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Three Pastors Investigated for 'Forced Conversions' in UP
Thursday, September 20, 2018, 22:10 (IST)
Persuaded by Hindu extremists, police in Uttar Pradesh have held three Pentecostal pastors on Sept. 13 for allegedly extorting fraudulent conversions of Hindus by convincing them to embrace Christianity.
"In Uttar Pradesh Hindu radicals have fabricated unfounded accusations against innocent Pentecostal Christians," said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
In UP, "there has been a surge in persecution against Christians. Pentecostal pastors and Christian groups are under the constant watch of radical elements and the police," he added.
Police filed First Information Report (FIR) against Durga Prasad Yadav, Kirit Rai and Jitendra Ram on Sept. 5 at the Chandwak Police Station, Jaunpur District. Since then, at least 12 pastors have gone into hiding, a source told Morning Star News.
The three pastors are among 271 people—belonging to Jivan Jyoti Satsang Prarthana Kendra church in Bhulandih village, Jaunpur District, a 7,000-member church—accused of fraudulent conversion.
"The 271 people are accused of various criminal offenses like fraud, defiling places of worship, prejudice against national integration," said Deputy Police Superintendent Anil Kumar Pandey, according to Asia News.
On Sept. 16, police blocked all roads to Bhulandih village, keeping worshippers from Bhulandih Church.
"They have stopped believers and asked them to go back home," a source told MSN.
"Hindu extremist groups are shouting anti-Christian slogans around the churches in many places in Jaunpur. They are threatening believers with severe consequences and asking every believer as to how much money he has been given to convert," it added.
According to MSN, Hindu extremists Brijesh Singh and Siddharth Singh initially used media campaigns to attack the church.
Dainik Jagran, a Hindi-language, national newspaper, reported on Aug. 2 that Christians "ridicule the worship of Sanatan religion and idols. They claim to cure incurable diseases and make the people testify of the false healing. They are made to eat the restricted food [Holy Communion] and made to shout praises to Jesus Christ and declare themselves Christians."
Deep Gupta, editor and chief of National TV News, told MSN that he interviewed 500 of the 7,000 worshippers, questioning them about their faith and the allegations of "conversion by fraudulent means."
"As many as I interviewed had stories to share about their sickness and how they got healed after Pastor Yadav prayed for them," he said.
"They said that they attended the church out of their own free will, and that they were not subjected to any force or allurement. They said that despite threats, they will continue to attend church," he added.
GCIC president George stressed that "India is a secular country with constitutional guarantees. Nobody is obliged to welcome Christ. Many people of other religions participate in prayers because they bring them peace, comfort and dignity."
Gupta said that "a lot of pressure is being exerted by the Hindu fundamentalist political parties over the authorities, be it judiciary or the police."