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Saturday, May 25, 2024

I’m Human, Right? Anti-Conversion Laws in India Criminalizing Christianity

IndiaI'm Human, Right? Anti-Conversion Laws in India Criminalizing Christianity

Christians are harassed in Asaralli Village in Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra, forced to say Jai Shri Ram and put tikkas.

The recent harassment of Christians in Asaralli Village in the Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra is causing outrage among the Christian community.  Christians were harassed in Asaralli Village in Sironcha Taluka in Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra, forced to say Jai Shri Ram and put tikkas on May 10, 2022.

They harassed women as well.

The last few years have been some of the most violent in recent times for Christians and the United Christian Forum said 2021 was the “most violent year for Christians” in India.  In fact after the 2008 violence and since 2014, ADF International stepped up too.  Many groups have started toll-free helplines to assist Christians in distress

Recently, USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) recommends 15 countries for “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) designation in their 2022 Annual Report, and India is on the list.

ADF International

ADF International is a faith-based legal advocacy organization.  Do listen in to this powerful video where a volunteer shares how especially after 2014 when things got so intimidating for Christians that ADF International was forced to step up and protect Christians in India.

The volunteer shares that in 2008, for the first time they saw terrible violence against Christians ( http://www.asianews.it/news-en/At-least-500-Christians-killed-in-Orissa,-government-sources-say-13658.html reports at least 500 Christians were killed in Odhisa, an event much masked) in the Eastern part of India in the State of Odisha, unprecedented violence as never before experienced by Christians in India.

There were 264 churches burned down, houses burned, and horrifically Christians burned alive as well as killed in other heinous manners in a three-day-long pogrom.  There were 50, 000 who were displaced from their homes, and many fled to forests as well to take shelter, and some were bitten by poisonous snakes and died while others perished due to starvation.

After this dreadful massacre, the Christian volunteers started meeting senior government officials, and they even met the Prime Minister, the President, and they were updating him on the situation but nothing was changing on the ground.

The Christian volunteers suddenly realized it was not enough to be doing training or sending out prayer requests, they realized they needed to be more involved.

The violence comes from a small group of people who believe that India is a Hindu nation. (India constitutionally is a democratic “secular” republic meaning it is equal for all citizens).   What the volunteer observed in patterns of violence across the country.  In this, they noticed that when a small group of Christians would gather together perhaps for prayer, fellowship, or even for dinner, they would have a mob that would descend into that home or the church and beat up everyone present there!  They would then take the leader of that particular meeting such as the pastor or evangelist and drag them to the police station and try and have them arrested under laws called the anti-conversion laws.

What the anti-conversion law requires Christians to do is every time there is a religious conversion, it must be reported to the district authorities.  The district authority is then to launch a formal inquiry into your religious conversion and they will decide whether or not your conversion was under force, the term force includes the term Divine Displeasure.  So this means if one holds a gun to one’s head and said, “Convert to Christianity” of course, one would be guilty under the law.  But if one also said, “If you don’t believe in Christ, you could go to hell”, that is the threat of Divine Displeasure and, therefore, you would be guilty under the law.

(At the present time, the laws are in force in eight out of twenty-nine states: Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand).

A pastor has a case against him and he is having to defend himself in a court of law, but the mob that beat him up or dragged him to the police station has no action taken against them.

The Indian Christians challenged this law in 2012, can it ever be the state’s decision to decide who can or cannot be a Christian.  Who could intervene and who could stop that conversion. (no one until now can prove there has been a forced conversion unless it is a setup propaganda case).

The anti-conversion laws fail to protect the dignity of each person and violate basic international human rights norms.  One group under threat is the Dalits, which comprise 70% of the church community in India.

ADF states, “We want to stop violence and hostility against the Dalits and the negation of their rights.”

The volunteer said that she is excited about the fact they can take these challanges to the High Court and the Supreme Court of India knowing that they stand on solid ground. The Indian Constitution provides under Article 25 the freedom of conscience and the right to propagate, profess and practice one’s faith. It is a Constitutional fundamental guaranteed right.

Protect your fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Well, speaking about India as the world’s largest democracy, one wonders how people of other faiths in the democratic West which is predominantly Christian would feel if Christians forced them to say “Jesus Christ is Lord” and forced them to partake of the communion or even made everyone forcefully wear Crosses. Thank God no one does it there!

When one talks of freedom of rights, one has to respect the parameters of everyone’s religion, which is quintessentially run by different rules, customs, and belief systems which is why religion can only co-exist peacefully by mutual respect.

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