Two Christian girls were removed from a Hindu festival in Mumbai because they distributed leaflets proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only true God, according to a new report.
Asia News reports that the event took place on September 17 in the Chembur area of Mumbai during the feast of Ganesh, the Hindu god with an elephant's head.
The two girls were removed from the event and accused of proselytizing after handing out leaflets containing the story of two people who were cured of serious illness after embracing the Christian faith. The booklet said that the healing took place because Christianity is the only true way to achieve peace, freedom and a healthy life.
It also included the script, "Jesus Christ died on the cross for [the good] of humanity and witnessed the liberation from all suffering" and John 3:16: " In fact, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not die, but have eternal life."
A local resident told the outlet that after the Christian girls refused to leave, festival goers "started to protest, and then eventually they left."
Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), defended the Christian girl, explaining that "in secular India, religious freedom is a constitutional guarantee. The two young people wanted to spread the Good News freely and without coercion with anyone willing to listen."
Addressing the alleged healings from serious illnesses, he warned that "the flyer gave a wrong message of the Christian faith. But girls did nothing illegal or forbidden anyway. "
"They were just distributing flyers to anyone who wanted them," he said. "No one was forced to take them."
Open Doors ranks India as the 11th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.
One of the main sources of persecution of Christians in India is Hindu radicals; Open Doors notes that in many cases, Hindu radicals are able to persecute minorities with a level of impunity given to them by local authorities.
"The government continues to look away when religious minorities are attacked, indicating that violence may continue to increase in the coming years," warns Open Doors.
In May 2017, six pastors were arrested at a prayer meeting in a believer's home in the village of Salempur in Uttar Pradesh. The pastors were charged with disturbing the peace, creating hostility between religions and attempting to incite a riot.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom named India a "Tier 2" country of concern in its 2017 report.
"While Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke publicly about the importance of communal tolerance and religious freedom, members of the ruling party have ties to Hindu nationalist groups implicated in religious freedom violations, used religiously divisive language to inflame tensions, and called for additional laws that would restrict religious freedom," the report reads. "These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police and judicial bias and inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity in which religious minorities feel increasingly insecure and have no recourse when religiously motivated crimes occur."