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Tamil Nadu house churches under police surveillance

Thursday, November 7, 2019, 0:54 (IST)

Several house churches in Tamil Nadu are under police surveillance to stop Christians from worshiping and exercising their faith, local sources said.

Christian congregations in Kangayam, Anuperpalayam, Velampalayam and several other villages in Tiruppur District are stopped from holding house worship.

"We are going through a tough time," Reverend Vijaya Kumar of The Synod of Pentecostal Churches told Morning Star News. "There is immense pressure from the police administration in Tiruppur District that Christians are not allowed to gather for prayers even within the four walls of their homes. The pastors of these small churches have been harassed to seek permission from district officials to conduct prayer services."

According to Indian courts, no permission is needed to hold worship in homes. As per the decision made by the Madras High Court in June, the question of requiring the pastor to get prior permission from the authorities for assembling and conducting prayers in a dwelling place, without causing nuisance or disturbance to others and without causing hindrance to the public, does not arise.

Nehemiah Christie, Tamil Nadu state coordinator for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India told Morning Star News that "This level of opposition from government officials is undermining the secularistic values inscribed in the Indian constitution and could lead to deprivation of Christians' right and freedom to practice their faith, which was upheld time and again in several judgments delivered by the Madras and Madurai benches of the high court."

There is a widespread of Christian persecution in Tamil Nadu and "Its impact is visibly seen now," Christie said. "Today Hindus do not want to let out their houses on rent for Christians and Christian prayers particularly. If after great efforts and search a Christian manages to find a place to reside, the Hindu extremist groups in that area would alert the police officials to search their homes and stop prayers. It has been a difficult year," he added.

On October 24, ADF-India's Tamil Nadu unit gathered Christians leaders and pastors to meet the commissioner in an attempt to resolve the current conflict. According to Christie, the conversation with the senior police officials went well.