Pastor attacked and falsely accused of forced conversions told to stop holding prayers

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In Raipur, Chhattisgarh, a mob of right-wing extremists attacked a pastor who was leading a prayer at his home last Sunday, accusing him of forced conversions.

For the last two years, Pastor Firoz Bagh of the St Thomas Evangelical Mission has led services and prayers with his Christian congregation.

He was preaching and leading a prayer gathering with approximately 30 people who attended in accordance with COVID-19 regulations last Sunday morning, as he always was.

While the service was taking place at 8:30 a.m., some 35 right-wing nationalists surrounded the home and began chanting anti-Christian slogans.

According to AsiaNews, one of the extremists phoned the police, who took Pastor Bagh into custody for a few hours.

The mob pursued the pastor to the police station, where additional radicals gathered and accused him of forcible conversions, threatening to harm him.

They no longer wanted Pastor Bagh to hold prayer gathering in the neighborhood even though his church is a recognized organization.

“My church is a registered organisation,” Pastor Bagh told AsiaNews.

“I have preached for 20 years in a rented room and just two years ago I bought this house. Many people come here and our door is open to everyone.”

“The word of God brings peace, hope and dignity. Now they tell me that I cannot preach even if India is a secular state. The members of my congregation are very frightened; they feel they are being targeted by extremists,” the pastor explained.

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), strongly condemned the accusations of forced conversions.

“Religious freedom is a right guaranteed by the constitution. Pastor Bagh was just sharing the good news, not forcing anyone. What's wrong with that? Why is the small Christian community alone threatened by extremists and arrested by the police?” George told AsiaNews.

“We ask for protection for Pastor Bagh and his congregation, forced to deal with the fear of a new attack.”