(MNN) — The All India Christian Council reports that Gujarat's
ruling party is moving this month to re-enact a dormant
"anti-conversion" law written in 2003, after the governor's refusal to approve the anti-conversion amendment bill of 2006.
Believers are concerned the law will
encourage 'bigotry and hate campaigns.'
Many think evangelists will suffer increased police brutalities and
miscarriages of justice, especially in rural areas.
The law bans conversion "from one religion to another
by force, allurement, or fraudulent means." Violators face up to three
years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 (roughly $1200 USD). If
the convert is underage, a woman, Dalit or tribal, the imprisonment is up to
four years and the fine Rs 100,000 (roughly $2500 USD).
The bill also forces clergy to get permission from the
district magistrate for carrying out or even taking part in any religious
conversion "ceremony," which includes baptisms. Prospective converts
are also required to inform the administration of their intent to convert.
Failure to inform authorities in both cases can lead to imprisonment of up to
one year and/or a fine of Rs 1,000.
Gujarat is not alone in the
march toward Hindu Nationalism. It would become the fourth state with a law in
force. Orissa already has an active law on the books. Meanwhile, last April, Rajasthan passed an
anti-conversion bill, but it is still awaiting Governor's signature. In Himachal Pradesh, a similar bill was
introduced at the end of 2006.
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh both put more teeth to their
anti-conversion laws in 2006. These
bills, however, have not been signed by the respective governors.
Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh also have
anti-conversion legislation, but they have not been implemented.
Pray that the governments of these states will reconsider and
see the importance of true freedom of religion. Pray for Christians facing
increasing pressure by the government, the courts, and Hindu militants
throughout the country.