Gospel for Asia Missionaries Released

Sunday, August 10, 2008

KARNATAKA, INDIA (GFA) -- Four Gospel for Asia missionaries being held in a Karnataka, India, jail were released Friday after spending more than a week there. They are now being taken to a hospital for medical treatment.

The missionaries, Yohan Samuel, Raj Lohra, Nanji Bir and Shobha Joshi*, were arrested July 31 and charged with attempting to force people to convert to Christianity and with “offending the sentiments of the people.”

They were granted bail on Tuesday after several days of negotiations between GFA leaders and the court. However, several unusual stipulations were applied to their case.

The conditions were as follows:
Post bail money
Five local landowners with extensive holdings must sign off on their release
A certified local government official must sign off on the release

Gospel for Asia leaders were able to meet the requirements, but the judge who granted the missionaries’ bail was on vacation until Friday. The missionaries appeared before the judge on her first day back from vacation and were released.

The missionaries, three of which are Bible college students doing their internship, were having a prayer meeting in Yohan’s residence at about 9 p.m. on July 31 when a mob estimated to be 700 people showed up and began harassing them. They were brutally beaten before being thrown in jail.

“We are so happy that God protected us. We are rejoicing here with the Lord. But, pray for our bodies; we were beaten quite badly. Please pray that we would receive healing,” one of the missionaries said while he was still in jail.

GFA mission leaders faced heavy opposition as they appealed on behalf of the missionaries. They arrived in the town the day after the arrests to find that the anti-Christian extremists responsible for the attack had organized protest rallies.

The group also called for a local strike, which could cripple any business and government work. They also threatened the local lawyers to dissuade them from taking on the missionaries’ case.

The strike never happened, and the leaders managed to find legal representation for the missionaries, but anti-Christians have been working against the lawyers since the beginning of the case. It wasn’t until the missionaries had been in jail for a few days that the lawyers were finally able to meet with the judge.

Being arrested for sharing the Gospel is not uncommon for Gospel for Asia missionaries. Several Indian states have anti-conversion laws aimed specifically at Christians and Muslims. In other places, missionaries are charged with crimes unrelated to their work in sharing the Gospel. At least two GFA missionaries are serving long-term prison sentences after being charged with crimes they did not commit.

Gospel for Asia is a mission organization involved in evangelism and church planting in Asia's unreached regions. Currently Gospel for Asia supports more than 16,000 church planters in 10 countries.