Authorities in India's Arunachal Pradesh state say healing prayers mislead people and lead to religious conversion
Christians of various denominations join the All Church Prayer for the Nation program at Christ Church in Guwahati, Assam, on April 6, 2019. (Photo supplied)
Christians in a northeast Indian state are opposing a ban on organizing and publicizing healing prayer events, saying it violates the constitutional right to practice their religion.
Authorities in Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Siang district issued an order on Feb. 28 banning all kinds of “prayer healing, healing crusades, healing through the local priest, pujas [ritual worship in Hinduism], as a remedy to cure various diseases and illness.”
The order issued by a district magistrate said “such practices are misleading the innocent people from taking recourse to scientific medical treatment and cause severe health issues."
The healing prayer programs also give rise “to social-cultural problems like conversion to other faith and thereby spread discord among people and groups,” the order said.
It further banned publicizing such events invoking the Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act 1954, which prohibits the advertisement of remedies alleged to possess magic qualities.
The government order stated that the ban is applicable to “all individuals, groups, faiths, and religions.”
“This order is against our fundamental right to practice our religion,” said Tarh Miri Stephen, president of the Arunachal Christian Forum.
Stephan told UCA News on March 7 that his organization will call on the district magistrate who issued the order to know the reasons and appeal to him to withdraw it.
“In case the district magistrate does not comply, we will apprise top officials in the government including the state’s chief minister,” he said.
Stephan did not rule out approaching the courts if the political leadership failed to protect their constitutional right to religious worship.
“Such prayer events do not lead to religious conversion as they are meant to help people give up bad habits like drug addiction, alcoholism, etc,” he said.
Church leaders suspect the order was another tool to harass Christians in the state and sought more clarity on the political intent behind it.
When contacted, Bishop John Thomas Kattrukudiyil of Itanagar told UCA News he was "waiting and watching the developments that would unfold."
Arunachal Pradesh is India’s remotest state on the northeastern tip bordering China, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and is currently governed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.
Christians make up 30 percent of the more than 1.5 million people in the state followed by 29 percent Hindus and 26 percent belonging to various indigenous groups.
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