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Christian Worship Center Demolished in India, 18 Pastors Arrested: 'We Are Targeted'

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Government officials in northern India's Uttar Pradesh state have demolished a Christian prayer center and arrested 18 pastors for allegedly attacking the police and other officials, according to reports.

The Hindu nationalists sent a special squad, escorted by police, to tear down the Jeevan Jyoti Church mission center and its place of worship in the Jaunpur district last week claiming it was on illegal land, the Union of Catholic Asia (UCA) News reports.

The police squad demolished the center that has stood for over a decade by bulldozing its two-story building and boundary walls. They also blocked all roads leading to the mission center, The Wire reports.

"Police so far have arrested 18 people associated with the mission, including Pastor Durga Prasad Yadav," said a Pentecostal Church official from Uttar Pradesh, which is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

"They are in jail and efforts are being made to get them out on bail," he added, requesting anonymity. 

Officials accused Yadav, his wife, and his brother of criminal conspiracy in a state information report.

As CBN News has reported, millions of Indians believe the country belongs to Hindus and that all other religions, including Christianity and Islam, must be eliminated from society.

This ideology, called Hindutva, is changing the religious landscape and is a large reason why India ranks as the 11th-worst country for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors' 2023 World Watch List.

Hindus make up just under 80% of India's population. Muslims are at 14%. Christianity is India's third-largest religion with about 26 million followers, or about 2.3% of the population.

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In Uttar Pradesh, Christians make up 0.18 percent of the population. 

"Increasing numbers of states are implementing anti-conversion laws, supposedly to stop Hindus being forcibly converted to other religions, but in reality, they are often used as an excuse to harass and intimidate Christians who are just doing things like distributing aid or having a private church meeting," Open Doors states. "These laws do not seem to protect Christians from being coerced back into Hinduism."

Neha Mishra, a senior government official, told reporters the Pentecostal center was demolished as "part of the state government's resolve to raze illegal structures on government land."

The mission center was built without permission, she told UCA News. 

A church official admitted a portion of the center, including the boundary wall, was on illegal land, but the two-story building was built with permission from the government. 

The government has ordered the mission to pay the $3,400 it costs to carry out the demolition.

Anti-conversion laws are fueling similar incidents across the country. 

Since these laws were enacted in 2020, nearly 400 believers have been charged and jailed. Each month, this number exponentially increases, with 50 added in September, the Christian Legal Centre reports.

And in Uttar Pradesh currently, 89 Christians, including a Catholic priest, are in different jails in for alleged violation of this law.

"The government does not want Christians to organize prayer services as many people who attend them come closer to Christ and His teachings," Pastor Dinesh Kumar from Uttar Pradesh told UCA News.

"Many Hindus follow Christianity, but they don't change their religion as they recover from illness and achieve peace after praying to Jesus," he explained.

"We don't convert anyone illegally but still we are targeted and our prayer services are targeted," he said.

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.