NOW KARNATAKA PASSES ANTI-CONVERSION LAW
Karnataka has become the latest state in India to pass a controversial anti-conversion law to try to limit Christian witness. The state governor gave his backing to the Bill on May 17.
According to the Indian press, on the day the law was passed, radical Hindu nationalists attacked a husband and wife who were said to be sharing their faith, and handed them over to the police.
They accused the Christians of forcibly converting more than 1,000 Hindus.
The couple, who were reportedly ‘caught red-handed’ handing out Bibles, have been named in the Indian press as Pastor V. Kuriyachan (62) and his wife Selenamma (57).
They were sent to 14 days in custody under an existing law forbidding actions intended to outrage religious feelings. They could yet face charges under the new anti-conversion law.
Even before the new law was passed Christians were being persecuted for their faith.
One pastor told International Christian Concern (ICC): ‘We were attacked and assaulted when there was no anti-conversion law in this state. Now that is passed, this law gives them a reason to beat us and attack us.
‘The Christians in our state are scared. We see the trend – and the worst is yet to come.’
The new anti-conversion law gives the authorities power to imprison violators for up to five years and to fine them 25,000 Indian rupees.
The sentence is even more severe where the gospel is preached to women or children.
The anti-conversion movement in India is spreading. Karnataka is reportedly the 11th state in India to legislate against conversion. There are 28 states in the sub-continent and eight union territories. Momentum is building for a national so-called Freedom of Religion Bill.
On the face of it, such laws prevent the conversion of people by force or bribery. But in practice, they limit Christian witness by treating charitable work as bribery, and the discussion of sin, accountability, and a judgment to come as intimidation and force.
The rising tide of Hindu intolerance and violence means India has become a country of particular concern to Release International and others.
Release International has long opposed the anti-conversion laws in India, which are a one-way street. Hindus remain free to convert others to their faith, which they often refer to as ‘homecoming’, rather than conversion.
‘These laws target all Indian citizens, and deny Hindus the right to change their faith,’ says Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International.
Many of those who are turning to Christ are the Dalits, India’s underclass, the poorest of the poor who are often despised and given the most menial of tasks. They are responding to the gospel message that Jesus loves them and laid down his life for them.
Please pray for India’s Christians, who are experiencing increased persecution.
Pray that they will know the peace and presence of God, and have the courage to remain faithful witnesses.
And pray for India that it will recognise the direction it is heading – towards violent religious intolerance – and will turn around.
Sources: ICC; OpIndia