Police in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state have put several house churches under surveillance in order to stop worship, in violation of the country’s secular constitution, sources said.
Police have told congregations to stop worship in homes in Anuperpalayem, Velampalayem, Kangeyam and several other villages in Tiruppur District, the Rev. Vijaya Kumar of The Synod of Pentecostal Churches told Morning Star News.
“We are going through a tough time – there is immense pressure from the police administration in Tiruppur District that Christians are not allowed to gather for prayers even within the four walls of their homes,” Pastor Kumar said. “The pastors of these small churches have been harassed to seek permission from district officials to conduct prayer services.”
Courts in India have repeatedly held that no permission is needed to worship in homes, said Nehemiah Christie, Tamil Nadu state coordinator for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India.
“This level of opposition from government officials is undermining the secularistic values inscribed in the Indian constitution and could lead to deprivation of Christians’ right and freedom to practice their faith, which was upheld time and again in several judgments delivered by the Madras and Madurai benches of the high court,” Christie told Morning Star News.
When a Christian in Coimbatore District who used his home for worship services faced closure for declining to obtain permission under the State’s District Municipalities and Building Rules charter, he petitioned the Madras High Court against it in June. Justice P.D. Audikesavalu held that, “the question of requiring the pastor to get prior permission from the authorities for assembling and conducting prayers in dwelling place, without causing nuisance or disturbance to others and without causing hindrance to the public, does not arise.”
Persecution of Christians in Tamil Nadu has become widespread, Christie said.
“Its impact is visibly seen now,” he said. “Today Hindus do not want to let out their houses on rent for Christians and Christian prayers particularly. If after great efforts and search a Christian manages to find a place to reside, the Hindu extremist groups in that area would alert the police officials to search their homes and stop prayers. It has been a difficult year.”
In response to police opposition to Christian worship in Tiruppur District, ADF-India’s Tamil Nadu unit gathered pastors and Christian leaders to meet the police commissioner on Oct. 24.
“The conversation with the senior police officials went well, and he asked us to meet the Anuperpalayam Police Inspector Rajan to register a complaint – but Mr. Rajan’s tone initially sounded much like that of a Hindu extremist,” Christie told Morning Star News.
After talks of about two hours, Rajan allowed the petition submitted by one of the pastors ordered to seek permission, Amos Pushparaj of Maranatha ministries, he said.
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