A local Tennessee pastor attending a Sunday School conference in India is stranded in the country after being arrested as he attempted to travel home to the United States.
Bryan Nerren, leader of the International House of Prayer Ministries in Shelbyville, was initially detained on October 4 along with two other pastors. Nerren’s supporters believe this was part of a coordinated action by law enforcement.
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Earlier, in New Delhi, police had taken issue with Nerren’s carrying of a large amount of cash, intended to cover the expenses for two large conferences with over 1,000 attendees booked in.
“Pastor Nerren explained what the funds were for and answered all the questions from the customs agent,” explained the ACLJ, a leading religious freedom advocacy group.
But the customs agent then “specifically asked if Pastor Nerren was a Christian and if the funds would be used to support Christian causes,” according to the group. After further questioning, Nerren was free to go, but it was clear that a concern had been logged by the authorities.
When he arrived in Bagdogra, Nerren was immediately arrested and told he had violated India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act. Nerren was “targeted and arrested as he stepped off the plane in Bagdogra,” the ACLJ noted.
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“In Bagdogra, Pastor Nerren was taken into custody and transported to Siliguri, India where he was incarcerated and was not allowed any visitation, including from the U.S. Consulate or his attorney.”
Pastor Bryan Nerren is an #American #Christian pastor who, on a recent trip to India, was singled out because of his Christianity & arrested. The @ACLJ is fighting for #PastorNerren & his family, hopeful that #India will allow him to return home. https://t.co/xoT7m3LmjA— Jay Sekulow (@JaySekulow) October 28, 2019
After six long days in jail, a hearing was finally held and Nerren was released on bail. Unfortunately, they confiscated the pastor’s passport, effectively detaining him in the country. A further court date has been set for December 12.
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“Pastor Nerren is trapped in India with no passport, making even the most mundane of tasks difficult,” the ACLJ noted. “He cannot leave. He cannot come home to his wife, children, and young grandchildren who surely can’t comprehend what’s happening to their grandfather. He cannot care for his special needs daughter here in the United States who needs round-the-clock assistance, meaning his wife is left to take care of her alone, while also constantly worrying about her husband. His entire family is suffering from this injustice.”
In a statement to the group, Bryan’s wife, Rhonda, issued an urgent call to prayer.
“My husband has done nothing wrong,” she said. “His only crime is living out his steadfast love for Jesus.” The distraught wife added that her special needs daughter “needs her daddy home.
“Please pray for our family. Pray for the hearts of the officials who have the power to give him back his passport and let him come back to us. And pray for our legal team at the ACLJ as they work on our behalf to bring him home.”
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According to the Tennessean, Pastor Jim Gore of Sevierville, one of those who was traveling with Nerren during the incident, has confirmed that Nerren’s wife and attorney are set to meet with state Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to discuss Nerren’s case.
If you wish to sign the ACLJ petition to advocate for the release of Pastor Nerren, you can do so here.
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India is ranked 10th on Persecution Watchdog Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
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