Some 300 Christian leaders and pastors gathered in Bhopal, central India, on June 20 to protest against what they called state-sponsored harassment of Christians at the behest of extremist Hindu organizations.
In the last month police in Madhya Pradesh state have registered at least three false cases against Christians, accusing them of trying to convert Hindus, the gathering was told.
Priests, nuns, pastors and lay leaders at the protest reiterated their commitment to evangelization despite challenges, and expressed anger over the government’s “apathy” toward Hindu hardliners and not ensuring religious freedom for all.
In the most recent case, Sister Beena Joseph, a member of the Carmelite Sisters of St Teresa congregation, along with four tribal women were arrested on a train to Bhopal. She was released after being interrogated on June 15, only to be slapped with abduction charges the next day, the gathering was told.
Police said they were responding to complaints from Hindu groups, who critics say are attempting to build a Hindu-only India.
Pastor C.P. Singh, who addressed the gathering said it is not only missionaries “but even police … are facing similar harassment from right-wing Hindu groups if they do not toe their line.”
Other speakers at the gathering said Christian leaders should find ways to use legal provisions to protect and safeguard the interests of the Christian community as the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to “profess and propagate a religion of choice.”