07/30/2019, 18.48
INDIA
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Accusations of conversions trigger new anti-Christian violence in Uttar Pradesh

by Nirmala Carvalho

Christian religious activities spark strong tensions in the northern Indian state. Hindu radicals attacked a Protestant pastor in Kanpur district. Another was banned from performing religious services in Gonda. For the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, "insecurity, threats, intimidation and arrests mark the life of the Christian community."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The latest anti-Christian incident in India involves a Protestant clergyman who was beaten for praying for a sick elderly woman in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India where Hindu radicals use charges of conversion as a pretext to attack Christians.

Two days ago, members of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the ultra-nationalist Vishva Hindu Parishad (pictured), attacked Rev Raju Prasad, this according to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), who spoke to AsiaNews.

"In Kashiram Colony, Kanpur district, a woman had asked the pastor and two women to recite some prayers for her sick mother, who lives in her house. According to the daughter, the health of the old woman improved thanks to the invocations," George explained. Yet, Hindu extremists attacked Rev Prasad, before handing him over to the police on the charge of trying to convert Hindu believers to Christianity.

Ranjeet Rai, head of the Chakeri police station, said that the affair was resolved without a First Information Report (FIR) when both the pastor and the woman stated that no conversion took place. Still, the police officer warned her not to invite anyone to her house to pray.

"In the last few days we received complaints about conversions,” said the leader of the Bajrang Dal in Kanpur states. “Two days ago, we were told that some people had entered a house in Kashiram Colony and were converting people. We reached the spot and saw two women distributing religious material to a family. We took the pastor to the police station. There was a small scuffle when he objected”.

In Uttar Pradesh, Christian religious activities often generate strong tensions. In Gonda, in the district of the same name, police four days ago ordered a Pentecostal clergyman of the Assembly of Believers' Church (ABC) to stop performing religious services.

Sunny Tyagi, a Hindu convert to Protestantism, is the spiritual guide of a domestic church with a congregation of 35. Three years ago, he was the victim of an attack during a prayer meeting in at the home of a believer.

Last Friday, during his interrogation at the Kotwali police station, a crowd gathered outside the building and chanted slogans against Christians and conversions. Released only at 4 am the following day, the pastor was forced to leave the village.

"Tyagi was not involved in any criminal activity,” George said. “The people who attended his church were not all Christian, but those who did found peace and joy in prayer.”

"Even in the district of Moradabad, the small Pentecostal community is subject to constant harassment. The nature of their meetings is distorted and labelled conversion activity. Attackers manage to avoid criminal prosecution, whilst defenceless Christians are always arrested. Pentecostals are second-class citizens."

For the GCIC president, "India is a secular state with constitutional guarantees for religious freedom. Nevertheless, even in the 21st century, insecurity, threats, intimidation and arrests mark the life of the Christian community."

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