Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Two different Christian communities in India spent Christmas in jail. The episodes of persecution took place in the States of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, where groups of Hindu fundamentalists interrupted prayer services that had been organized to celebrate the birth of Christ, beat the faithful Christians, and had them arrested by police accusing them of forced conversions. Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), reported the matter to Asia News, describing it as "a serious violation of religious freedom."
The first case occurred in the village of Balisuda (district of Sundergarh, Orissa). Police arrested three Protestant pastors - the reverend R. Mahanta, J. Das and Kaila Badaika - and six faithful, disrupting Christmas celebrations. The officers acted on a complaint filed by about 35 Hindu fundamentalists in the area. The extremists accused the Christians of practicing forced conversions on tribal families in the area. The converts - 15 families in all - claim to have embraced Christianity in total freedom.
A similar case occurred in the village of Deogarh (Khandua district, Madhya Pradesh). On 25 December, four people started taking photographs of the faithful of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB), a Pentecostal community led by Brother Jibaratna Bira and his wife Siporah Singh. The Christians asked the strangers to leave, but after 15 minutes or so, a mob of about 100 radical Hindus stormed the FMPB headquarters. Armed with sticks, the fundamentalists insulted Christ and threatened to kill those present.
Some 25 faithful, together with the pastor and his family fled seeking to hide in the nearby jungle. However on December 26, they were found and beaten. The fundamentalists did not even spare the women or the Reverend's daughters. The Christians were handed over to the police, charged with practicing forced conversions, and jailed.
On December 27, a court upheld the charges and confirmed the arrested Christians stay in prison.