By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
NEW DELHI (Worthy News) – A pastor and his wife are among the first Christians to face prosecution under controversial anti-conversion legislation that has been introduced in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka, while another couple faces similar charges elsewhere in India. Pastor V. Kuriyachan, 62, and his wife Selenamma, 57, were detained for two weeks shortly after Karnataka’s governor signed the legislation on May 17, for allegedly converting Hindus to Christianity, police and Christians said.
The Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal filed a complaint against the couple, saying they had “illegally converted more than 1,000 Hindus from the Yerava tribal community by visiting the area’s coffee plantations” to preach the Gospel, several sources confirmed.
The accused Christians were also allegedly caught trying to pray with Paniyaravara Mutha and his family, who had received Bibles from them. In a written complaint submitted to the authorities, Paniyaravara reportedly alleged that the pastor and his wife were trying “to convert them” as they had done to his nephew earlier.
In a video, Hindu activists entered the Christian couple’s home in Manchalli village in the state’s Kodagu district with one man asking: “Tell us, how many people have you converted? How much money have you collected, and where are your bank accounts?”
Local police soon arrived, and later they charged the couple with “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings” by “insulting its religion or religious beliefs” under India’s national legislation. The Christian couple was sentenced to stay behind bars in “judicial custody” for 14 days, Worthy News learned.
The couple will also be charged under Karnataka’s new anti-conversion law as soon as the government officially publishes the contents, police added. Hindu hardliners demanded that the two Christians be prosecuted under the legislation, which effectively bans conversions to other religions, making it increasingly difficult for devoted Christians to evangelize.
Authorities said they detained Pastor Domnic D’Souza and his wife Joan in India’s southwestern coastal state of Goa after villagers complained about “forcible religious conversions.”
Villagers reportedly complained about D-Souza’s evangelical 5 Pillars Christian Church in the Siolim area of the state’s North Gora district, saying he used loudspeakers and was “disturbing the peace.” Police seized loudspeakers and other sound systems from his congregation,
Indian media reported.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the pastor had several cases against him, including the death of a person he allegedly treated with what the government leader called “miracle oil.”
It was unclear if the chief minister referred to olive oil and whether the pastor had simply followed the Biblical suggestions of verse James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Sawant said his government “fully respects the freedom of religion, enshrined in the Indian Constitution,” but that he would not “tolerate forced conversions by luring people with money or other incentives.”
The pastor has denied wrongdoing, saying he ran prayer activities in his church for nearly two decades. It was not apparent how long the pastor and his wife would be detained.
However, the incidents underscore broader concerns among rights activists about a perceived growing crackdown on minority Christians and other religious minorities in Hindu-majority India. Christians comprise just over two percent of India’s population of roughly 1.4 billion people, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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