Orissa Court Takes Action against "Illegal Conversions"

The Orissa High Court has ordered appropriate action to be taken against incidents of 'illegal' religious conversion
( [email protected] ) Jul 06, 2005 12:56 PM EDT

The Orissa High Court has ordered appropriate action to be taken against incidents of religious conversion through use of force, inducement or by fraudulent means, sources reported late last month.

After receiving reports of ¡§large-scale illegal conversions¡¨ in the eastern Indian state, a bench of the court asked the government to direct district collectors and superintendents of police (SPs) to inquire into such actions and take appropriate measure against perpetrators of such activities, local news agencies reported. The court order came in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by 269 petitioners that alleged that Christian missionary organizations were engaged in forcible conversions in the area targeting the tribal and poor people.

Despite repeated complaints, the local administration and police remained non-committal about the matter, the petition said, according to the New Delhi-based Press Trust of India.

Directing the Gajapati administration to take action, the court instructed the local police to register cases under sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA) and submit the charge sheet immediately.

According to Gospel for Asia, a mission agency that trains and sends native missionaries into unreached areas of Asia, the latest order could endanger native missionaries, even when Hindus seek them out to learn more about Jesus Christ.

¡§The anti-Christian forces in Indian society often bring charges of ¡¥forced conversion,¡¦¡¨ the agency reported last week, ¡§even though the individuals freely choose to change their religion.¡¨

The agency noted that although the law is called the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, it "is mainly used to deny men and women their basic human right to freely follow Christ."

GFA has requested for prayers ¡§to protect GFA missionaries and others sharing the Gospel and for the new believers as they seek to follow Christ amid much opposition.¡¨

The agency also noted in its June 28 report that the recent order was made by the same court that recently canceled the death sentence of one of the men convicted in the murder of missionary Graham Staines and his sons in 1999. While the man's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, eleven others charged with the crime were acquitted.