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02/19/2020 India (International Christian Concern) – A pastor in northeastern India was banished from a village where he led a regular worship service after radical Hindu nationalists falsely accused him of engaging in illegal conversions. Based on the false accusation, local police told the pastor that he would be arrested if he returned to the village.

On Sunday, February 2, a mob of radical Hindu nationalists disrupted a Christian worship service being led by Pastor Salit Barik in the village of Mayurbhanj, located in India’s Odisha state. According to local Christians, the mob abused Pastor Barik with filthy language and accused him of illegally converting Hindus to Christianity using “psychological tricks”. The mob went on to banish Pastor Barik from Mayurbhanj and warned that he would face “dire consequences” if he ever returned.

After kicking Pastor Barik out of the village, the radicals went on to file a report with local police against Pastor Barik. According to the radicals’ report, Pastor Barik was engaged in illegal religious conversions, violating the state’s anti-conversion law.

Police confronted Pastor Barik and told him that he could not return to Mayurbhanj. If he did, police told the pastor that he would be arrested and jailed. Police then took Pastor Barik’s picture and published it in the local newspaper labeling him a criminal engaged in illegal religious conversions.

Due to this tense situation, the Christian community in Mayurbhanj has been forced to hold their worship services without their pastor.

Across India, radical Hindu nationalists use false criminal accusations to harass Christian communities. Claims of illegal religious conversions and blasphemy are the most commonly used false accusations. Local police often side with the radicals and use the false allegations to arrest pastors, overlook assaults, and even close down churches.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]