Madhya Pradesh authorities intimidate Pentecostals
by Nirmala Carvalho

The revenue department in a local district sent a letter the members of the clergy of the Shalom Mission Church asking them to present personal documents and certify that their conversion did not take place by force. For Auxiliary Bishop Paul Muniya, “conversion takes place in the mind and the heart; we do not force anyone to become a Christian.”

Bhopal (AsiaNews) - In Madhya Pradesh, the authorities continue their intimidatory practices against Pentecostal clergymen.

In Jhabua district, the local revenue department summoned several Christian religious leaders and asked them to present personal information, including about their priestly appointment, and documents relating to their conversion.

In its letter, the department also asks the pastors of Shalom Mission Church to indicate if their conversion took place by force, so that it can proceed with legal actions in case of forced conversion. All documents must be presented in person on 22 September.

“The Shalom Mission Church was officially registered in 2008,” said Paul Muniya, an Auxiliary Bishop in the Church, speaking AsiaNews.

“At least 23 Pentecostal pastors received the letter from the revenue department asking them to prove their legal status. We will present ourselves on the appointed day with our lawyers,” the prelate added.

Registered under the name of Shalom Kalisiya Samiti, the Pentecostal church has several prayer groups in remote villages of Jhabua district.

However, as Bishop Muniya explains, “conversion takes place in the mind and the heart; we do not force anyone to become a Christian.”

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), slammed the government intimidatory action.

“Jhabua is a largely tribal area. Right-wing extremists track and monitor the activities of Christians by infiltrating prayer groups,” George explained.

For the GCIC president, the latest developments are a source of concern. “We fear that this action by the revenue department will add to the usual discrimination, undermining constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of religion.”

George notes that the Christian community in India is only 2.3 per cent of the population. “It is not a threat to the majority; on the contrary, it serves the nation through its educational and health apostolate.”