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Hope for Easter? Indian Supreme Court protects Christian leader while anti-conversion conflict continues

– Christian professor faces prison on baseless grounds

– Spread of anti-conversion law threatens traditional Easter baptisms

 

NEW DELHI – On 27 March 2018, the Supreme Court of India protected the prominent Christian leader Amit Kumar Soren from being imprisoned while awaiting trial. He is a professor at the Christian College St. Columba in the State of Jharkhand. Earlier in 2016, police filed criminal charges against Soren accusing him of engaging in deliberate acts intended to outrage the majority of the population’s religious sentiments. The Supreme Court’s recent action provides some solace in the run-up to Easter, the most important time of the year for India’s ill-treated Christian minority.

Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Yet violence against religious minorities has become a daily routine in some parts of India. We receive an ever-increasing number of calls for help, especially from Christians, who have been physically attacked, discriminated against in their job or by authorities, and who face constant harassment in their communities,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India, a human rights organization, which supports the case of Amit Kumar Soren.

“Professor Soren’s case just shows how absurd the allegations against Christians have become. He was falsely accused of inciting hate. The only thing he did was to organize a public gathering and stand up for religious freedom in India. He now faces up to three years in prison. The Indian Constitution protects religious freedom. Local authorities should respect that.”

Absurd allegations

In August 2017, the state of Jharkhand introduced the so-called “Religious Freedom Bill.” In reality, it is a far-reaching anti-conversion law, requiring converts to inform state officials of the time, place and the name of the person administering the conversion. Perpetrators face fines of up to 100,000 Rupee and four years of imprisonment.

“Many Christian baptisms take place around Easter. Some churches already fear crackdowns from communal authorities because of the strict requirements of anti-conversion laws. These laws also fuel aggressions by Hindu-fundamentalists against minority groups. The reports our allies from the United Christian Forum receive through their nationwide helpline testify to that. The government and the international community need to wake up to what is happening here in India,” Arora said.

Helpline against persecution

The United Christian Forum toll-free helpline has reported more than 600 cases of attacks on Christians since 2014. In 2017 alone, 216 incidents have occurred. Out of 29 states in India, at least 19 regularly witness attacks on Christians. Tamil Nadu tops the list with 41 incidents as of 30 November 2017, followed by Chhattisgarh (39), Uttar Pradesh (27), and Madhya Pradesh (22). These attacks range from oral threats to beatings and even rape.  In the first two months of 2018, there were over 40 incidents of violence.

Find the press release in French here

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