A television screengrab of the Swedish nationals deported by Indian authorities for conducting Christian religious activities while on a tourist visa. (Source: youtube.com)
Indian authorities arrested and deported three Swedish nationals for participating in Christian religious activities while visiting the northeastern state of Assam on a tourist visa.
Hannah Mikaela Bloom, Marcus Arne Henrik Bloom and Susanna Elisabeth Hakannson were sent back to Sweden on Oct 28 after being arrested by police in Dibrugarh city on suspicion of being involved in religious conversions, according to police officials.
The trio was attending an Oct 25-27 faith healing and prayer program in Naharkatia in Dibrugarh district organized by the United Churches Fellowship and the Bless Assam Mission Network.
“The allegation of religious conversions is baseless. There is no truth in it as the organizers had obtained prior permission from the district administration and local police officials and the program was attended by only Christians, so where is the question of converting anyone,” Allen Brooks, the spokesman of the Assam Christian Forum, told UCA News.
"We had no hidden program"
However, the Swedish nationals were fined US$500 (41,500 Indian rupees) each by authorities in Assam state for violating visa regulations before their departure to New Delhi on Oct 27, an organizer of the program told media people.
“So far as allegation of religious conversions is concerned, let the government investigate it. We had no hidden program,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“The three Swedish nationals were invited because they’re good public speakers and preachers.”
Swetank Mishra, the district superintendent of police in Dibrugarh, told reporters that the allegation was true and backed by evidence in the form of photos and video footage of the event.
He said the foreigners had violated the amended Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946, for acting in contravention of the conditions of the valid visa issued to them.
The Assam police claimed to have refrained from registering a case against the trio due to cordial diplomatic relations between India and Sweden.
"Nobody was converted to Christianity"
It was not the first time, the officials claimed, that attempts to convert people to Christianity under the guise of healing and prayers have occurred in the state,
In July last year, police in Dibrugarh arrested evangelist Ranjan Chutia at his healing center in Moran for engaging in religious conversion
The organizers of the program at Naharkatia though refuted all allegations of conversions. It was a public event meant for members of the local Christian community and nobody was converted to Christianity, they maintained.
Christians make up 3.74 percent of Assam state's 31 million people, which is higher than the national average of 2.3 percent.