7 Pastors Arrested For 'Forced Conversions' in Uttar Pradesh

Published 17 December 2017  |  
(Representational Image)

Seven pastors were arrested on Dec. 4 in the district of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, for alleged 'forced conversions'.

The arrested pastors were produced in court the following day. They were refused bail and now remain in custody, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).

Villagers in Irauli Gurjar of Mathura district demanded the local police to stop the pastors from preaching the 'evil Bibles' and using blasphemous language about the Hindu religion, TOI reported. They alleged the pastors used violence to "forcibly convert" some schedule caste families to Christianity.

The pastors were booked under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits 'deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings'.

Family of Pr Stanley Jacob, one of the arrested, denied the accusations made against the men.

They told BPCA that Jacob and the other pastors were invited by a couple, Mamta and Pradeep Singh, who had recently converted to Christianity to come to their house to pray on Dec. 4.

The pastors prayed and shared the gospel at the gathering and gave out Bibles to some locals who had come to the gathering.

However, the gathering was interrupted by local fuming Hindus. Lal Singh, the uncle of the local resident, Pradeep Singh, called the police. Officers arrived quickly and took the pastors away.

Lal was not at the gathering, but claimed that the pastors were guilty of promoting blasphemous content and also said he was told of the 'forced conversions' by others there.

When the pastors were refused bail, BACA expressed its frustration.

"Words simply cannot convey the anger I feel when I think of their unwarranted arrest based on the lies of local people fearful of the Gospel message of Christ," said Pr Naresh, BACA's lead officer in India,.

"Men trying to save the lives and the souls of other are arrested on the whim of extremists, but they never lose their calling or faith," he added.

The seven pastors arrested are: Pr Stanley Jacob from Kerala, Pr David from New Dehli, Pr Vijay Kuma from Odisha, Pr Amit from Mathura, Pr Summit Varghese from Hathras, Pr Anita from Hathras and Pr Dinesh from Rajasthan.

"Being a pastor in India is becoming a nightmare role, persecution here is reaching the levels that were present at the time of Paul," said Pr Naresh.

"We will do what we can for these pastors. Already I have counselled a few of the families and I am going to visit them and see what other support we can offer including support for legal fees. However, there are wives and children who await news daily, fearful of what will happen to the patriarch of their family. Its is simply a devastating situation," he added.

"These arrests so close to Christmas are going to hurt the affected families badly. A time of joy for so many, Christmas this year for the pastors arrested and their families will be a time of anxiety and fear," said Wilson Chowdhry, chairman, BPCA.

The first court hearing for the pastors is set to take place on Dec. 12.

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