India States Passes Controversial Religious Conversion Law; Christians Attacked

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- The parliament of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh passed a controversial bill Tuesday, July 25, to prevent 'religious conversions by force or allurement,' a move critics claim is aimed at the Christian minority and preachers.

The law, which amends the state's Freedom of Religion Act of 1968, was reportedly adopted without debate, leading to an uproar in the house by members of the opposition Congress party.

Under the new regulations, any individual intending to convert must inform local authorities while the priest or organizations performing the conversion are also required to inform the district magistrate a month in advance.


Failing to do so could led to a fine of 1,000 India Rupees ($21) or imprisonment while the priest or group performing the conversion could receive imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of 5,000 India Rupees ($105) , or both, Indian media reports said.

In a controversial move, police have been given the task to verify the credentials of the priest or the organizations ahead of the conversion.

The government said existing laws are inadequate to check "conversions by force or allurement," the Congress party reportedly described the move as an "interference with religious freedom and human rights".


It comes amid growing concern among human rights groups and church organizations about limitations on church leaders, missionaries and other Christians to preach the Gospel and carry out Christian activities. Hindu militants have expressed concern over the spread of Christianity in rural areas of India, especially among Dalits, considered the 'lowest caste' in India's system of Hinduism.

The law was also expected to add to tensions over conversions in India, for instance in the southern state of Karnataka, where three young Christians were reportedly attacked after visiting hospital patients – and four Bible students in a separate incident – on charges of :forced conversions."

On July 17, at least 20 militants of the Hindu Sena group attacked three Christians identified only as Daniel, 17, Manju, 21, and Umesh, 27, of the Harvest Full Gospel Church, accusing them of converting patients at the Megan Government Hospital in Shimoga district, Compass Direct news agency reported.


"The extremists took them to the Doddapete police station, where they were arrested for distributing Christian literature among the patients," Albert Lael, administrator of the All India Christian Council, was quoted as saying.

The Christians had been "praying for sick people and comforting them with Gospel message," Lael said. They were released on bail on Saturday, July 22. Earlier, on July 17, Hindu extremists in Baglkote, another district of Karnataka, allegedly beat four students of the Gospel for Asia Bible College in Bijapur, who were distributing Christian literature. (With reports from India and BosNewsLife Research).

Copyright 2006 BosNewsLife. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without our prior written consent.