10/31/2019, 17.28
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American clergyman held for three weeks in West Bengal

by Nirmala Carvalho

Rev Bryan Nerren was taken into custody in Siliguri and his passport seized. He is the founder of Asian Children’s Education Fellowship, an NGO that has taught catechists in India and Nepal for 17 years. In 2015, the group raised thousands of dollars for the victims of the earthquake that devastated the Himalayan country.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Christian clergyman from the United States has been stuck in India for three weeks and cannot return to the United States because Indian authorities confiscated his passport.

Rev Bryan Nerren, who heads the International House of Prayer Ministries in Shelbyville (Tennessee), arrived in India on 5 October and has since been held in Siliguri, West Bengal.

His family has complained that he has been the victim of discrimination. The doctor who treated him in custody first asked him if he was a Christian, then spat on the floor when he said yes.

This, according to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), is unacceptable. He notes that “whilst it is unclear why he was arrested, foreigners who take part in Church initiatives are routinely detained.”

The American clergyman travelled to India on a speaking tour that included Nepal. He had money for two weeks travel, and was expected to meet more than a thousand Christians. During his stay, he was to meet 13 fellow ministers and make donations to local communities.

Rev Nerren landed at New Delhi airport more than three weeks ago with two other pastors. After the stopover in the capital, he took a domestic flight to Bagdogra (West Bengal).

In New Delhi, airport authorities found the money for the conferences and held him for over an hour. They eventually allowed him to take his flight directing him towards the lane reserved for domestic travellers, therefore not required to fill out forms to clear the money.

Upon arrival in Bagdogra, officials questioned him about his lack of clearance for the money and then proceeded to arrest him. He was kept in prison for six days before he was released on bail, but a judge kept his passport and imposed a travel ban. A hearing of his case was scheduled for 22 October but was postponed till 12 December.

The American clergyman is the founder of Asian Children’s Education Fellowship, an NGO that has provided spiritual training to catechists in India and Nepal for 17 years.

After Nepal’s devastating earthquake in 2015, which killed 9,000 people, the association raised US$ 60,000 to help Nepalis and the country rebuild.

Sajan K George notes that Rev Nirren “filled the forms he was requested to fill. He followed all protocols he was given. He was cleared and freed to go, but was arrested as he stepped off the plane in Bagdogra.”

For the Christian leader, this is an example of double standards. “It is a common sight to see foreign tourists participate enthusiastically in the Kumbh Mela and other [Hindu] religious festivals in India. They are rightly treated as honoured guests. Why this discrimination against Christians?”

(Photo credit: American Center for Law and Justice)

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