Churches in Madhya Pradesh, India, forced to cancel Sunday services

Churches in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, India, have complained of being forced to cancel services owing to a crackdown on allegedly unlawful conversion activities.

District authorities have implemented a demand made in a document circulated by the radical group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

The VHP activists called for a ban on any meetings held “for conversions and activities of this type”.

According to Jhabua sub-divisional magistrate Anil Bhana, therefore, any events held for the purpose of “mass conversion” are now barred.

Church leaders, however, have said that the order effectively prevents them from holding services at all. Any Christian meeting may be considered by extremists an attempt to unlawfully gain converts.

“For the past one month, many have cancelled Sunday prayer meetings” due to “false charges of conversion”, explained a Madhya Pradesh church minister.

A Barnabas Fund source added that the district authorities are asking church ministers and other Christian workers to appear before officials and explain their activities. He described these orders as “new pressure tactics applied through government mechanisms”.

“It is indeed tough on the believers and church leaders there,” he said. “May the Lord give them His grace, and use His power to transform the situation.”

Earlier in November, pastors in Madhya Pradesh reported that they have been forced to start documenting the names of Christians attending church services in order to protect themselves against false allegations of illegal religious conversions.

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