Authorities have arrested a Christian pastor for showing a film titled “Jesus Christ,” charging him with attempting “forced conversions” in India.
The minister, identified only as Pastor Sojan, was arrested and detained by police Dec. 9 in Bakhtiyarpur village in the Patna district of India’s Bihar state, reported Asia News.
Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Asia News the pastor “was just showing a movie.”
“Minorities are even more vulnerable and intimidated by the majority and its false accusations,” he said.
Asia News said the villagers accused the pastor of attempted force conversions and had police arrest him.
Police then took the pastor back to his home village of Barh and ordered him not to return to Bakhtiyarpur.
The aid organization International Christian Concern noted that false accusations of forced conversion against Christian pastors and evangelists are common in India.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body commissioned by Congress, released a report this month on anti-conversion laws in countries such as India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The report said such laws are used to curtail religious freedom for minorities.
“Anti-conversion laws are frequently abused by extremists who seek to prevent anyone from leaving the majority religion,” said USCIRF commissioner Nadine Maenza.
USCIRF commissioner Tony Perkins said the laws prevent religious minorities from “exercising their right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”
“These laws also disproportionately affect vulnerable and disfavored groups, such as Dalit Hindus and foreign humanitarian and aid workers,” said Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
The commission held a hearing Dec. 12 on religious freedom in India, the Express newspaper of London reported.
USCIRF Chairman Tenzin Dorjee said “religious extremists in India have intimidated, harassed and sometimes murdered members of religious minorities or those who either abandon or change faiths.”
“These actions represent a direct threat to the secular claims of the Indian constitution and the fundamental rights of millions of Indians to practice their religion freely or live accordingly to their beliefs without fearing violence,” he said.