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10 Christians Arrested for Taking Children to Bible Camp, Accused of Violating India's Conversion Laws

10 Christians Arrested for Taking Children to Bible Camp, Accused of Violating India's Conversion Laws

For two consecutive days last week, Indian authorities stopped buses carrying more than 70 Christian children and prevented them from proceeding to a Bible summer camp in Madhya Pradesh state.

Christians protest for their rights in India. | (PHOTO: UNITED CHRISTIAN FORUM)

The authorities also arrested the 10 adult Christian chaperones of the children and accused them of violating India's conversion laws by allegedly attempting to forcibly convert Hindu youth to Christianity, Fox News reported.

The police made the arrests even though the children had the consent of their Christian parents to join the summer camp.

The authorities alleged, however, that the parents had failed to file legal paperwork with the government to make their Christian conversion official, which means that their children are legally still Hindu, Crux reported.

Taking Hindu children to a Christian summer camp violates the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act 1968, the authorities said.

"For changing to another religion, one needs to submit a written application to the district collector and only after the stipulated process, a person can change religious identity, which didn't happen in the case of any of the parents claiming to be Christians," said police superintendent Krishnaveni Desavatu, according to The Indian Express.

"This is why, the children and their parents will be officially treated as Hindu tribals and not Christians," he added.

The official Indian version of the two incidents was that the authorities "rescued" the 71 children and placed them in "welfare homes" prior to returning them to their families.

Christian leaders disputed the authorities' claims, saying the families of the children are already Christian, and as such were not engaged in conversion.

They said the action was just the latest move in the campaign of harassment against Christians in India.

"The traumatization of these tribal and Dalit children from the villages of western Madhya Pradesh is symptomatic of the paranoia and targeted hate that is currently sweeping across north India," said John Dayal, spokesperson of the United Christian Forum and past president of the All India Catholic Union, according to Crux.

"No laws were broken by anyone in this instance," Dayal noted. "These are Christian children going to a summer camp in Nagpur."

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party padlocked the office of a Christian charity called Compassion International after it was accused of forced conversions.

While acting to prevent conversion of Hindus to Christianity, the authorities are also pressuring converted Christians to reconvert back to Hinduism, according to Crux.

Christians reportedly comprise just 1 percent of the population in Madhya Pradesh state, where more than 90 percent of the residents are Hindu.


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