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India Anti-Conversion Bill Rejected, Groups Express Relief and More Prayer

Christians worldwide expressed relief and asked for more prayers, Wednesday, after the governor of the northern Indian state of Rajasthan refused to sign a controversial anti-conversion bill.
( [email protected] ) May 24, 2006 01:34 PM EDT

Christians worldwide expressed relief and asked for more prayers, Wednesday, after the governor of the northern Indian state of Rajasthan refused to sign a controversial anti-conversion bill.

Governor Pratiba Patil returned the Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrya (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2006, which observers say is a move favoring religious minorities whom face increasing discrimination and persecution. The bill was initially passed by the state assembly on Apr. 7.

The Rajasthan state cabinet is likely to change some parts of the bill and resubmit it to the governor, Wednesday, according to the Indo Asian News Service.

The current bill stipulates that conversion by "force," "fraud" or "allurement" will warrant an immediate arrest without investigation, a two to five year prison term, and a fine no less than $1,100 USD.

Hindu extremists in the past have been known to accuse Christians of converting people by "force" or "fraud," and the upcoming bill would make Christians more vulnerable to accusations and attacks, says Christians Solidarity Worldwide, which expressed relief, Tuesday, after the bill did not go through.

"We are delighted to hear that Mrs. Pratibha Patil has taken the bold step of refusing to ratify the state’s anti-conversion bill," said Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Tuesday. "This is a much-needed boost for religious minorities in Rajasthan and, most importantly, a clear statement of the incompatibility of anti-conversion legislation with India’s secular democratic values. We hope this leads to further challenges to anti-conversion laws in five other states in India."

K.P. Yohannan, the Indian-born founder and president of Gospel For Asia, nonetheless, voiced his concern for the condition in Rajasthan in a statement to Mission Network News, an online journal that reports daily on missionary activity.

Yohannan said that despite the governor’s refusal to sign the bill, Rajasthan remains "the state where we have had a large amounts…of persecution in the last one year."

The evangelist, of 40 years, expressed outrage over the bills unequal treatment to Christian missionaries working in the area.

"This (bill is) totally against the constitution of the country. Those who have come to Christ they want to know how much money was paid to them, and then (they’re) stirring up local anti-Christian groups to beat up our missionaries," Yohannan was quoted by MNN.

Gospel For Asia is often known for its recruitment of local missionaries to bring messages of the gospel to remote villages throughout Indian and other Asian countries.

Yohannan believes that prayer is the best solution, saying Christians "need to pray much more around the world – for situations like this."