Religious Intolerance, Anti-Conversion Laws in India Embolden Radicals to Continue Persecuting Those With Different Beliefs, Including Christians

Since Hindu nationalists gained power in 2014, India has swiftly slid into religious intolerance as the government introduced strict anti-conversion laws in five states. While the law has not been enforced nationwide yet, it emboldened radicals to persecute people of other belief systems, including Christianity.

Andrew Boyd, the spokesman for Christian charity Release International, said the laws prohibit converting Hindus to other religions, which effectively made evangelizing illegal. "[I]f 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," he explained.

In the Junwani village of Chhattisgarh, authorities outlawed church attendance on Easter Sunday and imposed a fine of $312, equivalent to the wage of a person for four to five months. That Sunday, five spies were sent to the church to list down the names of the violators. The next day, four Christians were forced to stand like criminals in the middle of the village elders.

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One of them, Somari Komra, 40, refused to pay the fine saying the community didn't help him with his physical illness and mental disorder, which were healed by Jesus. He added that if they force him to stop going to church, they will have to be responsible for his health condition.

Another accused, Kanesh Singh, 55, lamented: "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."

After that, the Hindu priest forced 15 Christian families to turn back to Hinduism. One of those who caved in to the pressure, Shivaram Tekam, was made to offer a pair of chickens, a bottle of wine and 551 rupees as sacrifice to the local deity. But he told his pastor he will continue to go to church in secret.

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