Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Police in Madhya Pradesh have arrested four Pentecostals, including a clergyman, last Sunday, after breaking into Bethel Church in Kalibai, a village in Dewas district. About thirty people were praying at the time, the second Sunday of Advent.
Police took into custody Rev Karan and three worshippers, Kiram, Bhikha and Bagwan Singh, and brought them to Khategaon station, where they are still held in detention.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that their arrest was illegal, calling it the “latest episode of intolerance against Christians". According to the GCIC president, "Christians are increasingly intimidated and harassed.”
“There is a palpable fear among,” George added, “especially during this period of Advent, where prayer services and functions take place in small churches in preparation for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ ".
Anti-conversion legislation, according to him is "an instrument of harassment by radical right-wing groups, with which they can accuse Christians of forced conversions and push the police to quickly detain them."
A notorious anti-conversion law is in force in Madhya Pradesh, which was amended in 2013 to make it even more restrictive by punishing anyone who tries to convert Hindus to Christianity.
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act came into force in 1968, banning conversions obtained by force or money.
However, the law has been largely used to persecute Christians through false accusations of forced conversions against people who decide to embrace religions other than Hinduism.
"In small remote areas, where Jesus is the only refuge, where people come and experience a deep sense of peace and belonging to the community of believers, fringe groups disrupt the act of worship,” said the Christian activist. “They even use violence against the congregation, beating up women and children."