Indian Christians unite to free priest as Unity Octave begins ( UCA News )

Christians of various denominations carried the priest on their shoulders from the police station

A person reads out the police complaint, which accused Father Joseph Amuthakani Jhabua diocese in central India of distributing the Bible in his attempt to convert Hindus. A person next to him holds the Missal (order of the Mass) they took from the priest’s vehicle as evidence of Bible distribution. The priest was arrested on Jan. 18 but was released after ten hours. (Photo: supplied)

Indian police released a Catholic priest ten hours after he was arrested after some 1,000 Christians of various denominations rallied behind him in a show of solidarity as Christians across the globe began the week-long Unity Octave to pray for ecumenical unity.

Father Joseph Amuthakani, a Catholic priest of the Jhabua diocese in the central state of Madhya Pradesh was arrested on Jan. 18 and illegally detained following the allegation that he attempted to convert a person fraudulently, violating a state law that criminalizes all conversions without informing the state.

“I am touched by the people’s love,” Father Amuthakani told UCA News on Jan. 19.

The 49-year-old priest said he was arrested from a sub-station of the parish, where he went to celebrate Mass.

The arrest was based on the false complaint of a Hindu man, who said the priest gathered gullible villagers in a house for Mass. At the gathering, the priest distributed Bible and other Christian literature and asked the people to abandon their Hindu faith and become Christians.

The youth also produced a copy of the Missal (order of the Mass) he had taken from the priest’s vehicle, as evidence terming it as Bible.

“Though police officials understood it as a fake case. But still, under pressure from their top officials, I was kept in custody unit 8 pm,” Father Amuthakani said.

The priest was released from the police station after more than 1,000 Christians gathered at Thandla police station in the Jhabua district, demanding his release.

Christians make up nearly 4 percent of the more than one million people in the district although the state-wide Christian population is just 0.29 percent of the more than 71 million people.

“We all reached the police station for the rescue of the priest,” Gulla Dhamore, a Protestant Christian told UCA News on Jan.19.

Similarly “people from other denominations apart from Catholic also reached the police station to support the priest,” he added.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here

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