04/07/2021, 15.46
INDIA
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Protestant pastor arrested at Easter under Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law

by Nirmala Carvalho

Rajendra Dwivedi is in prison for comparing on his blog the salvation of Jesus and what is revealed in the Vedas and Upanishads. For Sajan K. George, of the Global Council of Indian Christians, “The accusation of hurting religious sentiments is the new mantra for right-wing nationalist forces who seek any pretext in their offensive against religious minorities.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Rajendra Dwivedi, the coordinator of the Education Commission of the Archdiocese of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, was arrested on Easter Sunday, after he compared on his blog the salvation of Jesus to the revelations in  Vedas and Upanishads.

Madhya Pradesh is one of the Indian states that have recently tightened its anti-conversion law.

Dwivedi was taken to Narayanpur Police Station in Mandsaur, a district about 345 kilometres from Bhopal, after a complaint was filed against him. The court ordered him remanded into custody pending further investigation.

Pastor Rajendra met Jesus while he was a district education officer. He immediately left his job to serve his Master. He and his wife are fully committed to the ministry in Bhopal.

“Rajendra Dwivedi embraced Jesus as a Saviour 15 years ago,” said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. “Police arrested him on charges of hurting religious sentiments, and seized his computer and phone.”

“India's tiny Christian community was under constant surveillance, even before Madhya Pradesh passed the new anti-conversion law, but now it has become easier to arrest and harass people on flimsy charges.” For George, “it is thus even more urgent to ensure respect and tolerance for other religions in a pluralistic society.

“We live in a secular India and respect and tolerance must also be guaranteed for Christians. Instead, under these new laws, Christians are often threatened and arrested on fabricated evidence of forced conversion.

“The accusation of hurting religious sentiments is the new mantra for right-wing nationalist forces, who seek any pretext in their offensive against religious minorities.”

For Father Maria Stephan, head of public relations at the Archdiocese of Bhopal, “This is a new sign of religious intolerance, contrary to the values of the constitution such as freedom of expression and the right to bear witness to one's religion.”

“More and more arrests of this kind are taking place after the latest laws; and fundamentalists are taking full advantage of them,” he told AsiaNews.

“The Risen Christ calls on Christians to be more vibrant in proclaiming him. it is a struggle between truth and lies, justice and injustice, light and darkness. The lies are quick to appear, but the truth lasts forever.”

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