10/05/2015, 00.00
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh, three Pentecostal Christians arrested for alleged forced conversions

by Nirmala Carvalho
The three work for the NGO Gospel Echoing Missionary Society, which has worked for more than 40 years in the northern states of India. Religious material, CDs and projectors confiscated. Two men allegedly paid to convert. Christian leader: "The Pentecostal Christians were arrested under the pernicious anti-conversion law that violates religious freedom."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Madhya Pradesh police have arrested three Pentecostal Christians accused of proselytizing and forced conversions in the central Indian region. The arrest took place on Saturday night (October 3) in a school Majhgawan in Satna district (in the north of the state), while the three men were giving courses in religion.

Msgr. Leo Cornelius, archbishop of Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), told AsiaNews: "The police conducted the arrests on the basis of a simple 'complaint', without any investigation: this is a serious violation of human rights. Some fanatics put pressure on the police without any evidence of actual attempts at forced conversions. The agents then carry out the arrests. What happened is a serious violation”.

The three men work for the NGO Gems (Gospel Echoing Missionary Society), which has been present for more than 40 years in the northern Indian states. Majhgawan Police report that those arrested are: Stephan Rajkumar, 40, a resident of Chennai (in Tamil Nadu); Harilal 20, from Rewa, in Madhya Pradesh; Anil Kumar, Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh).

According to the policeman Khem Singh, the Christians violated sections 3 and 4 of the 1968 norm the Madhya Pradesh Dharm Swatantrya Adhiniyam and some articles of the Criminal Code.

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews that "the law violates religious freedom. The police are giving in to right-wing activists with arrests conducted in compliance with the pernicious anti-conversion law. The police are wasting time instead of acting against these attacks on religious minorities”.

Singh reports that two men reported the three Christians, claiming they had been offered 5 thousand rupees [approximately EUR 68 - Ed] to convert. During the arrest, the police also seized religious material, CDs and projectors. Another 10 people are reportedly willing to testify against Christians.

The president of the GCIC said that "India is a secular republic, where every religion is equal before the law. The GCIC appeals to the National Human Rights Commission of India and the National Commission for Minorities for guaranteeing security and freedom of confession to the tiny Christian community in Madhya Pradesh ".

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