Pentecostal Pastor Beaten, Arrested in India

A Pentecostal pastor in the southern Indian state of Karnataka was arrested on charges of forceful conversion on Sunday.

Pastor Shivanda Siddi, 45, was arrested while conducting worship service at Gnanodaya Assemblies of God Church, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians.

According to the advocacy group, about five people belonging to a Hindu extremist organization disrupted the service and began to physically attack the pastor.

"The radicals humiliated the pastor by tearing his clothes and beating him in front of the faithful. After beating the pastor for about half an hour, they called the police at Yellapur station," GCIC reported.

The pastor as well as seven women, including two girls aged 10 and 11, were reportedly arrested by the police.

GCIC reported that the pastor was "beaten up again by the radicals in front of the police officials."

After the intervention of GCIC, police released the women. However, the pastor was charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code and was subsequently sent to Sirsi jail.

Pastor Siddi has been ministering among tribals in Umachagi Village, Mundgod taluk, for the last five years.

The arrest comes just months after two other Assemblies of God pastors were attacked with iron rods by a group of unknown people in Karnataka. Pastor Shiju Kuriakose, 35, and Pastor Jayan, 30, had just finished praying when they were assailed.

So far in 2010, there have been 106 incidents of persecution in India and 37 have taken place in Karnataka, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India's half-yearly report on major incidents of anti-Christian violence. Last year, there were at least 152 attacks on Christians.

There are an estimated 25 million Christians (about 2.3 percent of the population) in India. The majority of India's population is Hindu.

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