13 Christians in India Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison Under Forced Conversion Charges

ICC Note: Thirteen Pentecostal Christians in India’s Madhya Pradesh state have been sentenced to six months in prison after being convicted of attempting to forcefully convert Hindus to Christianity. Seven states in India have enacted Freedom of Religion Acts that prohibit forced religious conversions. Often, this vague law is used by Hindu radicals to falsely accuse Christians of forced conversions.  

02/16/2018 India (Asia News) – A court in Madhya Pradesh has sentenced 13 Pentecostal Christians to six months in prison for alleged forced conversions. The condemned include Balu Kesu and his wife, Bhuri, both of whom are vision impaired. Their defense attorney, Kamlesh Patidar, tried to obtain a reduction in their penalty for their handicap, but the judges were adamant.

Speaking to Asia News, Sajan K. George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), laments, “The vulnerability of Pentecostal Christians, including the two visually impaired tribals. They are victims of harassment, intimidation, and arrests on the basis of allegations made in our secular India.”

The convicted were arrested in January 2016. At least seven of these Christians are daily laborers. The court magistrate accepted the complaint filed by inhabitants of the village in which they reside in the district of Dhar. The residents accused the Pentecostals of trying to convert the tribals with the offer of economic rewards.

Govind, one of the plaintiffs, told the police that one day he was sitting at home with a friend when the condemned Christians came in to visit him. The Pentecostals allegedly told him, “We were also Hindus of the Bhil tribe in Bhilala, but we converted to Christianity. If you too convert, we will give you food, medicine, and we will help you invade the lands of the government because your gods and goddesses are weak.”

George explains that the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act “requires anyone who wants to change religion to obtain permission from the state administration. In the case of Madhya Pradesh, the state is governed by the BJP who, armed with the law and support of majority groups, arrest Pentecostal Christians with baseless charges. In this case, the money supply was used which is false and unfounded. But the majority groups have the best and the Christians are instead incriminated.”

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