Eight Christians acquitted of forced conversion in India

Indian Christians are a minority group, and have protested their treatment amid rising religious tensions.Reuters

Eight Christians who were accused of forcibly converting a Hindu have been acquitted by a court in India according to Asia News.

The Christian men were arrested in 2007 after they were accused of proselytising to their Hindu neighbours, going door to door in Balya village. A member of the community complained to the police in Kadaba who then registered the case against them.

The men concerned – T. Sebastian, K. Varghese, M. Thomas, S. Babu, V. Baby, T. Joseph, T. James and T. Alexander – have been acquitted by the judges of the Fifth Additional District and Sessions Court in Puttur. The judges ordered their release, eight years after their initial arrest.

"This is a victory not only for the eight innocent Christians, but for the entire Christian community," Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told Asia News.

"Conversion is a right established by the Constitution," he added. "But conversion implemented by fraudulent means or coercion is illegal. It is not conversion."

George said that many Christians in Karnataka, south western India, receive threats and harassment frequently by Hindu right-wing extremists who "disrupt their prayers in private homes and blame them for alleged forced conversions."

"The GCIC gladly welcomes the acquittal of the eight innocent Christians," he said.

India is currently 21 on Open Doors' World Watch List, which ranks the most difficult countries to be a Christian. According to the persecution charity, the influence fundamentalist Hindus have on the government has increased, and Hindu radicals now monitor Christian activity closely.

Regular reports emerge of pastors and church members being beaten because of allegations of conversion. The religious wing of the the Hindu nationalist NGO Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, of which the ruling BJP party is the political wing, has claimed that conversion to faiths other than Hinduism, including Christianity, is "the root of terrorism".