A pastor and his wife in Northern India were arrested and sent to jail on false forced conversion charges earlier this month. The incident marks the latest arrests in a broad crackdown on Christians in India’s Uttar Pradesh state.
On October 3, Pastor Nandha Nathaniel and his wife were leading a worship service in a Christian home in the Azamgarh District of Uttar Pradesh. At around 11:30 a.m., a mob of nearly 100 radical Hindu nationalists barged into the house and disrupted the worship service. The radicals used foul language against the Christians and accused Pastor Nathaniel and his wife of engaging in illegal religious conversions.
Prior to the attack, an unfamiliar individual from the neighborhood entered the worship service and began filming the Christians. Witnesses claim that the mob showed up less than five minutes after this unknown individual entered the house.
Police were called to the scene and Pastor Nathaniel and his wife were arrested and charged under Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law. The couple was transported to Azamgarh Central Jail and were later denied bail. The couple have applied for bail from the local sessions court and the couple’s hearing on the matter was scheduled for today, October 11.
Pastor Nathaniel and his family have been leading New Life Church in the Azamgarh District for nearly two decades. According to the couple’s relatives this is the first time they have been targeted by radical Hindu nationalists.
“This is the first time we have been attacked in the last 18 years,” Pastor Nathaniel’s son told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The accusations against my father are totally false.”
Since late-June, Christians in Uttar Pradesh have been enduring an intense new wave of persecution. Using the state’s new anti-conversion law, radical Hindu nationalists have been attacking Christians and their places of worship with near impunity. ICC has documented at least 49 incidents of persecution since the beginning of this wave of persecution, affecting more than 130 individuals.