Christians in India Under Pressure to Convert to Hinduism, Can't Talk About Jesus, Heaven or Hell

Hindu nationalists in India continue to punish Christians and pressure them to abandon their faith, say Christian charity workers serving persecuted Christians in the country. 

(Photo: Reuters/Babu)Women attend a mass inside a church to celebrate Easter in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 31, 2013. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.

"In states across India, militants have threatened and killed church workers," said Paul Robinson, the chief executive of Release International, in an article published by Premier Christian on Wednesday.

"Extremists have tried to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. And they have bombed, torched, vandalized and demolished churches."

What is more, strict anti-conversion laws in five states have made it practically impossible to talk about and share the Christian faith, given that a lot of missionary or evangelistic activities are met with suspicion by nationalists.

"It's based on the idea that conversion by force should be made illegal. I think everyone would agree that conversion by force would be useless," Andrew Boyd of Release International added.

"But actually if you preach about Heaven then it's considered to be bribery, if you speak about Hell then it's considered to be a threat. If you offer any kind of Christian charity then it's regarded also as bribery."

Boyd noted that members of the Dalit community, which are also known as the "untouchables" and are in the lowest caste order, continue to convert to Christianity, which is angering nationalists.

"These people are converting to Christianity and quite large numbers of them are converting because they're finding acceptance and dignity and worth and that is provoking quite a backlash," he said.

There have been several recent cases of Christians being forced or pressured to reconvert back to Hinduism, including a number in the Junwani village of Chhattisgarh during the Easter season.

International Christian Concern reported earlier this week that Christians in the village were fined $312, or almost four to five months' wages, if they were found to have attended a church service during Easter.

Although 15 Christian families were forced to reconvert, some refused.

"What crime have I committed that I should pay the fine? I have not stolen anything. I have not defiled any woman. I have not quarreled. I have not killed anybody. If you think going to church and worshiping Jesus is the crime, I will commit this crime every day," 55-year-old Kanesh Singh told village elders.

Shivaram Tekam, also of Junwani, said the Christians were forced to give livestock, money, and other gifts to the village deity during the reconversion ceremony.

"They can stop me from going to church but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. I will find ways and secretly come to church," Tekam told a local pastor.

The role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the rise of Hindu nationalism has also been scrutinized.

As The Christian Post reported earlier this year, some Christian groups, such as Christian Aid Mission, have accused Modi's government of facilitating a Hindu nationalist atmosphere that encourages violence against Christians.

Open Doors lists India at No. 17 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians are targeted for their faith, arguing that radical Hinduism has "increased steadily" under Modi's government.

Others, such as Bishop Joseph D'souza, a human rights activist and the president of the All India Christian Council, have said that Modi has been open to dialog, however, and has been willing to listen to Christian leaders to cultivate peace and understanding.

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