India (MNN) — A week ago, police in Hyderabad detained and questioned a group of 26 U.S. tourists for "proselytizing."
Residents of a slum in the area allegedly complained that the foreigners were trying to convert the locals. The group of 26 was with a schoolteacher who worked with street children in the U.S. and contacted her friend working with an NGO (Non Governmental Organization) in Hyderabad. The friend, in turn, assigned a local person to take the entourage on a tour of the city. They were also accompanied by three pastors who acted as translators for them.
Police say the guide took the group to the Palamur slum in Baghlingampally to show them the culture of India. There the team hugged children and offered prayers for the well-being of the slum dwellers. One resident took exception to this activity, which happened in front of a Hindu temple. The complaint also alleged that the tourists were propagating their religion by luring people with gifts like chocolates and sweets.
Authorities arrived to take the group away for questioning–an incident which made it into the mainstream media in India. But an investigation revealed that there was little to back up the conversion/evangelism complaint, and the group was released.
However, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India's Dave Stravers says the incident reveals a growing tension in that region. He says militant Hindus used a common yet potent accusation against the Christians. There's a misconception that Christians "are all being financed from abroad, that there's bribery, and that when people become Christians, they're no longer loyal or patriotic Indians. [It's believed that] foreigners are actually trying to subvert Indian culture. So when foreigners are involved in these kind of public ways, it gives credence to the accusations being made against all Christians."
Stravers urges prayer for their indigenous teams. "We really do need prayer, primarily that these kinds of events will not intimidate believers and that they'll continue to be very bold in their witness. Wherever people are bold, even in the face of persecution, there is great response to the Gospel."
Mission India is building on almost thirty years of assistance to the Indian church and has learned to understand the tremendous opportunities of the nation. They provide assistance to Indian teachers, students, and church groups effectively and efficiently in India. Click here if you want to learn more.