India(MNN) — Persecution grows in India.
In Madhya Pradesh state, lawmakers recently moved toward a stricter
The result was familiar. Dave Stravers, with Grand Rapids,
Michigan-based Mission India, says that four days ago, Hindu militants attacked a small house church. The extremists broke down the door and barged in wielding large bamboo clubs.
As they began their assault on the assembled believers, the screams of the women drew a different crowd. Stravers says, "A large number of neighbors came to the rescue of their Christian neighbors and drove off the extremists. The police intervened and arrested the Christians. Charges were brought against them for illegal conversions. They were told that until the case is settled, they're forbidden to baptize."
Last year, the Chief Minister of the state reportedly told the Director General of the state's
police forces to "ensure that incidents do not recur and those involved in such acts face strict action." He said that he felt there was no place for violence in any religion.
However, the statute requires clergy and ‘prospective converts' to notify authorities
of the intent to change religion one month before a ‘conversion ceremony.' In its current form, the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968 requires that notice be sent to the district magistrate within seven days of conversion.
Interpretation is left wide open as to what falls into a 'conversion ceremony'. Although some government officials have gone on record stating the anti-conversion legislation is not constitutional, the intent has been taken to heart.
Stravers admits such reports have a negative effect. "Christians hear about their fellow believers in this other town that got beaten up and taken to jail, so then they're more cautious. They might be intimidated, they might become fearful of carrying out their ministry that
they're being trained for, or even that we've trained them for."
Even though their work may be interrupted,ministry will continue, says Stravers. These kinds of incidents do not usually produce a fearful attitude. Rather, victims are often more resolute in their evangelistic vision, and redouble their efforts.
Pray God's protection for their evangelists