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India’s most populous state tops in persecuting Christians

Many Hindus believe that conversion to Christianity is an attack on their culture and way of life, and an imminent threat to both, despite the fact that Christianity has been a presence in India since the days of St. Thomas the Apostle. 

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in India, see here.

“India’s most populous state tops in persecuting Christians,” UCA News, December 1, 2023:

Nearly 400 Christians have been arrested in a northern Indian state in the past three years since the imposition of a stringent law prohibiting religious conversions, say local Christian leaders.

Police in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of the country, have registered 181 cases against Christians under the sweeping provisions of the law that prohibits change of religion “through force, allurement, fraud, or marriage.”

Among the 398 people arrested so far, a majority are Protestant pastors and followers of neo-Christian groups. Those jailed include 318 males and 80 females, besides a Catholic priest.

“This data is from Nov. 27, 2020, to Nov. 27, 2023,” a Church leader who did not want to be identified told UCA News.

Most of them are currently out on bail and only about 50 including Father Babu Francis, director of social work at the Allahabad diocese remain in jail.

The priest was arrested along with three other Catholics on Oct. 3 after a local leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused them of attempting to convert villagers in Allahabad district.

Uttar Pradesh is ruled by BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The state government has been headed by a Hindu monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath since 2017.

The draconian anti-conversion law was first enforced as an ordinance in 2020 and adopted by the state assembly the following year as the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act 2021.

The law, Christian leaders allege, has become a tool in the hands of hardline Hindu groups “to target and trap Christians.”

“Our people are being jailed on totally false cases of religious conversion,” said Minakshi Singh, general secretary of Unity in Compassion, an organization based in national capital New Delhi that is helping Christians seek bail.

“The very basis of this draconian anti-conversion law is against the basic tenets and spirit of the Indian constitution,” she told UCA News on Dec. 1.

The secular constitution grants freedom to every citizen “to follow and propagate a religion of one’s choice,” Singh added….

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