On 24 April, Pastor Kirubendran and his family were detained for allegedly conducting “forcible conversion” activities and “insulting religion”. The pastor’s wife, Manju, was released on bail in early May, along with their 18-month-old daughter. While the toddler had not been charged, she was detained along with her mother. Despite repeated attempts to post bail, Pastor Kirubendran was not released from custody until 24 May.
The imprisoned pastor is puzzled over the charges, as he had been serving in the town of Kasimabad, Uttar Pradesh, for six years without any previous incident. In addition to leading a church, Pastor Kirubendran and Manju also provided free education to 60 impoverished children, using a government-approved curriculum. Therefore, it was a shock when a crowd of opposing community members gathered outside the couple’s home on 23 April, hurling accusations against them.
According to a lawyer who is following the case, militant groups had compiled a list of churches in the district with the intention of filing allegations and forcibly shutting down the places of worship.
The complainant, Bupendra Singh, claimed that money was offered to any villager who converted to Christianity. The Christians were also accused of promising employment and miraculous healing, along with making objectionable comments against Hindus.
Though now released on bail, Pastor Kirubendran has been unable to resume services for the 90 people who regularly attend his church. The owner of the building that was being rented by church members for the services has refused to allow the Christians entrance.
According to Pastor Kirubendran, he and his family continue to remain under threat: “Those who have complained against us…are high-caste people. They are rich and affluent. My life can [be] in danger; I must stay safe and keep a low profile. We will have to prove that we are not guilty, but innocent.”
The state of Uttar Pradesh heads the list for violent attacks against Christians in India, with a total of 149 reported incidents of persecution against followers of Jesus in 2022. So far, in 2023, there have already been 115 recorded anti-Christian incidents.