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06/05/2019 India (International Christian Concern) – Christian leaders across India have been disturbed by comments made by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister comparing religious conversion to rape. Many have complained these comments perpetuate of a false anti-Christian and represent a direct assault on the religious freedom rights protected by India’s constitution.

Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, told The Print, “Suppose somebody helped a girl in a medical or engineering college and wanted to enjoy the girl physically. That would be treated as a crime, an inhuman act. Similarly, if somebody wants to convert or exploit someone’s belief by giving some service or money, then that should also be treated as a crime – a crime against nature, a crime against humanity.

Conversion has been done throughout the country through fraud, forced, or allure,” Sarangi continued. “This is illegal and subject to punishment under this law.

Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force or allurement to convert Hindus to Christianity. These accusations, and the false narrative of mass illegal conversions to Christianity, are used to throw Christian leaders in prison and justify assaults on Christians and their places of worship.

While the claim of mass conversions is often perpetuated by Hindu nationalists, this narrative in not supported by India’s own census data. In 1951, India held its first census after gaining independence in 1947. According to the results of that census, Christians made up 2.3% of India’s total population. According to the 2011 census, the latest figures available, Christians remain 2.3% of India’s total population.

Christians continued to be viewed as the masters of [conversions] despite census figures remaining stagnant since independence,” A.C. Michael, Development Director for the Alliance Defending Freedom India, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “However, this does not mean Christians will stop practicing their faith as guaranteed by the constitution of India.

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