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ICC Note:

A Christian family in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has received notice from city officials that they are no longer allowed to worship Christ within their own home. According to reports, local officials were put under pressure by radical Hindu nationalists who falsely accused the Christian family of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity. Across India, the persecution of Christians is becoming more and more common. Attack on Christians and the places of worship have skyrocketed in recent years, with 410 separate attacks recorded in only the first six months of 2017. 

12/01/2017 India (Christian News Network) – For 12 years, Mahendra Nagdeve had met with friends and relatives in his house in Madhya Pradesh state, India to worship Christ until he received this notice from city officials this month:

“With effect from the moment you receive this notice, you must not conduct any Christian congregational activity,” the notice read, translated from the Hindi. “If you continue any Christian activities despite receiving the notice, stringent action will be taken against you.”

No official from the Nagar Palika Balaghat municipality had visited to give the 45-year-old father of three any indication that Christian activities in his home in the Lanji area of Balaghat District were problematic, he said. The activities included Bible study with other families and his wife’s Christian women’s group.

The Nov. 8 notice came as a surprise.

“No officials visited my house to check if it is a house or church,” he told Morning Star News. “I have been paying house tax, electricity and water bills promptly. Unless for the purpose of issuing the bills and collecting any payments, the municipal employees had never contacted me, they never had an objection.”

He and his family attend a local church, but the former Hindu said that when he gave up idol worship 13 years ago, he also began worshipping Jesus Christ in his home with his family and other relatives.

“I immediately submitted a response to the municipal officials stating it is my own house where I live with my family, and I had been praying peacefully in this house for 13 years now,” he said. “Even my friends and relatives join us and we pray together.”

Just as Hindus in India allot a room used as a mandir (temple) in their houses, Nagdeve set aside a prayer hall within his home, he said.

“We constructed this house after taking prior permission from the municipal authorities in 2005,” Nagdeve said. “Our journey in faith continued, and my wife uses the prayer hall space to pray with women as a sisters meeting, and some families also gather with us to study the Bible, but I am not professionally a pastor.”

As a house, his home is not subject to the permissions required of a church building, he said.

“Our prayers have never been a disturbance to anyone,” he said. “We pray peacefully within the four walls of my house, and from my residence to as far as 200 meters there is not a single house or any construction.”

The chief officer of the Balaghat municipal council, Chandra Kisore Bawre, told Morning Star News that “neighbors” had complained.

“The problem is when people apply for permission to construct a building, they don’t disclose the purpose, and we grant permission to only construct a house to live in it, but when the neighbors come to us with complaints, we must take action,” Bawre said.

Asked whether a family cannot pray together in their own home, Bawre said people in India are free to practice any religion. He acknowledged outside pressure to issue the notice.

“It was under the pressure by some people,” he said. “I issued the notice, but I did not take any action as yet. I will look into the matter soon.”

Hindu nationalists compelled Bawre to issue the notice, a source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News.

“They suspect Nagdeve forcibly converts Hindus, but it is not true,” the source said. “They should have enquired on this. The officials did not follow a protocol; it is clearly abuse of power.”

Nagdeve was frustrated in his own effort to contact the chief municipal officer.

“Despite calling the chief municipal officer’s chamber for appointment a number of times, I couldn’t meet him to submit my pleas,” he told Morning Star News.

[Full Story]

For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].