The northern Indian state of Uttarakhand has adopted an “anti-conversion” law.
State governor, Krishan Kant Paul, signed the “Religious Freedom” bill in April after it was approved by the legislative assembly and is the seventh state in India to put “anti-conversion” legislation in force.
The other states are Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the ruling party in six of the seven states to adopt such a law.
The new law contains stiff jail sentences and fines for converting people through “allurement” or “coercion”.
On paper, the legislation claims to ban conversions that come about through force, fraud or inducement through money, jobs or some other form of material benefit.
But these terms have been defined loosely to include social work, praying for the sick or even evangelism.
The law makes “forced conversions” a non-bailable offence punishable by a jail term of between one and five years.
If a victim of so-called forced conversion is a minor, woman or person belonging to either a Scheduled Caste (Dalit) or a Scheduled Tribe (Tribal), the minimum jail term is two years.
The law also makes it mandatory to obtain permission from the state government prior to religious conversion.
An affidavit has to be submitted to the district magistrate at least one month prior to conversion.
Additionally, any marriage formalized for the sole purpose of conversion by a man of one religion with a woman of another religion may be declared null and void by the family court.
The bill has been seen as primarily targeting Christians and going against the freedom of religious belief enshrined in the Constitution of India.
In fact, certain Hindu groups have used the law as a tool to harass and persecute Christians.
Dr. John Dayal, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum and past president of the All India Catholic Union, said that the enactment of the anti-conversion law was driven by the BJP’s agenda.
He said that, “it fails the very basic test of explaining to the world the need for having such a law. … There is no forcible or fraudulent conversion in the state to the Christian or Muslim or Sikh faiths shown either by the census data or by the police statistics.
In the absence of such reality, the only explanation can be that it is to threaten the minority communities or to curb the freedom of religion of the Dalit and backward communities whose rights are being crushed by the upper castes which exercise political power in the state.”
The 2017 Report by the Evangelical Fellowship of India has described the past year as “one of the most traumatic for the Christian community” in a decade, due to the amount of violence targeting Christians in India.
HOME GROUP PRAYER
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness,”1 Timothy 6:11–12 ESV.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We give thanks for all your blessings. We pray that we can focus on your Word and the key virtues of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.
These are necessary everywhere and we pray that you help our Christian brothers and sisters in India also to find these, notwithstanding the persecution and obstacles they face.
May the leaders of the government in India realise that the anti-conversion laws they are putting place are not righteous or loving.
To truly love someone means allowing them the true freedom to find truth. Oppression is not gentle.
Religious discrimination is not righteous. We pray for the leaders of the BJP party that they will find the wisdom to retract these laws and not pass any more like them.
We pray for those in these states who suffer from economic difficulty. We pray that you will nourish them both physically and spiritually.
We pray for the brave persons who are willing to speak out against these laws. We pray that we use our religious freedom to pray for our Indian brethren and to support organisations which fight for their religious freedom.
Please keep us all mindful of you and the righteous things we should pursue and the need to always show faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness in a world where this is not always easy.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in this pursuit.
Materials used by kind permission of the original author.