Pastor and 4 others arrested on false charges of forced conversions

An Indian man walks outside a deserted church, as India remains under an unprecedented extended lockdown over the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) on May 5, 2020, in Delhi, India. (Photo: Getty Images/Yawar Nazir)

Police in Uttar Pradesh arrested a pastor and four other Christians under the “anti-conversion” law while they were holding a prayer meeting after members of a radical Hindu nationalist group disrupted the gathering and filed a false complaint.

Pastor Richard Benjamin and four believers, who attended the prayer meeting in a Christian's home in Faizabad district’s Jharuva village, spent five days in jail before being released on bail on Sept. 14, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported Sunday.

“This is the third time I was put into jail in the last 10 years,” the pastor was quoted as saying. “The five days I spent in jail were difficult as we couldn’t get enough food and the jailer gave us a lot of work. I fainted a couple of times due to the lack of food.”

During the prayer meeting on Sept. 10, five activists from the radical Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal forced themselves into the house, claiming the Christians were “forcibly” converting people. They filed a police complaint leading to the arrest of the five.

Police officers initially wanted to release Pastor Benjamin and the four others, but local politicians pressured them to book the Christians under the state’s recently enacted anti-conversion law, sources told ICC.

ICC says it has documented at least 30 incidents of Christian persecution in Uttar Pradesh since the enactment of the anti-conversion law in December 2020.

The law, which presumes that Christian workers “force” or give financial benefits to Hindus to convert them to Christianity, states that no one is allowed to use the “threat” of “divine displeasure,” meaning Christians cannot talk about Heaven or Hell, as that would be seen as “forcing” someone to convert. And if snacks or meals are served to Hindus after an evangelistic meeting, that could be seen as “inducement.”

Courtesy of The Christian Post.