- Pastor saved from prison, false accusation unraveled
- Christians face increased mob-violence in 2019
NEW DELHI (6 May 2019) – A pastor of a small Indian village in Madhya Pradesh was acquitted of the charges held against him under disputed anti-conversion laws. In 2016, Pastor Balu, his wife, his son, and members of his congregation were violently attacked, later detained by the police and falsely accused of forcing conversions to Christianity. The landmark ruling marks an important victory against India’s anti-conversion laws, which increasingly threaten the fundamental rights of religious minorities.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The acquittal of Pastor Balu and his family is a vital step towards the protection of religious freedom and the right to freely live out one’s faith. Now he can continue to tend to his small community of Christians without interference from the state. Unfortunately, this is not the only case in India where Christians have been falsely accused under anti-conversion laws. These laws make religious minorities subject to arbitrary imprisonments and criminal charges, mob violence, and violations of their fundamental rights,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India.
Steady rise in violence against Christians in India
Three years ago, a group of nationalists stormed Pastor Balu’s church during a service beating and harassing worshipers. The police came and arrested Pastor Balu, his wife, and his six-year-old son, stripped them of their clothes, beat them, and kept them detained without bail for three days, as Mrs Saste re-counted in this video interview. They were convicted of forced conversions. Now, the court has acquitted them of the charges held against them.
In 2019, violence against Christians has risen significantly. In the first quarter of the year, the United Christian Forum and ADF India documented more than 80 violent mob attacks against Christians in 13 different states across India. The attacks often take a similar shape and rarely receive any police attention. A mob will arrive at a prayer meeting or Christian gathering, shout abuse and harassment, and beat up those in attendance including women and children. Then, as in the case of Pastor Balu, the pastors or priests are usually arrested by the police under false allegations of forced conversions. With the ongoing elections in India, Christians and other religious minorities hope that the results will provide for more protections of their fundamental right to freedom of religion.
Protecting the fundamental rights of religious minorities
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, said, “The case of Pastor Balu provides a telling example of the injustices faced by many Christians in India. The important ruling in his case shows that the fundamental rights of religious minorities can and should be protected in the courtroom and through effective legal advocacy. Sadly, the recent violence and mob attacks are not isolated incidents but testify to what many Christians experience in India today. All people have the right to freely choose, and live out their faith. We urge the Indian government to uphold this right and do more to protect religious minorities and promote religious freedom.”
Recently, for the first time, India has entered the top ten of the world watch list for the persecution of Christians. This persecution stems from a recent growth in nationalism. See Tehmina Arora speak about the persecution of Christians in India on BBC World.