Christian prayer meeting cancelled in Indore on allegations of conversions

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Authorities in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, have cancelled permission for a major Christian prayer gathering scheduled for April 10, citing potential law and order issues. The decision comes after Hindu groups raised objections, alleging the event aimed to encourage religious conversions.

The prayer meeting, organised by the "National Prayer and Ministry Alliance," was expected to draw around 8,000 Christians from across Madhya Pradesh. Famous Chennai-based preacher Dr. Paul Dhinakaran was set to be the keynote speaker.

On April 7, an assistant election officer in the Indore parliamentary constituency revoked permission previously granted on April 5 for the event. The order cited opposition from Hindu outfits and social organisations who had filed complaints.

Speaking to Christian Today, Suresh Carleton, chairman of the prayer meet's organising committee said, “The government gave us the permission twice. The first was on the 22 March 2024. The permission was reissued on April 5 but then on April 7 we got a letter saying that the permission has been cancelled.”

The Hindu groups alleged that the prayer meet was a veiled attempt "to mislead people of the Hindu community and encourage them for conversion." Their complaint warned of a "strong possibility" the event could disturb communal peace and harmony.

Carleton firmly rejected allegations of any conversion agenda. He stressed the gathering was solely for the state's Christian community to collectively pray for the "happiness, peace and harmony of the country."

Carleton challenged the cancellation order in the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. However, a single-judge bench dismissed the petition on 8 April 2024, upholding the administration's decision.

Justice Subodh Abhyankar acknowledged the religious nature of the event but said the authorities' law and order concerns could not be termed "unsubstantiated" given the objections raised.

The court stated, "This court is of the considered opinion that it might be true that the intention of the petitioner to convene such meeting must be purely religious in nature, however, the concern raised by the respondents can also not be said to be unfounded, looking to the various objections they have received from other religious organisations."

The bench further remarked, "In such circumstances, the possibility of apprehension raised by the respondents of disruption of the law and order situation can also not be said to be unsubstantiated.”

Carleton and the organisers then approached the Supreme Court on April 8 but their case was not heard.

“Today (April 9) the case was not listed in the Supreme Court. So nothing can be done,” Carleton said dejectedly.

“We tried our best given the situation and approached both the High Court and Supreme Court, but unfortunately we could not do much,” he added.

When asked about the feeling of the community on the cancellation of the Prayer Meeting, Carleton said, “It has affected us very badly. It feels that we have been indirectly targeted.”