Mumbai: A Madhya Pradesh’s court dropped all charges against Rev Balu Saste, who had been detained for suspected forced conversions in 2016. He is the pastor at a Pentecostal church in Badwani.
A court in Kukshi, Dhar District, ruled that the pastor—a blind man—and 12 other defendants, with his wife, did not try to convert anyone by force to Christianity.
The case dates back to 14th January 2016, when the clergyman (priest) was stopped by police in Kukshi following a complaint lodged by Shankar Singh, from Dehar.
According to the latter, Christians were proselytizing among some residents in his village, a charge the Christians rejected, noting that they never irritated to convert anyone, but only sought to preach the teachings of the Gospel.
Before they were detained, the blind pastor, his wife and the other 11 Christians were violently beaten by an angry mob of right—wing Hindu extremists.
The officials eventually charged the Christians under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, the State’s anti-conversion law, as well as section 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Code*.
The acquittal is “a victory for democracy, for secular India, and gives a shining of hope to persecuted Christians in India,” said Sajan K George, the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
In his opinion, “The anti—conversion law is a tool of harassment, intimidation against the helpless little Christian minority. The Hateful propaganda against the Christian faith and the bogey of conversions aggravates fringe elements to unleash their terror against the Christian people.”
In equivalent to the acquittal of Christians in Madhya Pradesh, there are also some bad news around. Religious radicals attacked the Free Church in Sansad Marg, New Delhi, threatening to burn it down. The congregation belongs to the Evangelical Church of North India.
* Section 153 (A) reads “Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.”