Maharashtra: Pentecostal pastor arrested on charges of practicing black magic

Rev Sebastian Marin was detained along with two members of the prayer centre he directs. The three are accused of violating the state’s Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act, a law against witchcraft. For Sajan K George, "Jesus is the Healer and there's nothing magic about praying or laying hands”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Police in Vasai, Maharashtra, arrested Rev Sebastian Marin, a Pentecostal minister on charges of witchcraft.

The clergyman, who is the founder of the Ashirwad prayer centre, was detained along with Vishnu Kudve, the centre’s director, and Vaibhav Tare, a staff member.

The arrests took place on 31 January, but were made public only now. Because of a back injury, the clergyman was admitted to the Jupiter Hospital in Thane. Police officers are stationed outside the medical facility.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIS), said that all this “is suspicious. Pentecostals believe that medicine and faith are compatible, that both are part of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ."

The three Christians were arrested following a complaint from Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), an organisation dedicated to "eradicate superstition" in India, under the state’s Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act, which was enacted following the murder of MANS’s founder.

Contacted by AsiaNews, the prayer centre refused to issue any statement. On its website, it describes itself as “a healing ministry based in [the] remote village of Vasai,” which is located on the outskirts of Mumbai, India. Its congregation is 99 per cent poor and non-Christians “who come to the prayer centre” to heed the life changing message of salvation, and to “get healed”.

For the GCIC president, "Pentecostal Christians see no contradiction in prescribing medicine, and, at the same time, trusting God for divine healing. People go to this centre, as well as Pentecostal-run facilities to pray, hoping to receive physical healing."

Ultimately, "Jesus is the Healer and there's nothing magic about praying or laying hands,” George said. “The arrest of the three Christians is unfair and has, as its sole purpose, to intimidate the community." (NC)