The government of Karnataka, a state in southwestern India, has fast-tracked the implementation of an anti-conversion bill. The results of such a bill could mean a fine, prison sentence or worse for anyone converting from Hinduism to Christianity.
The bill, which effectively prohibits conversion away from Hinduism, was scheduled for discussion by the state’s Legislative Council, but the governing party said it wanted to skip the step because both the Assembly and Council have been suspended.
On May 17, the state governor signed the bill. The day before he signed the ordinance, Christian leaders met with him, urging him to not approve it. He declined their plea.
Christians in Karnataka are alarmed by the decision as attacks have been on the rise. “Levels of hostility have increased sharply since the state government started pushing the anti-conversion law. [They’ve used] disinformation and speech to incite violence and discrimination, fanning the flames,” a local partner told Open Doors.
The attacks are fueled by the spread of disinformation about “mass conversions” taking place, for which there is no data to back up the claims. In Karnataka, just under 2% of the population is Christian and has remained as such.
The bill has six months to be considered by the Council where, critics point out, the ruling party is just one seat short of a majority.
“Hindu nationalists have been on a rampage, threatening the Christian community,” said Abel*, a local pastor. “Pastors have been assaulted and falsely accused of enticing people to become Christians. Church meetings are labelled ‘conversion gatherings’ and attacked. Meanwhile, mass reconversion events (a ‘Ghar Wapsi’) are held to draw people back to the Hindu faith. Christians live under a cloud of fear as there have been arrests on false charges, some have been ostracized by their communities and churches have been vandalized and forced to close.”
India currently ranks 10th on the Open Doors World Watch List, a list comprised of the 50 countries where it’s most difficult to live as a Christian.
Let’s remember to pray for our Christian family living in India, and specifically in Karnataka. Let’s pray for their safety and continued faith during this time of panic and turmoil, let’s pray governing officials will come to their aid and not bow to the masses and let’s pray boldly for revival throughout India, that God will begin an all-encompassing awakening—beginning in Karnataka.
Lord, we come before You hopeful, because You see Your people and You are still the God of miracles.