F Internation al* Free to Pray In India, an increasing number of Christians are fac
The police did not hesitate. Officer s surrounded the group of 70 an d made clear that there was no escape . The children obeyed. Most of them were no older than nine years old. They protes ted at first. They did not understand wh y the police would try to detain the g roup. They were at the train station at R atlam, Madhya Pradesh, waiting to board the train to the neighbouring state of Mahara shtra, ready to participate in a Christian summer camp. Among the group were seven p astors and three co-workers. They were prep ared to spend some time in the countryside, sharing with the children their faith. Inste ad, the police threw them into prison. Children in jail The young children had to endure jail for three full days, before they were al lowed to return to their parents. In the m eantime, their families had protested at th e police and at court, confirming that th ey wanted their children to participate in the camp and that the pastors had not abducted a ny of the children. The police conducted interrogations, pressing the c hildren to accuse the grown-ups of violen ce against them. They failed and had to release the children eventually. The pasto rs and their co-workers were les s fortunate. ADF International and its all ies in India got involved in the case immediately. The incident happened on 23 May 2017, and ADF International’s a llied lawyers quickly intervened at the local courts asking on what grounds the pastors w ere detained. It took several weeks to obt ain an answer and only after the regional H igh Court and the Supreme Court got involved in the case. It turned out that the past ors and their co-workers were charged wit h kidnapping, violence against the children, and proselytizing. Only after thre e months were they released on bail. But the C hristians are still facing prison sentences up t o seven years for organizing a Christian church camp. Sadly, this is only one among st many cases in India exposing the increasing hostility of the authorities against religiou s minorities. Increas ing hostility All Christian denominatio ns are facing the same difficulties in India. “Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. In India, many citi zens face fierce harassment because they belong to a By AD
i n g persecution. religious minority,” s aid Robin David, an ADF International al lied lawyer, who is defending the pasto rs in Court. “We cannot allow the authoriti es to ignore the Constitution which grant s the freedom to practice and propagate re ligion. This case will be very important for India and its future as a country with d iverse fait hs and cultures.” Despite the country ’s deeply diverse religious demographic a nd a robust civil society, India finds itsel f in the throes of Hindu nationalism an d violence against religious minoritie s. The Pew Research Center’s 2015 Rel igious Restrictions Report has found th at India ranks very high among the countries with the fiercest restrictions o n religious freedom. The United States Commission on International Reli gious Freedom claimed that the government e ngages in serious and systematic violation s of this fundamental freedom. This vio lence is driven by the Hindutva ideolog y that sees India as a Hindu nation in whic h religious minorities are second-class citiz ens. Top-level central and state governm ent officials within the current ru ling BJP party have made controvers ial statements promoting political push f or anti-conversion laws, making it almo st impossible for people to convert to anot her religi on, other than H induism. Need to wake up In India, we see an increasingly hostile climate towar ds religious minorities. Anti-conversion laws fuel this sentiment and pave t he way for the Hindutva- ideology that see ks to purge India of all non-Hindus. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. “Th e international community needs to wak e u p to what is happe ning “ The interna tional community ne eds to wake up to w hat is happening in India in India,” sai d Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF
International. Defending Christians and their right to freely live out their faith is an ongoing struggle. Winning the right cases at l ocal and regional courts, as well as at the Supreme Court, helps tremendous ly. Allied lawyers of ADF International have so far achieved more than 200 victor ies for Indian Christians facing per secution. An encouraging, positive result for a country with a huge pot e tial for chur ch growth. HELP P ROTECT INDIA’S CHRISTIANS *ADF Internati onal is a Christian legal organisation advocating for the right of people to fr eely live out their fa ith in the UK and beyond. Get invo n lved and support our work with your gen erous gift. 0800 1 97 3435 Please, call now, to h elp persecuted Christians !"#$% '()
*"!+%, -+."/ 0$% )$1+".)% a le tter of ADF Inter national in this issue of Catholic Hera ld.