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Friday, May 25, 2018

India’s Growing Anti-Conversion Laws: Perspectives from an Indian Christian

War on Christianity in India
By Lyndsey Koh


India (MNN) — It has been just over a month since Uttarakhand became the seventh state in India to pass an anti-conversion bill. The growing popularity of anti-conversion laws and charges in India don’t bode well for impoverished communities and religious minorities.

Abhijit Nayak, a ministry partner with Voice of the Martyrs Canada, shares, “This is basically another political and pro-Hindu fundamentalist technique to restrict Christian ministries or churches not to have access to people who would like to change their religion.

“For example, if I am a seeker or if I am seeking to change my religion from Hindu to Christianity and I am a poor person…I don’t want to go to a court of law and file an affidavit to change my religion because I don’t have money or I don’t know the legal processes to go to the magistrate or go to a court of law to change my religion.”

Nayak says sometimes an evangelist or pastor is willing to help those who would like to become Christians with the legal process, “But they are also afraid that they will be targeted once they go to court of law with [the new Christian] and they will be blamed for forcing [them] or luring [them] to become a Christian. So this has a very negative impact on Christian missions and Christian ministries.”

According to Nayak, the difficulty doesn’t lie in Indian Christians sharing their faith with others. Opposition starts to crop up when someone who is not a Christian decides to change their religion to Christianity.

(Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

“Let’s say I want to share my faith with my Hindu neighbor next door, it’s not a problem. Sharing is not a problem. But…it comes to my Hindu neighbor when he or she decides to become a Christian, go to a church, and take baptism.”

Because of this, Christian ministries often must have access to a lawyer or have solid legal knowledge to assist new Christians with the affidavit submissions for a formal religion change.

“That becomes very difficult for the Christian ministries because sometimes Christian ministries are not willing to be in the public domain. They don’t want people to identify them being engaged in these kinds of activities. That is number one,” explains Nayak.

“And number two, the Christian ministry may face opposition in the village. If one family is coming to a Christian faith and there are 50 more families,…they may accuse the Christian mission [of] converting and creating disturbances in the community.”

Last year, Compassion International, a very large charity working in India for nearly 50 years, was forced to completely close its operations because their funding was primarily coming from outside the country. CI said 150,000 children will be worse of because they have to withdraw.

A possible contributing factor, Abhijit once told me, is that Compassion was run by non-Indians.

The changing culture in India can paint a grim picture for Christian ministry, but Nayak says it is evident that God is still moving amidst the difficulty.

“I am from Orissa (Odisha), and Orissa state was the first state in India to pass the anti-conversion law in the 1970s. So this has a huge impact but in Orissa, Christianity is growing. So in spite of the anti-conversion bill and political problems, God is at work…mainly through grassroots church planters, evangelists, and frontline Christian workers.”

Your prayers today are helping fuel missions in India through our Christian brothers and sisters there.

“We need a lot of prayers for the strength and for the knowledge and wisdom for the grassroots churches and frontline mission workers who are in the front, preaching, teaching, doing evangelism, and church planting.”

Voice of the Martyrs Canada supports Christian ministry partners like Nayak in India spreading the Good News of Jesus. Click here to learn more about Voice of the Martyrs Canada’s ministry and how you can come alongside them!

Abhijit Nayak is VP of STEP Ministries in Orissa (Odisha) which teaches single women how to sew and run a business. They also are running a school for children who can't afford to attend normal schools. Abhijit and his family are both close friends and neighbours.