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Two pastors arrested over alleged conversion in India

Both are associated with a movement influenced by the Church of God in South Korea
Christian devotees participate in a prayer meeting in the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh

Christian devotees participate in a prayer meeting in the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Facebook)

Published: March 09, 2023 08:03 AM GMT
Updated: March 09, 2023 08:20 AM GMT

Two Indian pastors belonging to a new religious movement influenced by the Church of God in South Korea have been arrested by police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly luring people into changing their religion.

Pastor Rajat Kumar Shah, a resident of the capital Delhi, and Pastor Abhijeet Mesih, hailing from Chakeri, a town near Kanpur city, were arrested on March 4, police said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Ravindra Kumar told the media they were alerted about an event being held inside a building in Shyam Nagar in Chakeri town to allegedly force poor people to convert.

The alert came from members of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or world assembly of Hindus, and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, according to some media reports.

The pastors, Shah and Mesih, are associated with the World Mission Society Church of God, which is said to be influenced by the Church of God, which originated in South Korea in 1964.

Media reports quoted police claiming to have found books written in the Taiwanese language from them.

A case under the Indian Penal Code and the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act has been registered against the duo.

The Kanpur police also detained four others, but they were later released.

“This is not the first time Christians, including pastors, are being arrested in the state. Police have initiated action against more than 100 people in the last six months under false conversion charges,” Pastor Jitendra Singh, general secretary of the Pastors’ Association of Uttar Pradesh told UCA News on March 8.

He said more than ten churches were shuttered in Kanpur, Fatehpur, and Bareilly.

Singh, who is a member of the New India Church of God, said Christians “are living in constant fear due to repeated threats from Hindu nationalist groups who are backed by the police.”

He recalled the previous arrest of Pastor Santosh John along with his wife on Feb. 26 from their residence at Indrapuram town in Ghaziabad district after a false complaint by Bajrang Dal. Both were still languishing in jail and the next hearing of their case in court was scheduled for March 10.

“We are praying and are hopeful that all those arrested may be released soon,” he said.

The anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh came into force in November 2020 and states that “no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.”

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2 Comments on this Story
CHHOTEBHAI
Kanpur is my hometown. I received a call from the mother of one of these young men. I rushed to the police station and was there for two hours. I ensured that no physical harm was done to these young men and that the due process of law would be followed. I was the sole Christian to come to the aid of the accused, in the face of taunts from the belligerent accusers. These evangelical groups also need to make major course corrections.
RAKESH SINGH
Stop conversing people and u all will leave peacefully... Otherwise u and ur clown messiah wiil have to run from india into peaces????
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