In May 2017, the eight Christians were arrested while accompanying 60 children to a summer camp. Lawyers had to appeal to the High Court to reunite children and parents. Activist lawyer: "We must not forget the impact that similar false cases have on families."
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - A Madhya Pradesh court acquitted a group of eight Christians on charges of kidnapping 60 children for the purpose of forcibly converting them to Christianity.
The accused, six men and two women, were freed yesterday by the criminal court in Ratlam.
The lawyers of ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) India, who defend Christians, recount the explosion of joy in the courtroom at the reading of the sentence. Tehmina Arora, director of the group, says: "Justice has finally been done!".
The case dates back to May 2017, when Christians were stopped by train while accompanying tribal children to a "Bible camp", a summer center in Nagpur. Despite having parental consent, the police separated the children from the adults, then denounced the children for "kidnapping and forced conversions" according to the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act.
The law, considered a "draconian" norm and criticized by the community Christian, punishes anyone who tries to convert by offering money and other fraudulent means with imprisonment of up to three years and a heavy fine. The sentence increases to four years in prison in case of involvement of Dalits or tribals.
At first, lawyers turned to the state high court to reunite the children with their families. Then they got bail release for those arrested after three months in prison. Two and a half years after the start of the investigation, the judges finally ruled in favor of the Christians who have always claimed to be innocent.
According to activists, “the courage and faith of Christians against all odds and their trust in the fact that the court eventually did justice is to be commended. These men and women remained full of grace in the face of the misfortune that was directed against them by biased authorities who carried forward a false narrative frequently used to target Christians. "
Their lawyer Arora stresses: "We must not forget the impact that similar false cases have on families. Nobody should be targeted for their faith. Anti-conversion laws are tools to harass and target Christians and should be repealed because they limit the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution of India. "