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India's top court gives nod to prayer meet by evangelist

District authorities had revoked permission for Paul Dhinakaran's event in central Madhya Pradesh's Indore city
A payer service by Paul Dhinakaran was canceled in Madhya Pradesh, ruled by pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

A payer service by Paul Dhinakaran was canceled in Madhya Pradesh, ruled by pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party. (Photo: prayertoweronline.org)

 

Published: April 11, 2024 12:07 PM GMT
Updated: April 11, 2024 11:11 PM GMT

India's top court has asked district authorities in a central state to restore permission for a top evangelist to hold a prayer meeting after it was revoked, reportedly at the behest of hardline Hindu activists.

On April 10, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court said, “Prima facie, we find that the revocation of the permission is not justified” and imposed a stay on it.

The bench headed by Justice B R Gavai asked the district collector of Indore in Madhya Pradesh state to permit evangelist Paul Dhinakaran, who heads The Jesus Calls Ministry, to address the prayer meeting.

The event will be held in Indore, the financial nerve center of the state ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We are happy that the Supreme Court has stayed the arbitrary order and given us justice,” Suresh Carleton, the program's chief organizer, told UCA News on April 11.

"We had scheduled the program for April 10, but the Supreme Court order came on the same day, so we had to cancel it," Carleton said.

"We will now hold the event at the earliest,” he added.

Dhinakaran, based in southern Chennai city, is a well-known evangelist in India who conducts prayer meetings across the country. According to reports, more than 100 “Prayer Towers” have been established under his leadership in India.

Carleton said that around 8,000 Christians from different denominations were expected to attend the meeting in Indore.

The district administration on March 22 gave the nod to hold the prayer meeting, scheduled for April 10.

But on April 6, hardline Hindu activists under the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (all-India Hindu grand council) complained to the Indore police commissioner.

They alleged religious conversion activities and sought cancellation of the permission for the event.

On April 7, the administration revoked the permission without informing the organizers, said Carleton.

"It was a conspiracy and the district administration joined hands with the Hindu groups," Carleton said.

Carleton approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking a stay order but it declined. So he moved to the Supreme Court.

The top court order “has vindicated how Hindu groups spread blatant lies” against the tiny Christian community in the state and the authorities oblige “without applying its mind,” Carleton noted.

Madhya Pradesh is among 11 states in the country with a stringent anti-conversion law. The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act bans conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, other fraudulent means, allurement, or promise of marriage.

Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the state’s 72 million people, accuse hardline Hindu groups of targeting their prayer meetings, Church-run schools, hostels, and orphanages under the guise of religious conversion.

Several Christians, including bishops, priests, pastors, nuns, and laypeople in the state, are among those facing charges under the draconian anti-conversion law.

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