Anti-conversion law imprisons pastor

By August 12, 2011

South Asia (MNN) — Anti-conversion laws in South Asia recently has Pastor Dhevan Das facing criminal charges and possibly imprisonment.

According to Gospel for Asia, a believer in Pastor Dhevan's church had a desire to attend a Bible college, but needed help. Pastor Dhevan was helping her out with the enrollment process when the accusations started.

Villagers claimed Pastor Dhevan was forcing the woman into Christianity, and they instigated his arrest on July 28. Pastor Dhevan was charged with forced conversion in conflict with the anti-conversion law.

Police were going to release Pastor Dhevan on bail, but a group of nearly 40 people protested at the police station and filed a complaint. In protest, the mob shouted, "Do not release him! He is destroying our religion!"

Christian leaders with Gospel for Asia visited the jailed pastor to encourage him but left the jail equally encouraged themselves. Pastor Dhevan took advantage of the situation to reach his fellow inmates with the Gospel message.

Furthermore, the jailer in charge of Dhevan is a friend of the church. He promised the visiting leaders with GFA that Pastor Dhevan would be well cared for until he can be discharged.

"I do not have much problem in the jail," says Dhevan. "I am taking it as a good opportunity to share God's Word and my testimony with other prisoners."

Pastor Dhevan was finally released last Thursday, August 4, but he still waits to face criminal charges. If he is convicted at his hearings, he will be imprisoned again.

Anti-conversion laws have been used in manipulation to legalize unjust persecution and imprisonment of Christians. Words such as "force" and "allurement" in the law's outline of prohibited means have foggy definitions at best and are often used to prevent conversions in general.

Advocacy Director for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Alexa Papadouris, says, "It allows for substantial interference into the private process of an individual's conversion by a state government known for its extremist Hindu nationalist credentials. The requirement to explain the reasons for conversion to potential hostile officials is a significant block to religious freedom."

Please pray for the charges to be dropped against Pastor Dhevan. Pray also that those he ministered to in jail would take to heart the promise of salvation through a relationship in Christ.

To check out Gospel for Asia's report on the situation, you can click here.

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