Over 87,000 people have signed a petition calling on authorities in India to release a beloved Tennessee pastor who was arrested as a result of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.
Pastor Bryan Nerren, who leads the International House of Prayer Ministries in Shelbyville, also operates a nonprofit organization called Asian Children’s Education Fellowship.
The nonprofit has been training Sunday School teachers in India and Nepal for 17 years, the ACLJ reports, and during a trip to attend conferences in India and Nepal last month, Nerren was targeted and arrested as he stepped off a flight in Bagdogra, India.
Before his arrest in Bagdogra, the ACLJ says a security agent in New Delhi questioned Nerren about funds he was carrying while traveling with two other pastors from Tennessee. The pastor explained that the funds were to cover two conferences and support a two-week trip for 13 ministers. After about an hour of questioning he was cleared to fly, but when he arrived in Bagdogra he was arrested for violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act because he didn’t complete a document to account for the funds. The ACLJ says officials in New Delhi did not provide Nerren with the necessary forms.
However, the violation led to the pastor’s arrest and he was taken to Siliguri in India, where he was jailed for six days, denied visitation and hospitalized.
“I was held in the Siliguri jail for six days until I was allowed to pay bail. I am currently out on bail and staying with our Nepali partners. I am praising God for the ability to be out of the jail, and the ability to communicate with my family, which I was not able to do for six days,” Nerren said in a statement posted on his church’s Facebook page on Oct. 13.
The judge presiding over Nerren’s case has ordered a travel ban and retained his passport, the ACLJ reports. A hearing that was set for Oct. 22 never took place and the case has been pushed back until Dec. 12 with no guarantee that it will happen.
“Pastor Nerren complied with all requests from Indian officials in good faith. He followed all protocols he was given. He was cleared and freed to go by New Delhi Customs, yet he is essentially being held hostage in India for his Christian faith. He deserves to come home to America,” the ACLJ said.
“Pastor Nerren is trapped in India with no passport, making even the most mundane of tasks difficult. He cannot leave. He cannot come home to his wife, children, and young grandchildren who surely can’t comprehend what’s happening to their grandfather. He cannot care for his special needs daughter here in the United States who needs round-the-clock assistance, meaning his wife is left to take care of her alone, while also constantly worrying about her husband. His entire family is suffering from this injustice.”
Nerren’s wife, Rhonda, is calling on Christians and well-wishers around the world to pray for her husband.
“My husband has done nothing wrong. His only crime is living out his steadfast love for Jesus. He’s my best friend, and I need him home. My special needs daughter needs her daddy home. My son and his family want their dad and Grandpa ‘Popeye’ home. Please pray for our family. Pray for the hearts of the officials who have the power to give him back his passport and let him come back to us. And pray for our legal team at the ACLJ as they work on our behalf to bring him home,” she said in a statement.