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  • » 10/31/2017, 17.17

    INDIA

    Pentecostal missionaries, seven Christian children arrested then released

    Nirmala Carvalho

    The members of the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society were accused of forced conversions in Uttar Pradesh. The children were locked up for a week in a Madhya Pradesh juvenile facility without access to their parents.

    New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Intolerance and discrimination against India’s Christian minority continue. The latest episodes were recorded in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

    In the first case, some Pentecostal Christians were first arrested on charges of forced conversions and then released on bail; in the second, seven children were reunited with their parents after spending a week in a juvenile facility over attending a Christian religion course.

    On 28 October, a group of Hindu extremists allegedly from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu ultranationalist paramilitary group, stormed a church in Dudhi, Uttar Pradesh, along with local police.

    About 1,500 people had gathered for a prayer and fasting meeting organised by the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS), a Pentecostal group.

    Local authorities had been informed of the event, which had been authorised. But “Hindu radicals put pressure on the police to stop organisers," said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

    The cops said they had received numerous phone calls complaining about forced conversions. When they arrived at the gathering, they stopped the event and forced participants to leave.

    About 230 people, unable to take the train to go home, found accommodations at the GEMS English school.

    Police charged seven Pentecostal leaders in connection with the meeting, but then released them the following day.

    For their part, some Hindu extremists visited the school to make sure that no prayer gathering was taking place.

    According to the GCIC president, "Christians were not doing anything illegal, they were not breaking the law, or creating problems for public order. By contrast, the [Hindu] extremists caused confusion with their fabricated allegations.”

    “Nighttime arrests and detention are a serious violation of religious freedom,” George explained. “We Christians are not second-class citizens; we too have constitutional guarantees."

    Meanwhile, the Indore section of the Madhya Pradesh High Court returned seven children to their families.

    They had been held in a juvenile facility, segregated, without the possibility of their parents after they were taken into custody on 23 October at the Indore Railway Station as they were about to board a train for Mumbai. In Maharashtra’s largest city, they were supposed to attend a religion course.

    Although their parents were aware of the reason for the trip and had given their consent, the children were locked up and the two Christian companions, Anita Joseph, 50, and Amrit Kumar, 51, were arrested and charged with forced conversions. The latter must still appear before a judge.

    "India has always been famous for its pluralism and multicultural society,” said Sajan K George. “Unfortunately today, these incidents against Christians leave room in society for a single ideology, a single belief system that excludes, marginalises and oppresses people of other faiths."

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