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Police arrested Christmas carolers on charges of forcible conversion, toll-free helpline sees rise in anti-Christian attacks across the country

NEW DELHI and INDORE, India – With Christmas just around the corner, attacks on Christians in India are on the rise. One example in India’s central Madhya Pradesh region is the recent arrest of 32 young Catholic seminarians charged with forcibly trying to convert others to Christianity.

In keeping with local Christian tradition, the young men were going from door to door in a rural village singing Christmas carols when the police detained them. When priests came to the police station to inquire about the allegations, a mob approached and torched their car.

“We are afraid of Christmas this year,” said A.C. Michael, national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, an Indian advocacy group working alongside ADF International, as he reflected on the surge in attacks on Christians. “We anticipate more anti-Christian violence and harassment. The Indian constitution guarantees the freedom to practice and propagate religion to every citizen. The arrest of 32 seminarians for the simple reason that they were singing Christmas carols violates this basic right. The state should never target people because of their religious beliefs.”

Allied lawyers of ADF International are reviewing the case. While the seminarians were acquitted and released after interventions at the governmental level, one priest is still facing prosecution for “forcible conversion.” He stands accused of paying money to a Hindu to convert to Christianity and then allegedly baptizing the convert in a pool. The evidentiary inconsistency is hard to miss: While baptism by immersion in a pool is a common practice for evangelical Christians, Catholic priests baptize only by dripping water on a convert’s forehead.

“This case just shows how absurd the allegations against Christians have become,” Michael said. “Other documented incidents in the report that the United Christian Forum produced are similar. Violence against religious minorities has become a daily routine in some parts of India.”

The United Christian Forum toll-free helpline has reported more than 700 cases of attacks on Christians since 2014. In this year alone, 216 incidents have occurred. Out of 29 states in India, at least 19 regularly witness attacks on Christians. Tamil Nadu tops the list with 41 incidents as of Nov. 30, followed by Chhattisgarh (39), Uttar Pradesh (27), and Madhya Pradesh (22). These attacks range from oral threats to beatings, and even rape.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” said ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman. “In India, we see an increasingly hostile climate toward religious minorities. Anti-conversion laws fuel this sentiment and pave the way for the so-called Hindutva ideology, which seeks to purge India of all non-Hindus. Sadly, the case of the Christmas carol singers is not an isolated incident. The international community needs to wake up to what is happening in India.”

ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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