India (MNN) — Anti-conversion laws in Chhattisgarh, India is responsible for missionaries being arrested. The incident took place February 17 while the missionaries were leading three-days of public meetings for believers in Chhattisgarh's Korba district.
On the second day of the meetings, Christians were attacked. Founder and President of Gospel for Asia KP Yohannan says, "Significant numbers of anti-Christian people came and threatened them first, then they started beating up all the Christians. Instead of arresting the people that were beating up the Christians and causing such havoc, the police arrested 11 of our missionaries and took them to prison."
The missionaries were severely beaten, as were several Christians in attendance. They also destroyed the sound system and the tent where the estimated 2,500 believers were meeting.
The 11 have since been released on bail, says Yohannan.
Chhattisgarh has an anti-conversion law, which outlines several steps that must be taken in order to change one's religion. The law is vague and offers wide leeway in arresting and punishing those charged with violating it.
While India's constitution provides for religious freedom, Yohannan says, "Chhattisgarh is a state where they have the anti-conversion law in effect, which makes it much more difficult for ministry in that state. Believers are accused of forcing people to convert to Christianity which has never happened. Now they have to go to court to defend themselves."
The arrests made national television. In Chhattisgarh, the missionaries were portrayed as violators of the law, while in other parts of the country, they were viewed as victims. While tragic, Yohannan says God is using it. "None of these missionaries are accusing anybody. They're saying, 'We forgive them. We don't want any revenge on anyone. We just want them to know the love of Christ.' So, that is the response these missionaries were beaten and abused by these people."
While radicals believe these kinds of attacks will hurt the church, Yohannan says, "It is fundamentally a mistake, because through suffering and persecution often the church grows faster than during times of peace."
Yohannan is asking Christians to pray "that these people who are opposing Christians and beating up missionaries somehow would have their hearts touched by God and many would [become a] strong witnesses for God. That would be a significant thing to happen."
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