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ICC Note: Sixteen Christians have been arrested on forced conversion charges in India’s Jharkhand state. According to reports, the Christians were preaching in Phulphari village on July 5 when they were opposed by the village’s president. The Christians were then held overnight by the villagers and handed over to police the next morning. False accusations of forced conversion are often used by radicals to harass Christian evangelists or justify physical assaults.

07/12/2018 India (World Watch Monitor) – A group of 16 Indian tribal Christians who visited another tribal family in the eastern state of Jharkhand to talk to them about Christianity are in police custody after the local village head accused them of “conversion by inducement”.

Last year, Jharkhand became the seventh Indian state to introduce a so-called “anti-conversion law”. Although ostensibly aimed at preventing “forced conversions”, in reality such laws are often used to prevent all conversions – whether by force or through free choice – and especially conversions away from Hinduism to minority religions such as Christianity.

Two months ago, 15 Christians were arrested under the same law.

In his complaint to police, Ramesh Murmu, the village president of Phulpahari, in Dumka District, alleged that 25 unknown people entered the village in the late evening on 5 July, installed a microphone and began proselytizing the tribal villagers.

A group of 25 Christian youths, volunteers from the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB), who are all also Adivasi (Sanskrit for “aboriginals”) tribals from different parts of eastern India, were on a mission to preach in the tribal hamlets.

They visited Biti Soren’s family in Phulpahari.

“We are the only Christian family here, and the FMPB group prayed for us and sang a couple of hymns, before the supporters of the village president opposed this prayer service,” Soren, who has now fled her village, told World Watch Monitor.

“[The villagers] threatened that there should not be any Christian teachings in the village,” she said, adding: “They were saying [the group’s] vehicles should be set on fire so nobody could move from here.”

The first complaint submitted by the village president to police, the morning after the group’s visit, said villagers had stopped the Christians from preaching against their gods and idol worship, and had held them all hostage all night. That morning, the police took the 25 youths into custody.

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