India: Evangelist in Himachal Pradesh state arrested for distributing Bibles
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A pentecostal evangelist in India’s Himachal Pradesh state was arrested Tuesday for distributing Bibles and Gospel pamphlets, International Christian Concern (ICC) reports. India ranks 10 on the US Open Doors Watch List of top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted: the persecution of believers has intensified since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
Known as Pastor John, the evangelist was handing out the materials in Lalas village with two other Christian men when a group of Hindu nationalists approached him and demanded that he stop his activity, ICC said. The Hindus then accused the three men of forcing Hindus to convert to Christianity, including by giving people money. The authorities were called and Pastor John was arrested.
At a court hearing, Pastor John pleaded not guilty, stating: “I only offered the Bible, and I gave it to those who freely accepted the Good News. Some people rejected the gospel I was giving them, and I didn’t insist. I am even willing to offer the Bible, which is the Word of God, to the police. What we do is share the Good News with people, tell them about Jesus, but without forcing anyone to convert,” ICC reports. “The accusations made against me are totally false: I have never offered money to convert people,” Pastor John added.
ICC reports that Hindu nationalists frequently abuse state anti-conversion laws to justify harassment and attacks on Christians. “Christian leaders and evangelists are often falsely accused of forcefully converting individuals… Local police often overlook this harassment due to the false accusation of forced conversions,” ICC said.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last year recommended that India be designated a Country of Particular Concern (“CPC”), a status allocated to countries with the worst records on religious freedom, ICC noted.
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