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ICC Note:

Ten house churches in the Coimbatore District of India’s Tamil Nadu State were ordered to close down by the local government. Local Christians claim that 20 more house churches could soon be closed down under similar orders. Coimbatore’s District Revenue Officer claims the house churches must receive permission from the local government to hold worship services. This claim runs in direct opposition to a decision by Tamil Nadu’s High Court that says no government permission is needed to maintain a house church, making the District Revenue Officer’s actions illegal. Will these house churches be able to take this local government to court to redress this wrong or will growing anti-Christian sentiments continue to deny them their constitutional rights? 

11/02/2017 India (Christian Today) – Police and officials in the Tamil Nadu state in India have ordered 10 churches to halt worship services, according to Morning Star India.

Local church leaders said that Hindu extremists compelled state officials and police to issue orders to the churches in the Coimbatore district to stop worship unless they obtain permission from the district’s official ‘collector’s office’. According to the report, extremists reportedly intend to target 20 other churches in the same way.

‘It is a well-planned conspiracy against the Christian community, as the Hindu extremists know that it is not easy to approach the collector’s office for such permissions,’ said pastor Johnson Sathyanathan, president of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches of Coimbatore. He told Morning Star India: ‘The time to get such approvals can stretch from a year and a half to many more years.’

The district revenue officer confirmed to church leaders that orders against six churches were issued after complaints by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group widely regarded as the parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Orders were reportedly also issued in one case based on a complaint by the Hanuman Sena, a relatively new Hindu extremist group.

A Christian delegation met the minister of internal affairs of Tamil Nadu last week to express concerns about the developments. The state minister on October 24 called on the deputy superintendent of police and the local member of the legislative assembly of Sulur to investigate the matter and take steps to ensure that the worship services can resume, pastor Sathyanathan said.

‘Altogether there are 10 churches that have been directly affected in the last two months,’ he added. ‘They are all residents of the area, and people have never had trouble with these churches before. These pastors have been doing ministry for many years now.’

Another congregation, an Assemblies of God Church in Thennampalayam, was first targeted during its vacation Bible school this summer, when the members of RSS attacked its van transporting children, assaulting three young people. The revenue officer closed down the church based on a complaint by the RSS, saying the pastor must secure permission from the collector to continue worshipping. The pastor had been leading the church at that location for more than five years.

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