India (MNN)–The government of Himachal Pradesh in northern India just passed an anti-conversion law. Christians number roughly eight thousand in a state claiming over six million people.
According to Compass Direct, Vijay Kumar, principal secretary of the state home department, says under the bill, anyone found forcibly converting another person could be imprisoned for up to two years and/or fined up to 25,000 rupees (US$565).
Open Doors’ Jerry Dykstra weighs in. He says the way the bill is worded leaves a great deal open to interpretation. “That’s probably the local police or the radical Hindus who are in the government there in that particular city. So it leaves a lot of ability to judge who was doing wrong to the local government. That does not sit well for many of the Christians.”
Among other restrictions, any person wishing to convert to another religion must give prior notice of at least 30 days to the district government. If that person fails to do so, the penalty will be a fine up to 1,000 rupees (US$23).
Himachal Pradesh joins Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat States in broaching the topic of putting a law restricting religious activity on the books. Tamil Nadu repealed theirs after the April 2004 general elections.
As to the immediate future, the bill has yet to be signed into law. Dykstra puts it to prayer. “The more of these laws that are put into place, the more these pastors will have a harder time spreading the Gospel. The anti-conversion laws are ways of restricting the growth of Christianity, but we know, in looking at Christianity in other countries, when Christians are persecuted, it actually spurs the growth of Christianity.”