05/25/2015, 00.00
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Odisha: Christian minister imprisoned on (false) accusations of forced conversions

by Nirmala Carvalho
Rev Timothy Chaitanya Murmu, from the Pentecostal community in the village of Manohar, has been in jail for four days. He is "guilty" of baptising 16 tribal people. For the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), he was arrested because of a “legal technicality”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Rev Timothy Chaitanya Murmu, Pentecostal minister in the village of Manohar (Odisha), has been in prison for the past four days on false charges of forced conversion.

Police in Anandpur arrested the clergyman last Wednesday for baptising 16 tribal people. According to the indictment, he allegedly "forced" them to embrace Christianity in exchange for money.

"In September 2014, Rev Murmu celebrated the baptism of 16 tribal residents in the village of Baniajodi,” Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews.

“The ceremony took place only after obtaining 16 notarised affidavits in which the catechumens said they had embraced Christianity of their own free will.”

However, "the pastor did not present his certificate of baptism, which occurred in 1980,” the GCIC leader noted. “Based on this legal technicality, required by the anti-conversion law, police arrested him."

A so-called "anti-conversion law" is in place in Odisha, which theoretically bans all conversions achieved by force or monetary exchange.

However, the authorities often used it to persecute Christians, on false allegations of forced conversions.

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