11/30/2022 India (International Christian Concern) – Nine Christian pastors were arrested and jailed on false charges of conversion activities in Azamgarh, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on Monday.
The pastors and a recently married Christian couple were arrested by police at a wedding reception. Radical Hindu nationalists pressured the police to act against the Christians. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered against the pastors under the state’s draconian anti-conversion law.
Witnesses told International Christian Concern (ICC) that the pastor of an Assemblies of God Church hosted a wedding reception at his house for his daughter and son-in-law. During the reception, police raided the home and confiscated Bibles and other Christian items, alleging that the gathering was a conversion program. The host pastor explained that it was purely a wedding reception for his daughter, but police ignored his pleas and arrested the Christian pastors and the newly wedded couple.
“These days are very challenging days in our state,” a Christian leader from Uttar Pradesh told ICC. “More than 200 churches were shut down in the last few months, and 52 pastors and Christians are reeling in the prisons across the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is challenging for Christians to gather for worship … today’s incident of nine pastors that were sent to jail tell the bigger story of how Christians cannot gather for any purpose whatsoever.”
Another Christian leader told ICC, “Christians are living under the fear of being targeted and attacked for no reason, and police just need a complaint for them to act and send them to jail under the anti-conversion law.”
The United Christian Forum (UCF) recently released a report detailing the exponential growth of Christian persecution in recent years. The report said that violence against Indian Christians is at an all-time high. This year saw the highest spike in incidents across India. Uttar Pradesh was the most egregious, with 149 attacks against Christians.
“India’s anti-conversion laws are not a means to protect religious freedom, but rather a mechanism for the government to oppress and punish religious minorities,” said ICC President Jeff King. “Our Indian brothers and sisters are facing increased levels of persecution since the adoption of these laws. India claims to be the world’s largest democracy, yet shamelessly violates human rights. We pray for the continued resilience of the Indian Church and for the injustice to come to an end.”
This article originally appeared at Persecution.org.