Contact: Taun Cortado, Gospel for Asia, 800-946-2742
CARROLLTON, Texas, April 30 /Christian Newswire/ -- Gospel for Asia missionaries in Gujarat, India, could now face up to three years in prison if they are convicted of "forcibly converting" someone to Christianity. And believers across the state are concerned that the law will open doors for anti-Christian extremists to falsely accuse them of illegal practices.
"Our missionaries are trusting that the Lord will take care of them in this difficult time," said K.P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia's founder and president. "Several states in India have enacted these types of laws, but the love of Christ is still going out."
The state's legislative assembly passed the "Gujarat Religious Freedom Act," an anti-conversion law, in 2003. But it remained dormant until April 1, when they finally formalized the rules for its implementation.
Now, if someone responds to the Gospel, the missionary must submit a completed form to the government, which includes detailed information about the person changing his or her faith. Also, the person who is "converting" must report to the government 30 days before the "conversion ceremony"—which includes events like baptism.
If religious workers do not comply with these rules, they will face criminal charges. However, those in the Hindu religion are exempt from the stipulations of the new law, leaving many to believe that it is targeting Christians and Muslims.
The state's legislative assembly tried to get the rules for the law framed in March. But Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma declared the amendment unconstitutional because it "violated Article 25 of the (Indian) constitution, which guarantees to all citizens to freely profess, practice and propagate any religion." The March amendment also included Jains and Buddhists as part of the Hindu religion. Now, in the new law, the two religions are considered separate.
Christians are concerned that the law will provide new ways for anti-Christian extremists to persecute them through false accusations. They are also worried that the needy will suffer, because charitable work could be construed as bribery for people to "convert" to Christianity.
"Please pray that our missionaries and other Christian workers in Gujarat will have wisdom and strength from the Lord," said K.P. Yohannan. "Also lift up those that want to persecute the believers, that they will come to Jesus in a personal way."
Gospel for Asia is an evangelical mission organization based in Carrollton involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.