Madhya Pradesh anti-conversion changes face governor; Christians ill at-ease.

By August 10, 2006

India (MNN)–Madhya Pradesh’s Governor is seeking legal advice over an anti-conversion dilemma. He’s studying the controversial amendments to the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act passed in the State legislative assembly last month.

Before making any public decisions, Governor Dr. Balram Jakhar is asking the opinion of experts in Constitutional law on the legislation which has alarmed the minority community and the Human Rights world.

Christians allege the law contravenes the fundamental rights of a citizen to freedom of thought and conscience. Their concern is growing with neighboring Chhattisgarh, who just toughened their laws.

The sixth Indian state to do so, their legislative body has passed a controversial anti-conversion law, banning religious conversions by force or allurement.

Dave Stravers is with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India, Because of the pressure from Hindu nationalists, Christians, and secularists Madhya Pradesh’s governor is moving carefully. “There is a campaign asking the governor to return the bill without signing it. The bill has not yet become law, so we’re praying that this bill will not become law, because it will give some reasons for persecutors to be able to make things difficult.”

The amendments now make it mandatory for individuals seeking to change their religion to inform top officials one month in advance or face imprisonment and a fine.

Church workers conducting ‘conversion ceremonies’ in Madhya Pradesh have also been asked to pre-notify the authorities. But, argue Christians, that would make the simple work of Bible teaching and open-air evangelism nearly impossible.

Meanwhile, it’s assumed that the governor, who is a member of the majority party, would sign a bill that his party strongly supports.

But, Stravers says, a different precedent has already been set. “We discovered in Rajasthan, where a similar bill had been passed, that the governor refused to sign the bill. So, there’s really good reason to hope that this will happen, and I think that just praying about this will have an effect.”

Christians form less than three percent of India’s 1.1 billion people, 80 percent of whom are Hindus. Please pray for those involved in missions work in this region.

Leave a Reply