(ADDS RELEASE ON BAIL, CHANGING LEAD, ADDS COMMENT)
By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– An Indian evangelist and his mother were jailed in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka for their evangelism activities amid a wider crackdown on Christians, before being released on bail, their supporters told BosNewsLife Monday, February 18.
Evangelist Pradeep, 30, and Chowdamma, 60, “are the latest victims of persecution of Christians in Karnataka by the fundamentalist Hindus” who oppose their mission which include “fearlessly demonstrating…faith in Christ’s teachings,” said advocacy group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
“We at GCIC were able to bail out our brother Pradeep [and his mother]”, GCIC representative Regi Abraham told BosNewsLife. “They were released February 11,” after three days behind bars, he said. The exact amount of the bail was not immediately announced.
Both Christians, who apparently only use one name, are part of the Karnataka Evangelical Ministry of Mysore, a mission group.
PRAYER MEETING ATTACKED
Witnesses said troubles began Friday, February 8, when both visited two Christian women, Jyothi and Lakshmi, to pray for them at their hom in Bellahalli village in the state’s Mandya District.
While the evangelist and his mother began praying, some 20 Hindu militants of the hardline Nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or ‘National Volunteer Organization’ reportedly barged into the house.
The militants allegedly intimidated and physically attacked both Pradeep and his mother Chowdamma, accusing them of “forced conversion of Hindus to Christianity.”
Christians said both of them were injured in the attack, with Evangelist Pradeep sustaining injuries on his lips as well as a number of bruises on his face.
“The Hindu radicals then forcibly took both the mother and the son by bus to the Pandavpura Police Station and handed them over to the police falsely alleging that the two were fraudulently and forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity by offering them money,” GCIC said.
POLICE LAUNCHING INVESTIGATION
After they were hospitalized, police began criminal proceedings on charges of “forced conversions”, sending them to pretrial detention in the Mandya Sub Jail, before GCIC managed to finance their conditional release, Christians said. It was not yet clear when the trial of the accused would start.
Police could not immediately be reached for comment, but Karnataka is among several states where authorities are cracking down on “forced conversions” a word often used for evangelism activities, according to rights activists.
Evangelical Christians have denied wrongdoing, saying the Bible makes clear that faith in Jesus Christ is only based on a free, personal choice, and that other religions it is impossible to “convert” people by force.
Local officials have been pressured by Hindu militants to crackdown on the spread of Christianity, including among Dalits, considered the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s ancient system of Hinduism.
India, a heavily Hindu nation of over 1 billion people, has seen a rise in attacks against devoted Christians and their churches, including in Karnataka.
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