India (MNN) — The U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF) placed India on a "Watch List" for 2012, citing concerns that
justice for past communal violence continues to be "slow and
The report also cites intimidation, harassment, and
small-scale violence against members of religious minority groups. This is
particularly true against Christians in states with anti-conversion laws.
Don Edwards, spokesman for Grand Rapids, Michigan-based
Mission India, says that's no surprise. In fact, their teams have experienced
just that kind of violence twice within the last couple of weeks.
Edwards explains, "Conversions can't be forced on
somebody, or a person cannot be allured falsely to accept another
religion. Those things are not
happening. However, that's what the Christian community is being accused
Accusations usually begin with violence. The incidents he describes took place in
Madhya Pradesh state, one of five states in India with an anti-conversion law
on the books.
One partner who was attacked works with the Children's Bible
Club program as an outreach to the community. He is also a pastor of a church. "While
a church service was going on, a group of Hindu fundamentalists show up and
attacked the pastor." Then, Edwards says, "They ended up dragging the pastor and any other
leaders to the police station and making the accusation that these people that
they beat up are guilty of forcibly converting people to Christianity."
Police jailed not the aggressors, but the victims. That's good and bad, notes Edwards. The good, he says, is that the beaten
Christians are protected for a little while. The bad? Justice is either meted
slowly, or not at all.
However, Edwards goes on to say that does not stop the
Gospel. The other partner that was
attacked was also a church pastor. Two
months ago, "He was conducting a worship service, and a group of RSS
activists–Hindu fundamentalists–came in and beat the pastor and told him that
if he returns to that place, they will harm everybody in the village and kill
The family moved to Rajasthan, at the urging of the
congregation. Then,Edwards says, "After
about a month, he came back to the same village and was conducting a worship
service. Again, he was arrested by the police for conducting a worship
While the USCIRF report recommended that the U.S. government urge
India to increase training on human rights and religious freedom
standards, Edwards says that will have
little bearing on the spread of the Gospel.
In fact, the harassment and oppression has created not a
weaker Church, but a bolder one. "When Christians are persecuted, at
first, they need to be protected; but then God gives them courage to go back
into the same place He's called them to serve, and they continue to serve in
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