09/26/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – On September 10, five Christians, including a pastor, were arrested by police after being attacked by radical Hindu nationalists in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. The Christians were falsely charged under Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law and spend several days in jail before being released on bail on September 14.
Approximately 25 Christians gathered in a Christian home in Jharuva village for a prayer service led by Pastor Richard Benjamin on September 10. As the prayers were ongoing, five Bajrang Dal activists forced themselves into the house and disrupted the service. The Bajrang Dal activists claimed the Christians were engaged in forcible conversions and called the police to take them into custody.
According to local sources, the police initially wanted to let the five Christians, including Pastor Benjamin, free, but were pressured by local politicians into booking them under the state’s anti-conversion law.
“This is the third time I was put into jail in the last ten years,” Pastor Benjamin told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The five days I spent in jail were difficult as we couldn’t get enough food and the jailer gave us a lot of work. I fainted a couple of times due to the lack of food.”
Pastor Benjamin works as a church planter in the Faizabad district and oversees around 300 Christians in eight villages. Although Pastor Benjamin and the other Christians are out on bail, they still need to regularly attend court hearings and check in with local police.
ICC has documented at least 30 incidents of persecution against Christians in Uttar Pradesh as a part of a new wave of persecution following the enactment of the anti-conversion law. In many of the incidents, radical Hindu nationalists use false accusations of forced conversion to justify their assaults and have pastors arrested. At least 71 pastors and other Christians have been taken into police custody since the end of June under similar circumstances.