Nine Christian pastors were arrested and jailed on false charges of conversion activities in Azamgarh, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, last Monday.
The pastors and a recently married Christian couple were arrested by police at a wedding reception. Radical Hindu nationalists pressured the police to act against the Christians. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered against the pastors under the state’s draconian anti-conversion law.
Witnesses said that the pastor of an Assemblies of God Church hosted a wedding reception at his house for his daughter and son-in-law. During the reception, police raided the home and confiscated Bibles and other Christian items, alleging that the gathering was a conversion programme. The host pastor explained that it was purely a wedding reception for his daughter, but police ignored his pleas and arrested the Christian pastors and the newly wedded couple.
“These days are very challenging days in our state,” a Christian leader from Uttar Pradesh told International Christian Concern. “More than 200 churches were shut down in the last few months, and 52 pastors and Christians are reeling in the prisons across the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is challenging for Christians to gather for worship … today’s incident of nine pastors that were sent to jail tell the bigger story of how Christians cannot gather for any purpose whatsoever.”
Another Christian leader said, “Christians are living under the fear of being targeted and attacked for no reason, and police just need a complaint for them to act and send them to jail under the anti-conversion law.”
Violence against Indian Christians is at an all-time high. This year saw the highest spike in incidents across India. Uttar Pradesh was the most egregious, with 149 attacks against Christians.