Six carol singers have been arrested in India after they were accused of trying to convert people to Christianity.
The carol singers, one of whom is a professor at a Catholic theological college, insisted they were only singing songs, but a Hindu man alleged he had been told to ‘worship Jesus Christ’ and offered money to convert to Christianity. At first the group of seminary students and two priests, were detained. A further eight priests who went to help were also detained, according to a spokesperson from the Indian Catholic Church.
The carol singers’ car was later set on fire by suspected Bajrang Dal activists, a Hindu extremist group.
The police released the Christians around 2 am on December 16, but asked the ten priests and three seminarians to report to the station at 7 am that same morning.
The incident took place in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which has some of the strictest anti-conversion laws in the country. The laws, which are also in force in a handful of other states, exist ostensibly to prevent people from being converted to another religion against their will, but in practice they are used to supress minority faiths.
India has had a Hindu-nationalist government in place for the past two and a half years, since Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014. Since then, Christians and members of other religious minorities have complained of worsening conditions, including more frequent attacks against their worship places and discriminatory laws, including anti-conversion measures and bans on the sale or consumption of beef.
India is number 15 on Open Doors World Watch List. Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power in 2014, Hindu extremism has increased steadily. There are anti-conversion laws to prevent people from leaving Hinduism in five states, and there have been efforts to impose such a law at a national level. Some of those who have left Hinduism for Christianity have been attacked and killed. Some even by their own parents.
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Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.
Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List – a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life – plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.