Friday, November 16, 2007

Anti-conversion legislation in India keeps Christians vigilant

India-Hindu nationalists have been frustrated in their bid strengthen an already stringent anti-conversion bill in Chhattisgarh State, India.One amendment would have required a person who wants to change his religion to report those intentions to government officials at least 30 days in advance.The government would then have the right to grant or deny the request.The governor also openly opposed another clause in the amendment which exempted people from the law if they are reverting from Christianity or Islam back to their native religion. The amendments target religious conversions classified as "occurring by force or allurement."Dave Stravers of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India explains, "A law like this needs to be confirmed by the governor. Just two days ago (Monday), the governor vetoed the bill."Christians claim the bill violated the Indian Constitution's religious freedom clause. Although they make up less than one percent of the nearly 21 million residents of Chhattisgarh, they have been effective in ministry. A strong anti-conversion law would have jeopardized many evangelistic projects. "So," says Stravers, "Christians are rejoicing that this prospect of a strong anti-conversion law is not going to happen in Chhattisgarh."Mission India has multiple literacy classes in the state. Stravers says one was recently shut down by militants, but one woman refused to be intimidated.32-year old Rani joined Mission India's Adult Literacy program earlier this year and was pleased about everything she was learning. She became a Christian, and a worship group started out of this literacy class.Extremists from the Bajrang Dal group stormed into the literacy center and questioned the group. The students explained they were learning to read and write, but the extremists harassed them and forced them to drink alcohol.The literacy students were shaken and decided to stop the worship service.After several days of silence, Rani had had enough. She walked to the homes of the literacy students and persuaded them to attend the worship services. She reminded them that they were worshipping a true and living God who would take care of them and help them.Her determination encouraged others who, despite the threat against them, "rrestarted their classes, and they're doing their Sunday worship again as they did before and just trusting God to protect them." Stravers says, "To me, it just illustrates the point when people say, 'How can I pray?' of course we say, 'Pray for protection.' But especially, pray that people will have courage."

As in the days of Noah....

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