Pastor Jailed Even After Police Couldn't Find Any Witnesses Against Him
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A pastor in India is in jail on fraudulent claims that he broke the country's "anti-conversion" laws by sharing the Gospel with people, although there is no evidence that he did anything wrong.
Pastor Bajarang Rawat, 47, faces charges of converting people by "allurement" even though police could not find any witnesses to testify against him, and the only evidence they presented to the courts was his Bible, Morning Star News reports.
Rawat was arrested on July 16 and charged at the Loni Katra police station under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 for an "attempt to convert…by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by fraudulent means," the outlet reports.
The next day police drove him to the courts and the judge asked what was the reason for his arrest. They told him they had confiscated a Bible from him.
"Reprimanding the policemen, the magistrate told them that it was not a crime to possess a Bible and that he himself has a Bible at home," Pastor Rawat told Morning Star News. "The policemen stood silent, but even after this conversation, I was sent to jail."
It is one of the latest examples of how Hindu extremists in India misuse "anti-conversion" laws to persecute Christians.
According to Morning Star News, Rawat's wife and two children were left to starve when he was jailed because he provides the family's sole source of income.
"With much difficulty, we traced his wife and daughters, who were living in a dilapidated shed," Munish Chandra, the pastor's attorney shared. "They had no food to eat. Their condition was beyond what I can describe."
When Rawat was arrested, the police, the news media, and Hindu nationalists could not find one witness to testify that the pastor broke the law. The group blamed Rawat for brainwashing people "so much so that they stop worshipping idols."
One Hindu nationalist told officers, "He has been preaching about a foreign God and spreading a foreign religion," the pastor told the outlet.
Authorities later questioned members of Rawat's church. They all testified about their faith and said they were not converted by "allurement".
"The people boldly stepped forward to give amazing testimonies of healing that they and their families have encountered, and they refused to deny their faith," he said, noting that as a poor man without a proper home and job, he had nothing to offer people besides his prayers.
Rawat has since been released on bail with the help of Christian leaders.
They have moved him and his family to an undisclosed location with rented living quarters.
He still meets with congregants to share the Word of God.
"Families are still coming for fellowship, prayer and to hear God's Word, but they all come individually and not in a group," he said.
He added, "God's Word fills my heart, and His songs are on my lips – even if they have taken away my Bible, I can still preach."
As CBN News reported, millions of Indians believe the country belongs to Hindus and that all other religions, including Christianity and Islam, must be eliminated from society.
Christianity is India's third-largest religion with about 26 million followers, or about 2.3% of the population and their numbers are steadily growing.
Many attacks against Christians in the country are carried out by Hindu extremist groups. Human rights and religious freedom advocates say those extremists are encouraged by the country's leader, Narendra Modi.
Meanwhile, one in seven Christians worldwide now faces persecution, according to a new report from World Relief and Open Doors USA.
A report titled, "Closed Doors" finds that 360 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination.
More than 5,550 Christians were killed for their faith this year alone, while many others were arrested and imprisoned around the world.
Christians face some of the most severe persecution in authoritarian countries, such as North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, China, and Eritrea.
"The persecution of Christians continues to grow around the globe. As Americans, we must decide how we'll respond," said Ryan Brown, president and CEO of Open Doors US. "Our hope is this report not only provides a call to respond but also helps inform that response."
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