remain in custody, and what does the case show about the plight of Christians in some parts of India?

According to David Robin, a lawyer with the religious freedom charity ADF International, the case is precedent-setting because the prosecution continues despite clear consent from the parents.

‘The root of the case is the allegation of conversion. However, all the parents have stated that they are followers of Christ so how can the pastors be guilty of converting them or their children?’ he says in an interview with Christian Today.

‘The case is important because innocent Christians are being punished for a crime they have not committed. This case will raise awareness on the unfair treatment of religious minorities in India and will hopefully help reinforcing the constitutional right to religious freedom.’

Robin says a spate of anti-conversion laws, already in force in six states, as well as the government’s laissez-faire attitude to mob violence, has fueled a steady rise in attacks on Christians.

‘The anti-conversion laws regulate religious conversions and require that every religious conversion be investigated by the state to ascertain if there is any force, fraud or allurement. The state becomes the final arbiter of whether my faith is genuine,’ he tells Christian Today.

‘Furthermore, as these terms are poorly defined, they often lead to unnecessary harassment of Christians who are practicing and propagating their faith.’

According to ADF International’s Deputy Director, Paul Coleman, this incident was part of a trend in an ‘increasingly hostile climate towards religious minorities’.

He says: ‘Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. The international community needs to wake up to what is happening in India.’

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