07/19/2018, 18.45
INDIA
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Two Pentecostals arrested for 'forced conversions' in Chhattisgarh are released

by Nirmala Carvalho

Rev Thomas George and his wife were released yesterday. The police had arrested them on 13 July on charges of forced conversions. On 15 July, Hindu radicals attacked a church during a service, and beat up the faithful. For Christian leader, "Using conversion to scare people is just an excuse to mobilise Hinduvta groups.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Christians arrested on false charges of forced conversion were released on bail yesterday, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews.

"On 13 July, Rev Thomas George and his wife, Binu, were falsely accused of forced conversions and arrested in Rajnandgaon, in the State of Chhattisgarh," George explained.

Two days later, a church was attacked in Rajendra Nagar, near Raipur (Chhattisgarh) during a worship service. The attackers beat up the people present, men, women and children. Later, an angry mob of Hindu radicals attacked Christians at the police station.

For the GCIC president, "The Chhattisgarh incidents are very worrisome. Two attacks in two days are a symptom of a problem that concerns this and the neighboring state of Jharkhand."

"There's a pattern in the attacks, and it's not a good sign," George said. Vulnerable Christians are intimidated, mistreated and persecuted. The Pentecostal Church has served tribal people for decades in this area, without asking anything in return. It provides quality education, healthcare and work to tribal peoples.

"But all this is seen as a missionary tactic to convert. For experts, this propaganda of unsubstantiated hatred is manufactured by those who have interests in the area. Using conversion to scare people is just an excuse to mobilise Hinduvta groups.”

Under the state’s Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2006, those who convert people through fraud or force are liable to a three-year prison sentence and a 20,000-rupee fine.

This is an anti-conversion law for all intents to prevent conversions from Hinduism to other religions, but not the other way around. In fact, according to law "the return to the original religion of their ancestors or to their original religion should not be interpreted as conversion."

However, George notes that "tribal people are not Hindus, they are animists, so the reconversion is only a trick to unleash intolerance and to sow seeds of division among the tribal people themselves."

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