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A group of people riding motorbikes, all wearing orange scarves, some carrying orange flags
Hindu nationalists in Haryana.
Photo: Morning Star News

Despite strong opposition, and even walkouts organized by opposing politicians, the Haryana Assembly in northern India passed the "Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill" on March 22nd. The bill's stated purpose is to instill fear among those who might be involved in unlawful conversion activities.

The new legislation prohibits "religious conversions which are effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offence." According to the bill, the onus of proof lies with the accused to demonstrate that no illegal compulsion was used. Punishment under the act could include imprisonment for up to ten years.

This newly implemented law will also punish anyone attempting to convert minors, women or persons belonging to scheduled castes and tribes, whether by coercion or otherwise. In debating the bill, opposing politicians expressed concerns about the ramifications. They argued that the bill would serve to deepen social divides within the country.

While the anti-conversion legislation rightly condemns coercive religious conversions, these laws have been misused throughout India to empower those who oppose Christians and their message. In July 2021, International Christian Concern published a report demonstrating the adverse effects of such legislation on the state of Madhya Pradesh. Evidence indicates that since the passing of the new state legislation on January 9th, 2021, a wave of persecution has been unleashed against the Christian minority, demonstrated through acts of direct intimidation and threats of increased violence.

According to the study, there were 25 documented cases of persecution in 2020 before the new restrictions. Within six months of the new laws being passed, the number had increased to 48 incidents, which altogether affected more than 4,200 people and resulted in at least 47 church closures. For more information on the increased challenges facing Christians in India, go to our country report.

Pray that Christians in Haryana will be guided by the Holy Spirit as they continue courageously ministering among an increasingly hostile environment. Pray that those residing in this Indian state will receive the Lord's wisdom, peace and the ongoing assurance of His presence abiding with them. May the governments within each state, where such legislation has been enforced, realize the serious implications these new laws will have on the country's religious minorities, and thus make the necessary amendments to ensure they are not misused.

Current Ministry Projects

In addition to providing persecuted Christians legal support and rehabilitation assistance, VOMC cares for children of martyrs by ensuring they have a safe home in which to be nurtured both physically and spiritually. VOMC also partners to equip Christians in India with Biblical training and offers specialized ministry to further strengthen and support marginalized, persecuted Christian women.

Project Funds: Families of Martyrs, Equipping the Saints, Legal Defence, Relief and Development, Women’s Ministry

Country Information

Designation
Persecuted

Population
1,339,330,514 (July 2021 est.)

Ethnicity (%)
Indo-Aryan (72), Dravidian (25), Mongoloid and other (3)

Religion (%)
Hinduism (79.8), Muslim (14.2), Christianity (2.3), Sikh (1.7), other (2)

Leader
President Ram Nath Kovind (2017)

Government type
Federal parliamentary republic

Legal system
Based on English common law; separate personal law codes apply to Christians, Hindus and Muslims.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Pray for India

Despite the intimidation and violence that have taken place in many of India's states, may Christians wisely yet unashamedly preach the Gospel. Pray that indigenous Christians and foreign missionaries will minister in ways that do not hint at fraudulent conversions, unmasking the intentions behind the anti-conversion legislation. Intercede for India's leaders, that they may reign with justice and righteousness.

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