October 11 (Compass Direct News) – A church in Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district cancelled its weekly meeting yesterday (October 10) due to tensions in the region following false reports of conversions in newspapers. The reports led to two attacks in the past week.
A local Christian who requested anonymity told Compass that tensions began on October 4, when local editions of national Hindi dailies Hindustan, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran published reports on the supposed forced conversion of 350 Hindu villagers to Christianity in Belahta village.
Reporters of these newspapers had on October 3 come to the weekly prayer meeting of the Belahta village branch of the Abundant Life Church. More than 1,000 people, mostly believers from Belahta and nearby villages, were praying and worshipping in a tent pitched outside the house of a convert, Sanju Singh.
“On October 4, when a few Christian families of the village were sitting in the tent, which had not been removed yet, local villagers along with extremists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or the World Hindu Council) and police came and vandalized the structure,” said the source, a church leader.
The VHP accused Singh of forcibly converting Hindu villagers, breaking idols of Hindu gods and goddesses and throwing them into the village well.
They threatened that if the meetings continued or any Christian from outside the village was seen again, they would resort to unprecedented violence...
Due to tensions in the area, the main branch of the church in Line Bazar asked the Line Bazar police station to deploy officers for Sunday worship. “The police simply signed the letter and gave it back to the Christians without providing them protection,” said the source.
Condemning the harassment of the Christians in Jaunpur, the New Delhi-based Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) said in a statement, “The police too seem to be working hand in glove with fundamentalist groups, and have been regularly detaining local Christians, pressuring them to return to Hinduism.”
The EFI denounced the role of the local press in making “matters worse for Christians.”
Out of the total population of more than 166 million, only 212,678 are Christian in Uttar Pradesh...
In neighboring Madhya Pradesh state, Hindu extremists last night (October 10) attacked the annual convention of a Pentecostal church in Jabalpur, vandalizing the facility in spite of police presence.
The extremists also threatened that if the meeting continued, they would launch a bomb attack.
The incident took place at 9 p.m. at the Pentecostal Church in Khamaria Ordnance Factory Estate area of Jabalpur before the first day of the 53rd annual convention concluded with prayer and benediction. The convention, attended by about 150 people, continues until Sunday (October 15).
“About 70 people belonging to the Dharam Sena (Army for Religion) tried to enter into the tents where the convention was going on, but the police deployed for our protection stopped them on the main road,” Augustine Rao, senior pastor of the church, told Compass. “Angry with the police, the extremists broke the church’s signboard put up on the road and tore the convention banners.”