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Police arrested pastors and children on their way to a church camp; Charges include abduction and forced conversion; parents support pastors

NEW DELHI / INDORE – On 30 August the High Court of Madhya Pradesh ordered the release of the seven pastors that were arrested while accompanying children to a Christian summer camp in May 2017. The pastors had to spend more than 3 months in prison until the Court issued the bail order. The Christian ministers are charged with kidnapping, violence against the children and forceful conversion. All parents immediately testified to the police and the Court that they wanted their children to participate in the camp. The children were also initially detained for 3 days and rigorously questioned. This is only one of many cases in India exposing the increasing hostility of the authorities against religious minorities.   

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. In India, many citizens face fierce harassment because they belong to a religious minority”, said Robin David, an ADF International allied lawyer, who is defending the Christians in Court. “We cannot allow the authorities to ignore the Constitution which grants the freedom to practice and propagate religion. This case will be very important for India and its future as a country with diverse faiths and cultures.”    

Rising hostility against Christians and other religious minorities

On 23 May, at Ratlam train station, Madhya Pradesh, the local police detained a group of pastors and fellow Christians, including two women and two minors, who were accompanying more than 60 children. The group was on its way to a Christian summer camp in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra. All parents immediately confirmed in front of the local Court that they had willingly sent their children to the camp. While the children were allowed to return to their homes after three days, the pastors and most of the coworkers were held in jail. Only now has the Madhya Pradesh High Court released them on bail.

“In India, we see an increasingly hostile climate towards religious minorities. Anti-conversion laws fuel this sentiment and pave the way for the Hindutva-ideology that seeks to purge India of all non-Hindus. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. The international community needs to wake up to what is happening in India,” said Paul Coleman, Deputy Director of ADF International, a human rights group advocating for the right of people to live out their faith freely.

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