State authorities in India’s Tamil Nadu state have ordered ten churches in the Coimbatore District to close because their services were not properly authorized. Reports claim that another twenty churches in Coimbatore may face similar orders in the near future. Christians in Coimbatore are fighting back against these orders to close down the churches as all of these churches are operating as house churches. According to precedent set by Tamil Nadu’s High Court, house churches do not need government authorization to operate, making the orders by Coimbatore’s officials illegal.
11/04/2017 India (Asia News) – State authorities of Tamil Nadu have ordered ten Protestant churches in Coimbatore District to discontinue worship services, this according to Rev Johnson Sathyanathan, president of the local Synod Pentecostal Churches.
The clergyman blames the interruption of prayers on Hindu extremist groups, who claim that Christian places of worship have not been authorized by the Collector’s Office.
Hindu radicals have also threatened to file charges against 20 other Protestant churches. If they too are closed, worship services for the local Christian community would cease entirely.
This “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 permits,” Rev Sathyanathan said. “The time to get such approvals can stretch from a year and a half to many years.”
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group, and Hanuman Sena, a recently created radical group, are behind the complaints.
Indian Human rights groups have increasingly complained about growing restrictions on religious freedom since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
Ten churches “have been affected in the last two months,” Rev Sathyanathan said. However, “people never had any trouble with these churches before. Their pastors have been ministering for many years now.”