04/10/2013, 00.00
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Christian missionary freed after eight years in Jharkhand prison

Rev Samuel, from the Gospel for Asia ministry, was arrested on suspected links with a Maoist group. In prison, he proclaimed the Gospel, converting 20 prisoners to Christianity.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A missionary with the Gospel for Asia ministry is free after eight years in prison on false charges of terrorism. Rev Samuel was freed in mid-March, but his release was reported only recently. The clergyman had been arrested in 2004 in the Indian state of Jharkhand for taking part in an incident caused by Naxalite (Maoist) militants in which 19 police officers were killed. Although he always said he had nothing to do with incident, the pastor was in jail for eight years, the victim of numerous delays in the proceedings. Undeterred, Brother Samuel continued to fight for his innocence and proclaim the Word of God even inside the prison.

"I was thrilled to receive the phone call informing us that our Pastor Samuel was released from prison," said K P Yohannan, founder and president Gospel for Asia (GFA), a Protestant ministry that operates in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal.

"Jesus told us we should not be surprised of such persecution when we follow him," he explained. Still, "I am so relieved to know our prayers have been answered. Our brother has remained faithful to his calling and now is free again."

Samuel's imprisonment dragged on for years as appeals and hearings were continually delayed, keeping him away from his wife and young daughter.

However, in eight years, jailers came to trust him, and they gave him permission to conduct prayer services on Sundays and Fridays. Many inside the prison came to know Christ.

As early as August 2010, an Indian court ruled that all charges against him should be dropped for lack of evidence of complicity or association with the insurgents. However, a final hearing necessary for release was not scheduled until March of this year.

"I was totally depressed in this situation, but the Lord helped me to realise he has a special plan for me to be in the prison," the missionary said. "The Lord is helping me to share the love of Jesus with the prisoners. Through my ministry, I see the transformation that is happening in their lives."

During his time in prison, about 20 prisoners decided to convert to Christianity. "Because Brother Samuel remained faithful in spite of persecution," Gospel for Asia founder said, "many in prison who would have never known of his love are now joyfully worshipping the name of Jesus."


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