Prayer vigil against religious discrimination in India

Release International chief executive Paul Robinson with the petition outside the India High Commission(Photo: Andrew Boyd)

Release International held a prayer vigil outside the India High Commission in London on Monday to spotlight discrimination against Christians in India.

During the vigil, Release supporters read out a list of attacks against Christians and prayed for religious freedom in the country.

Supporters of the organisation, which monitors the persecution of Christians worldwide, presented a 28,000-signature petition on behalf of Indian Christians suffering under the threat of anti-conversion legislation and violence from Hindu militants.

Christians in India face growing threats from discriminatory laws that place restrictions on the Church and punish those who choose to actively follow the Christian faith.

Seven states in India have anti-conversion laws, which require that those who wish to convert to another religion first gain official permission.

Release International supporters singing for religious freedom in India(Photo: Andrew Boyd)

Religious leaders are also required by law to report conversion or risk a three-year jail sentence.

Release argues that the laws are undermining the religious freedom guaranteed under India's constitution and it is calling on the government to restore the rights of Indian citizens.

Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson presented the petition to the India High commission along with the Release's patron Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali.

Mr Robinson said: "We strongly urge the Government of India to uphold the rights of Christians under the constitution to practice and propagate their faith without fear of being falsely accused or imprisoned."

Fears are also growing surrounding the safety of Indian Christians in the face of violence, as Release partners in India have recorded 42 attacks against Christians in Andhra Pradesh, India's fourth largest state, in the past six months. An average of two assaults a week against Christians are reported in the state of Karnataka.

"We call on the Government of India to do everything in its power to stop these attacks on its own citizens and to bring those responsible to justice," said Robinson.