India (MNN) — The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh recently passed a new anti-conversion ordinance making it illegal to bribe or force someone to change their religion.
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020 replaces an older one in the state. It is considered by lawmakers to be the strictest anti-conversion measure in India.
For example, anyone who wants to change their religion must now apply to the district administration 60 days in advance. Failing to do so incurs heavy fines and jail time.
The new ordinance is currently in effect for six months. If confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh State Legislature once they are back in session, the ordinance will go into law.
We spoke with Todd Nettleton at The Voice of the Martyrs USA about this new development: “The [Indian] government says, ‘We don’t want anyone to be bribed.’ And I think all of us would say, yeah, we don’t want anyone to be bribed to change their religion. But the reality is this is used against ministries. It’s used against Hindus who would want to change their religion.”
Anti-conversion laws are on the rise as the Bharatiya Janata Party pushes to make India a Hindu nation.
A similar anti-conversion law went into effect in Uttar Pradesh late last year. Two Christians have already been arrested there since the law went into effect.
Nettleton says, “So we talk about the fact that in Madhya Pradesh, they now have this law. How long will it be until there’s a Christian arrested there as well?”
India is considered one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to be a believer. The 2021 World Watch List from Open Doors ranked India in 10th place for Christian persecution.
“Pray for our brothers and sisters in India. If you think about going out and doing ministry in a place where you could face 10 years in prison for encouraging someone to leave Hinduism and become a follower of Jesus Christ, that’s a sobering thought for those who are involved in ministry.”
You can also contact your local government official and call for action. Nettleton says, “India has become a commercial place…that trades with the entire rest of the world, including the United States. We need to make sure that our officials [and] government leaders know that we want religious freedom to be a part of our conversations with other governments, including India.”
Header photo courtesy of Naveed Ahmed via Unsplash.