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06/22/2022 India (International Christian Concern) – Christians in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh mobilized last Saturday to protest restrictions on the construction of a church. The construction was halted by authorities in October 2020 after the Buddhist community, two local groups specifically, filed complaints. Following the Buddhists’ objections, the government judged the church construction to be “illegal.”  Authorities also arrested the local pastor, later releasing him on bail. The Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) organized the recent protests that brought attention to this church dispute. The ACF president stated, “The state government has failed to address our demand within the stipulated period which has led us to stage a ‘state-wide’ mass movement which was unanimously decided among representatives of all denominations of the Christian community of the state.

Christians have highlighted the fact that the church has stood on the land since 1999, with the recent construction and restoration beginning in 2015. Throughout this period of the church’s existence, however, governing authorities have dealt with the church and its community poorly. The government has simply ignored the community’s application for land allotment, initiated almost two decades ago in 2003. The ACF president testified that the government continues to be unreasonable today, saying, “The recommendations of the panel the State government had set up are not acceptable. How can the Christian community in Tawang relocate the church within six months when there is no designated or clearly demarcated land in Tawang?”

The church construction dispute has so far been contested in the public square, but protestors asserted their willingness to fight a legal battle should the government fail to address the problem. Religious freedom in India has steadily deteriorated in recent years, so a legal battle may be necessary to reach a fair solution. We pray for justice and equity for the Christian community in India.

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